GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT // ZAMBONI TRAX Reinventing the Learn to Curl

By Brad Whitlock, U.S. Curling News columnist,

mail for a moment and let me tell you my reason- ing.

I A key to arena club growth is retaining new

curlers who are fresh out of their two-hour Learn to Curl (LTC). When you struggle to grow your membership, every new curler who sticks around is significant for both morale and financial rea- sons. Yet, retention rates (the number of people who return for more curling aſter their initial LTC) always seem to range anywhere from 0 to 5 percent. Many clubs aren’t even sure of the num- ber. Whatever the number is, it’s not very high. Something is wrong. Why don’t more newbies

return? No doubt there are a variety of reasons but I think the traditional (and somewhat sacro- sanct) Learn to Curl format is at the root of the problem. I think there are several issues that af- fect the retention rate, and the traditional LTC format does not address them adequately. Te curling experience

Tese days, people are looking for experiences.

Te traditional LTC format does not really in- volve the attendees in the curling experience. It’s more about the technical details of how to throw a stone, how to sweep, how to score. Tis day and age, we need to provide an experience. We need to give the flavor of the curling com-

munity – the friendliness, the camaraderie, the spirit, the experience, the FUN. Do not immerse them in too many details (at this stage, anyway.) Te need to be fun, easy and simple

Of course, you try to make curling easy when

you’re teaching it to new curlers. But how suc- cessful are you? Tink about what and how you’re teaching. Is it really fun or is it just funny because your students are slipping on the ice? Have fun and keep it simple. You can fool yourself into thinking the two-

hour format works. One LTC instructor I talked to said: “Te attendees always seem to have a good time. Tey come off smiling and laughing and thanking us.” Right – and how many of them come back? “One or two if we’re lucky,” he ad-

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t’s time to blow-up the traditional two- hour Learn to Curl. I know this may bor- der on sacrilege, but, please hold your hate

mitted. Bucket List attendees We know some LTC attendees are just there to

check off a bucket list item. Tat’s OK! But, these folks don’t need a traditional LTC session. Te traditional LTC format does them (and you) an injustice by going on for two hours. Tese people only want the experience – one

time. Tey’ve heard about curling, seen it on TV during the Olympics, want to try it, and then check it off their bucket list. Tey don’t need a two-hour session. Tey want to be in and out in an hour. So, let’s accommodate them. Chances are they won’t be back. But, who knows. Even though they think it’s only a Bucket List item, they may change their mind and decide they want to return – IF they have fun. It’s cold!

I can’t tell you how many LTC attendees I’ve

seen get cold during a Learn to Curl. Once they’re cold, many of them are finished for the night. As a regular curler, it’s likely you don’t get

cold when you’re playing. You’re sweeping, you’re moving around, you’re back and forth, up and down the sheet. But people learning to curl – they get cold! Tey are standing, they are not playing. Tey’re watching and observing. Tey’re listen- ing. You have to keep this in mind. Cold becomes miserable and no fun! What to do? Well, one option is to take a break

at about the 30-45 minute mark. And what better way to do that then to broomstack. What? Stop what we’re doing to go drink? Yes. For two rea- sons. Te students get a chance to warm up and dis-

cuss what has happened, and you get a chance to see how they’re feeling about things. If this is a Bucket List item for some of the

group, when they are finished with their drinks, they are finished with their experience. Boom. Checked off. Tanks very much, come back and see us again if you want to learn more about curl- ing. We’ll keep you on our mailing list. And, let’s face it, broomstacking should be

part of the curling experience anyway. What to Do?

So, how do we address these issues? I think we

need to blow-up the current LTC format and re- invent it.

Next time I’ll go into detail on how I think this

can be accomplished. If you want, email me on how you are transforming your LTC sessions and I’ll share them (with credit of course.) I love traditions, whether in curling or other-

wise. However, sometimes you need to let go and move onward and upward. We’ve reached that time with the traditional Learn to Curl. If the Norwegian men’s team can do their

“Pants Dance” in front of 6,000 curling fans at the Continental Cup, then we’ve entered a new (and happy) age of curling and we all need to get on board. OK – now you can send your hate mail. Q

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