New Year's is the time to look ahead, so here goes with a few resolutions and predictions for the new year.
1. Prediction: Curling will grow at the grassroots level.
Yes, the 2010 Olympics had a great influence on the sport, and Learn-to-Curl sessions all over North America went crazy after viewers had a chance to see the madness that was Olympic curling (thank you, fans!). But the appeal of curling will not slow down, particularly as parents look for a winter sport that's affordable and doesn't involve the risk of concussions.
2. Prediction: McEwen, Jacobs and the new boys will move in on Martin, Stoughton, Howard and the old boys.
It's not really a grassroots issue, but change is coming at the top. Some would say it's already here: a shift of the old guard.
On the women's side, the movement is a bit slower, as demonstrated by last year's Scotties. Yes, Rachel Homan is as fearless and skilled as those old-timers - Jones, Kleibrink, Bernard - but the kids still have a bit to learn about patience and execution under pressure. Nobody beats Jennifer Jones for clutch curling. (And can we just lay the Jones vs. Overton-Clapham thing to rest? It's over. This isn't high school.)
3. Prediction. There will be more cowbells
The CCA got a bad rap when fans and media jumped up in furious indignation at the removal of Amber Holland's cowbell choir at the Canada Cup in December. In fact, the removal was entirely due to an over-zealous security official at the venue - nothing to do with CCA policy or orders. More cowbells, people!
4. Resolution: Get fit
My son has taken up the sport. His school joined a local high school curling league for the first time ever. With no teachers on staff who know the sport, I was recruited to coach. No, I'm not a coach. I'm a curler. But at least I know the rules, the strategy and the names of things, which is more than any of the kids did (well, except for our two young skips, brothers, who were the driving force behind getting this initiative going).
Watching these kids out on the ice - especially seeing how quickly they adapt to the demands of flexibility, balance and strength required by the sport - brings home to me how unfit I am when I step on the ice. Yes, I work out regularly, I do some stretching, I lift a few weights. But I feel the effort settling in on my muscles and joints after a game.
For Christmas, I gave my son John Morris's "Fit To Curl". Actually, I kind of got it for myself.
5. Resolution: Enjoy
If the coaching gig (see above) has taught me anything, it's this: I love this game. Watching newbies experience curling for the first time, watching their skills grow along with their enthusiasm, I'm reminded of my first few years in the sport and how, for a few seasons, I basically curled my brains out. Leagues, bonspiels, playdowns, club involvement, coaching kids, running events - the whole package. It was just awesome.
Over the years since then, family, job, no free time, financial constraints - all these things conspired to keep me from the game I love. I'm back, and I'm going to enjoy it.
Oh, and I'm going to get myself a cowbell too.
Happy New Year from Grassroots Curling!