A brand-new athletic team at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) made an impressive debut this month!
The SMCS Curling Team threw their first rocks in their opening competition against Havergal College at the Leaside Curling Club in January 2020.
“We’ve never had a curling team before to our knowledge. Fr. Leung, CSB expressed an interest in starting a team several times because he saw a large interest in curling when he was in Edmonton and thought it would be an appropriate addition to the athletics programme,” says Jenna Hilborn, science teacher at SMCS.
Hilborn and Pasquale (Pat) Mancuso, who is a history teacher at SMCS, both work together to coach the school’s new Curling Team.
“We joined because it was a good opportunity for the boys to learn a new sport that could be a lifetime sport,” Mancuso says.
Although SMCS has never had an official curling team in the past, the school used to have a curling club in 1968-70, that was moderated by the late Fr. Matthew Mulcahy, CSB, OSM.
“It was an intramural event that we played in the arena before school,” says alumnus Michael Carson ’73, remembering his experience of the club during his time at SMCS. “The ice in the arena was not ideal, but it was good enough for us. I must admit it did get a whole lot easier later in life with real stones and pebbled ice.”
“I’m always happy to see schools supporting activities that can be carried into adulthood,” says Carson. “It is also a sport that can be affordable and accessible to families.”
“Curling is one of the fastest growing sports in the country,” says Hilborn. According to Curling Canada, they have almost 1,000 curling facilities that are part of the organization’s membership.
“We did not know how popular the sport would be,” says Hilborn. “The first meeting was to see how many students would be interested and it was shocking that we had 42 students from Grades 7-12 show up. The first practice we had seven students come out, word spread and now it has grown to two teams of six.”
Hilborn, who currently plays in two separate leagues, has been curling for the past five years.
For Hilborn, coaching the SMCS Curling Team “was an opportunity for me to share with students a sport that I love to play.”
“I enjoy the strategy and thinking element of curling, where you have to map out your strategy coming into each end of curling, and adjust based on what rocks are thrown by the other team,” says Ryan Fazl, Grade 10 student and member of the Division 2 Curling Team. “By far, the most challenging part for me is just the whole aiming part of the game, factoring in how hard and with how much spin you need to throw each rock with.”
Going into the team’s first competition, Mancuso says, “The goal was to do well, focus on the sportsmanship of the sport, ensuring the boys were following proper procedures and rules of the sport, and learning the rules of fair play as it is a self-officiated sport.”
“Both teams won their games,” he says. “Our Division 1 team’s score was 8-5 and Division 2 was 6-2. They were very excited to play their first game and were thrilled that they won it!”
“I didn’t think we would do as well going into our first game,” says Fazl. “We were dressed in a St. Michael’s sweaters and sweatpants while everyone else there had uniforms. We got the hang of the game pretty quickly and one of our teams was up 4-0 after just one end.”
Practices for all team members are held after school at the Leaside Curling Club once a week.
“For the first couple of practices, since we had so many players that have never played before, we hired instructors from the Leaside Curling Club,” says Hilborn. “These instructors were able to guide the players through the techniques for a proper delivery, slide out of the hack (the foot-holds on the ice), line of delivery, and sweeping.”
“The curling programme provides a great way for students to feel motivated and be a part of a team that’s all about strategy and planning, not just physical strength,” says Fazl.
“We're excited to have the opportunity and privilege to coach a sport that few teachers would have the opportunity to coach in their career,” says Hilborn.
Find a complete list of the different competitive sports teams St. Michael's College School offers here.