Putting youth first
The Kenogami curling club (located in Jonquiere, in the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region) is known among other things for its pioneering and dynamic junior program. With a roster of 36 participants between the ages of 7 and 19, Kenogami can largely attribute this success to the after-school program it launched a decade ago.
Volunteer members and parents have consistently supported and developed the program through the years. Jean-Luc Fortier and Debbie Caron, in particular, are the driving forces behind the program’s burgeoning and steady growth, in spite of the constant challenges in recent years.
The after-school program
The after-school program at “Keno” started as a weekly partnership between the curling club and a local elementary school. As of this year, however, the volunteers and the parents have taken complete ownership of the weekly appointment, to ensure its continuity. Every Wednesday, a group of children from the nearby elementary school head over to Keno by taking the school bus, whose daily route passes right in front of the curling club. Once there, the kids have the opportunity to unwind a little, while enjoying a snack prepared by some of the parents who will also serve as supervisors while they dive into their homework for an hour. At 4pm, study hour ends and the youngsters head to the ice to their curling practice until their parents arrive around 5pm.
The members of Kenogami recognised the junior program’s need for both a dedicated space and for proper coaching that went beyond the ice sheets. The juniors now have a section of the club reserved exclusively to them and their activities, where they can socialize with each other and celebrate their achievements: their own headquarters, so to speak. Alongside the walls, members have hung photos and plaques that allow you to get to know the junior members, and their individual accomplishments and victories. The children also proudly wear their program’s official jersey, a symbol of belonging to the big Keno family.
The after-school program has revitalised Kenogami in more ways than one. Not only has it grown consistently since its launch, but it has also attracted the parents of the youngsters to curling; many of them have now become regular members of the club. Not surpisingly, Kenogami has had highly competitive junior teams represent it across several categories in recent years: all the team members got their start in curling through the after-school program. The initiative has now garnered the attention of other schools in the area, as well.
Curling Quebec firmly believes in the importance of introducing greater numbers of children to our sport and we are looking to contribute to the success of many more programs such as the one offered at Kenogami. We are working to launch a fundraising campaign that aims at supporting the affiliated clubs that consider junior development a priority; clubs interested in developing an after-school program are encouraged to contact Marily Bélanger (firstname.lastname@example.org 514-252-3088, x.3645) so that we may all work together towards this common goal.