Return to Play – Youth Programs

[Please note this information comes from an OCC Webinar recently held on this topic.  Click HERE to access the recording of that webinar]

Starting up curling programs during the worst pandemic in recent history is the current challenge for curling clubs across the country.  Youth programs may have special considerations for many reasons.  

The following is for information purposes only and is not to be considered as recommendations by NOCA or anyone affiliated or associated with NOCA.  Decisions on course of action related to precautions with regard to Covid should be approved by the club in cooperation with the local health authority.

Recently, a group of individuals from across Ontario got together for a webinar related to Return to Play in Youth Programs.  Abbie Darnley, Kevin Campbell and Laura Johnston provided information about how their clubs were approaching the situation.  Dr. Lee Toner provided a medical perspective.  The following are some of the considerations that were discussed.

PlanOne of my favourite quotes is from Bill Tschirhart – “Better to have a plan that doesn’t work than no plan that doesn’t work”.  In order words, plan to open but in your planning know that you might not be able to so have a back-up plan for not going ahead.  For example, perhaps you hold registration but advise parents that the fee is refundable if the program has to be cancelled because of Covid before starting or within the first 4 weeks following starting.  If it’s cancelled after that, the money may be applied to next season, partially refunded or forfeited.

One strategy might be to limit participation this year to the children who participated last year.  Reduced numbers might be easier to control and allow more social distancing.  The children and youth will also already be familiar with the club and the sport requiring fewer instructions.  Once the program is underway and it is determined that the procedures are as effective as possible, then perhaps new curlers are invited in.

Policies and ProceduresThe club should already have rules and recommendations related to coronavirus and you will have to abide by those.  Ensure that everyone is aware by sharing electronically or in hard copy.  The development of these policies may have had the involvement of the local health authority and are therefore supported by expert medical advice.  Parents, coaches, volunteers and children need to know that these are not an option.  Orientation for all before the program starts will increase awareness and make procedures more familiar.

What about parents?  Are parents able to wait for and watch their child or does this exceed the capacity of the building?  If it’s drop and go, what is the plan in case the child is hurt or the parent is late for the pick-up?

Many businesses and public services are confirming no symptoms, no travel, no contact etc. prior to each session.  Is this something you need to consider doing or does a poster on the front door work? Which brings up another consideration – contact tracing.  Will the program be tracking names and contact information for all participants including parents and/or guardians who accompany the child to the club as well as coaches, instructors and volunteers?

Waivers and acknowledgements are important anytime but perhaps now more than ever.  They can be electronic or in hard copy.  Someone needs to ensure they are completed and filed before participation in the program.

Reducing the risk of transmission – Overwhelming evidence indicates that masks are one of most important strategies in reducing transmission.  However, when brushing some may feel that their breathing is negatively impacted. If this is the case, perhaps brushing is modified so that the mask remains in place. The current information about Covid-19 is that transmission is more airborne than through touch.  If I wear a mask, I’m helping to protect you.  If everyone wears masks then we are all safer.

It could be that each youth participant may be required to purchase their own brush and slider or there is someone assigned to sanitize brushes after play and sliders are assigned to each participant and then stored until the next session.  Two rocks could be assigned to each participant and no one else should touch them.  Sanitization of rocks will have to be considered after each game. If you are using little rocks, stickers with each child’s name can be placed on the rocks.  Games might then not be blue vs. red – but by names.  Perhaps this is a season where training aids are put in storage.  No sharing of stabilizers and sliders.  If there is equipment that requires sanitization, separate stations may be set up.  One station for equipment needing cleaning and another for the equipment that has already been cleaned.  

Wearing of gloves was another topic discussed.  Instruction is normally to use a bare hand to throw the rock. For now, perhaps the youth keep their gloves/mitts on for the whole game and then those are taken home and laundered.  Bare hands can more easily be kept clean but as we are in a cold environment it may be better to put mitts or gloves on and keep them on.

Another suggestion was to use every other sheet.  Of course, this is dependent on the number of children in your program.  You could possibly go to two sessions if you want to try alternating sheets.

Perhaps off-ice volunteers are required in order to sanitize the off-ice surfaces after the kids have gone out onto the ice and then again after they leave the building.  Washroom breaks may have to be considered.  Does a volunteer accompany the child and wait outside the washroom to ensure hand washing or sanitizing?  Does the club use the “Rule of 2” in this situation – 2 volunteers accompany the child to the washroom.

What about parents?  Are parents able to wait for and watch their child or does this exceed the capacity of the building?  The more people present, the greater the risk of transmission.

Most programs hold some part of each session inside the club – particularly warm-ups.  Perhaps this year, warm-ups are done on the back and side boards out on the ice surface.  If lockers are off limits because social distancing isn’t possible, then kids have to come ready to play.  

Play – Since only one brusher is recommended, perhaps triples or mixed doubles are played instead of the traditional 4 person teams.  Some children may not understand why they aren’t allowed to have two brushers and triples will keep everyone involved.  


Instead of games, perhaps the activities are in the form of drills.  No scoreboard is required and an on-ice volunteer can keep score.  There are hundreds of fun drills that will keep everyone engaged and involved.  


This is not meant to be a comprehensive list but some suggestions and experiences from others.  Everything must be carefully thought out, implemented, assessed and perhaps adjusted.  


It is a challenging season but the ultimate goal is to keep children active, healthy and engaged.  Any kind of normalcy will help us all with both our physical and mental health.  Good luck, stay well and know that you are contributing to the health and well-being of children and youth.


Submitted by

Andrea Ronnebeck, ChPC

Education Manager – North


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