Both University of Regina curling teams – despite not being fully-funded varsity teams, are off to nationals in March after qualifying at the 2020 Canada West Curling championships in Edmonton.
“We’re thrilled,” said Tom Hamon, a co-coach who works with both teams.
Over the past three years the University’s women’s team made it to nationals three times and the men’s team twice. This year both teams will be competing again in the U SPORTS curling championship, March 11-15 in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba.
“To me it makes a bit of a difference that we’ve got both teams going,” said Hamon. “Last year just the girls team went to Fredericton and it was a bit of a different feel without the boys there.”
“It means a lot,” said Giovanni Wright, 19, the lead for the men’s team. “Coming from Alberta to come here to curl it was very much a goal of mine to go to nationals with the university and I mean it’s a national event, nothing gets better than that.”
Alison Fisher, coordinator of the youth and student programming at the University, has been overseeing the curling clubs for 17 years.
“I have seen the growth and the level of competition increase every year, which is phenomenal,” said Fisher. “And it challenges these kids and gives them a place to play their sport that they love at a highly competitive level.”
“We have kids who would have probably dropped out of the sport because they moved from small towns where they didn’t have a junior team to go on to so now they have this team that they can curl and compete with. And I think that is really important … These kids love the sport they play and this is a huge stepping stone to the next level for them,” said Fisher.
Curling at the University of Regina isn’t fully recognized as a varsity sport but rather as a varsity club. Which means they don’t get the same amount of funding or sponsorships and the coaches are unpaid. Fisher explained that the curling team is unique as it does receive some funding from the University, Sask Sport and CURLSASK but the teams also have to fundraise on their own for other expenses.
“[Being a varsity sports team] would give us more funding like hockey, volleyball, basketball, and track and field where they have big sponsorships,” said Wright. “If the University would get a contract or sponsorship with a curling company then the brush pads, brooms, etc. would be given to us and that would cut our personal costs.”
But coach Hamon believes that even though the team may not be considered as varsity status, they still are given a good amount of funding.
“The university is pretty gracious,” he said. “They’re look after travel as well as hotel costs. And there is usually an entry fee that the school looks after as well.”
Fisher believes the curling program could benefit from scholarships being available to those who want to curl. Fisher said that it would change the recruiting process but could also change the dynamic of how the club strives to work.
“Part of our goal with our club program is to just keep these university kids curling,” said Fisher.
Fisher also mentioned what the university could do to make an even bigger impact for the curling teams.
“To be honest the biggest impact that we could have on our teams would be to have a curling rink on our campus … It would give them the opportunity to go throw for an hour between classes whereas now for them to go throw for an hour it takes them 15 minutes just to get to the closest rink,” said Fisher.