Little Rocks – the next edition

Team Hennigar - all younger siblings ofcurlers at the Truro Club.

Team Hennigar – all younger siblings of curlers at the Truro Club, with coach Chuck Patriquin.

Following in their siblings' footsteps...

Following in their siblings’ footsteps…

After dropping D’Arcy & Alex off at the airport for their adventure in Brazil, we got ourselves geared up for the girls’ first Little Rocks Curling Bonspiel. The girls have been at many of the clubs around the province, watching their brothers over the years, but have never been in a competition themselves before. (For Olivia, the first draw was her first-ever game, but I’ll get to that in a minute…)

The girls started curling in “Little Rocks” at the Truro Curling Club last year and loved it. The rocks are the same size as regular curling rocks, but only half the weight. At practice, they learn some of the rules of the game, how to slide, and some of the etiquette that goes along with the sport.Unfortunately, part way through this year, practice had to change from Fridays to Thursdays to accommodate the coaches’ schedules, but our girls dance ballet & jazz on Thursdays. They were disappointed, but stopped attending to continue with dance.

We heard that the club’s team was looking for another player for the Under 11 Provincial Bonspiel being held in Halifax and Sarah was quick to volunteer. This upset Olivia, wondering why she didn’t get to be on the team since her brothers play on the same team, therefore the two sisters should as well… As luck would have it (?!) one the boys on the team was also involved in hockey the same weekend, so Olivia joined the team as a 5th – just in case. The past two Sundays, D’Arcy has taken the girls to the Truro club and practiced with them and make sure they could get the rock from one end of the ice to the other.

We made arrangements to stay with Aunt Erin, packed our gear, and headed for Halifax. Sarah has had an awful cough, so I was worried she would be too sick to play. She & Olivia arranged to switch off and play every other game. They were so proud of themselves!! All 23 teams were piped in to the ice shed during Opening Ceremonies, and Team Fay (Nova Scotian Bronze Medalists at the National Juniors and Team Nova Scotia for the 2015 Canada Winter Games) threw a ceremonial rock through the “honour guard” of curlers.

I wish that I had appreciated at Evan & Alex’s first Little Rocks experience just how adorable this bonspiel is: it takes almost as much luck as it does skill to win a game, there’s not much hurrying happening, and sweeping? Let’s just say the ice was well dusted – when the sweepers were paying attention! There are lots of falls, a few tears (not from any of ours), and lots of smiles. I love seeing the kids shake hands both before and after the game, and love watching them interact with the other teams.

As exciting as it was for them to win their games, the teamwork and sportsmanship I watched was what made my heart burst. Before Olivia’s first game, she worried about how she would know when it was her turn to throw? Evan H. (8) piped up, “I’m the second, so I’ll make sure to tell you!” He or Sage gave her a mini-tutorial before each shot to make sure she was throwing the right turn and knew what shot she was making. So cute!

Sarah came off the ice after one game they played particularly well. I high-fived her and told her what a great game it was and how proud of her I was. She cuddled up to me, looked up and asked quietly, “Mom, but did we win?” She wasn’t quite sure. (They had!)

Each child on the team is a younger sibling of kids who curl with the boys, so although they had never played one another, they knew each other well enough to be close on the ice and have fun together. Aiden was going back and forth from curling to hockey, and cut it close enough on Sunday that the girls got to play a game together.  By the end of their first five games, they had won three and lost two. They were second in their division which meant they made it to the “Red Division” playoffs and were guaranteed two games on Monday!! We were in shock!  I contacted work to ask to take a vacation day, and we spent a second night at Aunt Erin’s. Evan had gone home on Saturday night with my parents so that he could attend his own Podium Project curling practice on Sunday afternoon, so I made arrangements for him to get a drive to the city on Monday with the girls’ coach, Chuck. I love that he was anxious and willing to come cheer his sisters on!

The girls had lots of family support, despite the fact D’Arcy & Alex were away. Both of my parents came to two games, Aunt Erin & Grandma McDonah came to a game, and Aunt Shannon & Uncle Camille came to a game. The best was when, on their final game on Monday, Alex watched the entire game via FaceTime from Brazil! Oh, technology!

I absolutely love how our children support one another!

In the end, Team Hennigar lost both games on Monday and were out. Unfortunately, we learned at lunchtime that Sage was sick, so the girls played their final game together. Sarah even got to hold the broom for skip stones so Evan H could sweep. It was a positive experience for both of them and they are keen to participate again next year. At this age, when they have fun, that’s what counts!

Olivia and Chuck, coaching

Olivia and Chuck, coaching during the first game.

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Love the conversation happening on the ice. The little girl in the foreground had some tears in this game, but eventually came around. She swept for us or for her own team; it didn’t matter. Near the end of this game, she and another little one on her team didn’t sweep at all, because they were standing at the end of the ice with their brooms in the air.

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Girls’ night at Aunt Erin’s!

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Little Rocks – Where the brooms are taller than the players! 😉

The officials are out on the ice at every game, giving pointers, and stopping the game to teach rules. In this case, the other team threw our rock by mistake. They are learning that they should have let it play, and replaced it when it came to rest.

The officials are out on the ice at every game, giving pointers, and stopping the game to teach rules. In this case, the other team threw our rock by mistake. They are learning that they should have let it play, and replaced it when it came to rest.

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Olivia gets a tutorial from her teammate before she throws.

Sarah's rock

Sarah sweeping

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Exhausted after an eventful weekend!

And just for fun…

Evan & Alex with teammates Madison & Lindsey, and coach Todd at their first Little Rocks, four years ago.

Evan & Alex with teammates Madison & Lindsey, and coach Todd at their first Little Rocks, four years ago.

One step closer…

If you have followed our blog for any length of time, you know that our two sons are involved in curling and have a goal of being Team Nova Scotia at the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George, BC. This time, Nova Scotia is choosing their representative through a different process than they have in the past. Rather than sending that year’s provincial champion (winner of a bonspiel), the representative team is being chosen after completing a three year process. We became involved two years ago and since then, our team (Team Spinney) has played at a number of Canada Games bonspiels and has participated in multiple training camp weekends where not only do they get on the ice, but also participate in dryland training, nutrition seminars, and sports psychology sessions.

When the process started, there were approximately 15 boys’ teams  and twelve girls’ teams, each competing against one another, with players at varying skill levels. Each athlete has to have been born no earlier than January 1, 1997, so they are still a relatively young group. There have been three qualifying bonspiels; two last spring which offered four spots, and one this weekend, offering the final two spots. This weekend’s bonspiel in Antigonish was double knockout (which meant if you lost two games you went home) and the pressure was high. Different teams have reconfigured during the process, and the level of play has improved immensely. This weekend, our boys were on their game, held up under the pressure, and earned the final spot.

Phew.

One difficult thing about curling is that there has to be a winner and a loser in each game. Each win in a bonspiel like this is bittersweet when you know you’ve knocked out another team that you like and respect. That happened to us twice during the weekend. Everybody is striving toward the same goal and the stakes are high, so wins are more subdued and the parents are much quieter.

Moving forward, the six qualifying teams will play together at three different bonspiels this winter and it is our understanding that the team with the best performance at the three bonspiels will be chosen as Team Nova Scotia in March. There is also an opportunity for the second ranked team to attend the Optimist International Under 18 Curling Championships in Langley, BC.

Drew, Evan, Alex & Adam have worked very hard to get this far. They generally curl six days each week, help out with the pre-juniors, and curl in the adult recreational league some evenings. They cross-train by mountain biking together once each week in the nicer weather, run, and attend fitness & yoga sessions with their sponsor, MacKinnon Fitness and Breathing Space Yoga Studio.

We are so proud of their accomplishments and wish them well as they continue to work together toward achieving their goal!

Team Spinney with Coach Chuck Dyke after qualifying to continue in the 2015 Canada Games Process.

Team Spinney with Coach Chuck Dyke after qualifying to continue in the 2015 Canada Games Process.