Curl BC Creates Roadblocks for Junior Curlers

Bet you thought I was finished with this. No way Jose. I’ll confess that it got delayed a bit, but without apology. A visit by my late girlfriend’s father, on what would have been her 44th birthday, trumps you guys all day long.

However, first a small footnote courtesy of Shannon Aleksic.

After parts one and two were posted I received an email from her, taking issue with my statement about not receiving, or participating, in the survey used to make the decision to change the playdown format. In short, she stated that I actually did fill out the survey as did my teammates.

Now, I was a bit confused at first. Shannon, however, cleared things up by letting me know that the survey in question was from 2015-the very last one I filled out. After that one I stopped completing those surveys. My reasons for doing so stated pretty clearly in part two of this series.

So Shannon is technically correct, I did participate and receive notification of a survey. But it was over 2 years ago. And this raises concerns.

Because I stupidly presumed this would have been a recent (i.e. this year) survey and you don’t use outdated data to make decisions. That’s how businesses go belly up.

Since that data was compiled, the dynamics have all changed. Curl BC has watched the women’s participation numbers drop dramatically and reduced the number of Open Events from 4 to 2-which may or may not have also contributed to fewer teams entering women’s playdowns. That 70% favorable number that Shannon referred to back in Part Two? How many of that 70% still enter women’s playdowns? or men’s for that matter?

We just don’t know. Curl BC used old, dated numbers that do not reflect the present day. And if they try to use the tactic that it took two years to study the data? I’m sorry, but as a guy with a Marketing Diploma I call bullshit. I know from my own experiences that a survey as small as this one does not require two years to crunch the numbers. It would take a matter of weeks, perhaps a month, to work the data and then draw conclusions.

So this data? The use of it to justify making the playdown changes for this coming season is poor science and highly questionable-at best.

All this finally takes us back to the topic at hand. Because I’ve saved the absolute best (or worst, depending on your point of view) for last.

The whole point of this long-winded exercise wasn’t to expound on what has happened to Men’s and Women’s participation. That’s somewhat the past and the present. No, this is about the future of the game: Junior Curlers.

Before I get going I want you to know that I’m trying really hard to be nice. But it’s difficult, as a parent, to do so. Because whatever Curl BC’s justification or intentions, they are picking on kids. When I see this happening, in any facet of life, I get pissed off and I tend to speak bluntly. Mess with kids and I have no time to be politically correct.

Curl BC has created a playdown system that defies logic and common sense. If you thought the new format was bad for adults, well, it’s nothing compared to the kids.

Because next season, unless you live in the Lower Mainland or the Okanagan your kids are about to be penalized because of where you live.

Pretty strong statement, eh? Well, as usual, I can back up those words. But, they’re not mine. Once again they’re Curl BC’s from their April announcement of the new Playdown format, under the new, hip, millennial name of U21 :

BC U21 (both genders)

  • Top four teams from the BC Jr. Curling Tour advance to provincial finals
  • Two open events:
  • Thompson/Okanagan-Nov. 24-25. 2-5 entries will earn a single berth, 6 + will increase berths to a maximum of berths
  • Lower Mainland-Dec. 1-4. 2-3 berths, dependent on the field size in Thompson/Okanagan event and regardless of the number of entries
  • Provincial finals remain unchanged, 8 team round robin with 4 team Page Playoff

 

Now anyone with an ounce of grey matter can immediately see the basic hole in this system. It essentially assumes that the BC/Alberta border effectively begins east of Revelstoke and North at Kamloops. Anything beyond that is what? wasteland? Oh, and does Vancouver Island now play out of Washington State?

I started to write a section about the history of Jr. Curling in BC. But there’s just too much background for a single blog entry. I can summarize it though. In short, we went from large programs within clubs introducing kids to the sport, with five to six times the numbers of today participating in playdowns. Where we once had large quantity, and as a result a deep pool of young talent, we now have a pool so shallow it wouldn’t even reach your ankles.

But let me give you a number with a personal anecdote to support the argument. Let’s start with: 14.

That’s the number of Jr. Men’s Teams that entered the Fraser Valley, Zone 2 event in my final year of Jr’s, 1979-80. Yup. A long time ago, but I still have the draw sheet in storage as a memento of my first Playdown win as a young skip (truthfully, I stole it). But I’m not here to brag (okay, maybe just a little…).

So why is 14 significant?

Zone 2 was half of the clubs in what is known today as the Lower Mainland Region, and we had more Jr. Men’s teams play in 1979 than competed in the entire Men’s Lower Mainland Region last year. Which, for the record, was 10.

And that number 10? based on the data from Curl BC’s playdown results, it’s also the number of Jr. Men’s teams who entered playdowns last year in the entire province. Jr. Women’s was 12 teams.

Those numbers should give you a sobering pause. But their point is simple: if you want great quality then you need vast quantity from which it can emerge and develop. The simple truth is roughly 2-4 percent of all curlers can be defined as competitive. It’s pretty much the same in all sports. The cream, if you want to use a metaphor, rises to the top.

But if you only have a little milk, you only get a little cream. So you need lots of kids, in lots of clubs, in lots of programs for that 1-2 percent to develop into talent pool larger than what currently exists. And you have to keep those numbers up, all across the province.

You also need a playdown system that is: province wide, fun, affordable and with few barriers to entry. Because those future Brier, Scott or Olympic champions can come from any club in this huge chunk of property called BC.

Let’s also not forget that those remaining 96-98% of kids in those programs who don’t become competitive are potential future adult recreational players. You know, your clubs future life blood? who keep the doors open long after your days on the ice are over?

And the wonderful thing about our sport is you can still develop into a great competitive player after Juniors. We aren’t like Hockey, Baseball, Football, Tennis etc. where if you’re not pigeon-holed as draft pick material at 15 by some subjective, washed up talent scout you’re cast aside on the ‘rec’ player only heap. The history of our game is full of men and women who blossomed into greats as adults after so-so teenage years.

So why on Earth would Curl BC impose such a format on kids? I’ve tried, but can’t find the justification.

Before Curl BC tries to justify this using participation numbers here’s some facts for you, from their website:

Total Number (and Breakdown by Region) of Registered Clubs in Curl BC: 85

  • Lower Mainland: 20 (23.5%)
  • North: 13 (15.3%)
  • Kootenays: 15 (17.6%)
  • Okanagan/Thompson: 21 (24.7%)
  • Vancouver Island: 16 (18.8%)

 

Let’s take this math a bit further. 76.5% of clubs and curlers in Curl BC are outside the Lower Mainland. If you want to include-because of the way this format is structured-the Okanagan into this mix the number drops down to 51.7%. Either way, Curl BC has decided to use a format which caters to a minority (33.5-48.5%) of its membership population.

Sure, those numbers do not take into account the actual number of members in each club. But my bet? If I had that data and re-crunched the numbers, there would be very little-if any-change.

Let me give you a more personal story instead of numbers. Tom Buchy is a former teammate who is a long-time resident of Kimberly with a multitude of appearances at Provincial Men’s and a multiple winner of our Mixed Provincials (he just won again this year). In short, he, and his teammates, are damn good players who reside in that area now deemed a wasteland.

But Tom is not the focus. He has two teenage daughters who, last year, won their first berth to Jr. Women’s Provincials in their Kootenay Regional Playdown. That’s right. A local, regional event in the old format.

This coming season, if they participate. Tom will be forced to ferry his daughters team anywhere from 5-7 hours, each way, to the Okanagan Open Event. If they fail to win a spot there, they can try again-that is true. However, it’s an even longer trip to a club in the Lower Mainland. And this year it’s not in the Greater Vancouver area. Oh no. This year it’s in Gibson’s, on the Sunshine Coast (you know, where the Beachcombers was filmed? Nick? Relic? Jet-boats? Bruno Gerussi’s eyebrows?). So now you can add the cost of a ferry ride (two rides if you’re from Vancouver Island) to almost every team that enters that event-presuming there’s a host club entry or two.

You can also start adding Hotel, food, time off from school or work. How about the high cost of sporadic air travel? (hell, it’s unlikely you’ll fly to Gibson’s but you might to Provincials) or the winter road conditions?

You’ll recall that there are also 4 berths to provincials available through the BC Jr. Curling Tour. The tour is a great idea and beneficial to talent development. But 4 berths is a ridiculous amount. While other provinces/territories do award berths for Men’s and Women’s Tour results, none of them give away half of the total berths in their provincials. It’s normally just one spot to the tour champion.

And last year the BC Jr. Tour was comprised of only 6 events in 4 areas. 2 events in the Okanagan, one in Prince George, one on Vancouver Island and two in the Lower Mainland. Six events, all worthwhile and that do deserve a cumulative, single berth to the provincials. But not 4.

Why this format? Dear reader, if you stop to ask yourself a single question you can start to see a why participation is dropping everywhere. The question contains the answer-a single word within the sentence:

‘Who can afford to participate in such a format?’

Right there, in bold face and italics, is your answer: afford. Not very many parents and families can afford to participate. Intentionally or not, Curl BC has implemented a format that none but the wealthiest can truly afford. And that is wrong on two points because first; ability to pay does not equal ability to play, and second; because you’re messing with kids.

Don’t take my word for it. Go ask Tom Buchy or the person running the Jr. Programs at any club outside the Lower Mainland and Okanagan. What do they think about this program? Betcha’ it ain’t positive.

Who’s at fault here for this monstrosity? who’s responsible?

Go to your bathroom, turn on the light and look in the mirror. It’s you and I who are to blame.

Because we are the ones who foot the bill for decisions like these, through the portion of our league and membership dues that go to Curl BC. This is our dollars at work. And we vote who goes from our club to the executive with our concerns, and ultimately our representatives elect the executives who rubber stamp the decisions coming from Scott Braley’s desk.

So bad news? We’re all at fault for squishing some kid’s dream by making it damn near impossible for them to try. Good news? We can change this. It is not too late, never too late to put a stop to things.

It takes effort and a bit of courage. Because they will fight back if you start raising a ruckus. But if that ruckus is loud enough and from enough people then it cannot be ignored.

My own personal circumstances at this time only allow me to sound the alarm and spread the news. If I had the wherewithal I’d be doing a helluva lot more than writing a blog-but it’s better than nothing. It’s now up to the rest of you to do something.

I hope that this entry and the previous two have done as intended; to piss you off and make you care. Because a pissed off person is more apt to get off the lawn chair, put down the Mojito and pick up the phone, or draft an email, to ask why kids are getting punished for where they live.

Here’s hoping I’ve pissed you off.

 

 

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