York Urbanist

Curling Customers as Volunteers

March 11th, 2015

In Curling, define the customer and you will uniquely define the volunteer. Let us start with dispelling myths:

Myth #1 – Curling as a sport in Canada is declining

  • Recent statistics from TSN http://www.tsn.ca/tim-hortons-brier-attracts-big-audiences-to-tsn-1.226557 describe that over 2 million persons watched Pat Simmons throw his draw to the button in the 2015 Brier final – an increase of 29% over the final in 2014.
  • Bids to host the Olympic Trials are competitive, even at $1m for the rights.
  • Curling recruitment swells after each Olympics across Canada.

Myth #2 – Voluntarism is waning

  • My personal experience at the Ontario Scotties and the Brier – there were TOO MANY VOLUNTEERS, many of whom were in the way, despite the fact that they always wanted to assist.
  • When I volunteered for a Brier, I had to pay to volunteer…. and gladly, to enjoy an event that comes but once a year.
  • Member volunteers want to help, but clubs fail to provide the right opportunities to suit the recruit. See Volunteer Segmentation below.
  • Parents want to become involved with their children – volunteering gives them the opportunity.

Myth #3 – Members will leave if we raise the cost of membership fees

  • Compare the cost of curling to any sport. Curling is undervalued. Your kid can play recreation hockey for $1,200 per year or curl for $120. If cost is a deterrent, then this is a no-brainer. Get into or stay in the market before it takes off and fee charges suit the demand.
  • Curling is a business. A not-for-profit business needs to cover costs. Costs include capital improvements. Capital improvements should be funded over time. A capital fee should therefore be applied. (See my article December issue of The Curling News). Curling members will pay the fee when the logical business explanation is given.

Myth #4 – Curling sport is steeped in traditions; changes with technology are not warranted.

  • How many times have you had to explain the scoreboard to a new curling recruit? The hell with tradition, give them an intuitive electronic numbering system that takes the guesswork out of scoring the game.
  • Electronics costs have plummeted with miniaturization. Get your club some good cameras and screens and supply spectators, coaches and players a common tool to analyse the game!
  • Relate to youth who have been nurtured on electronics. Use your imagination – slide speed, rock curl, rock speed, sweeping effectiveness… all can be electronically evaluated and analysed, and at little cost.

Coquitlam - great viewing CUSTOMER SEGMENTATION

Customers are those for whom we are creating value. But, who are our most important customers? First, Curling is a Niche Market, segmented by:

  • Age
  • Skill
  • Activity level
  • Wealth

To be successful, we must determine the type of relationship each of our customer segments expect us to establish and maintain with them. For Age, most clubs have a gap between 20 and 40. It is the time when youth go away to school, try to establish a career and raise young families. They are distracted from their former junior social circle of curling. It does not have to be! The Royals, in Toronto has re-invented itself as a cool place for 20- and 30-somethings to hang. Chinguacousy CC in Brampton, Ontario launched under-35 competitions or clinics in 2014 with resounding success. The age gap is created only by clubs that are resistant to change.

Regarding skill, Canada has seen reduced competitive curling entries. Does that mean that skills are declining? Resounding No! To enjoy a sport recreationally, the skill needs to be nurtured. Successful clubs engrain training into the curriculum.

Activity level is the amount of recreation or fitness in which your customer wants to partake. Recreation curlers can be junkies, but the fact remains that some want to curl but spend less time doing it! Define which describes your member market and you will succeed. Why does a league need to be once a week? Why not once a month? Or only in October and November for SnoBirds?

Curlers, demographically, are above average income earners. Referring back to Myth #3, if that is correct, then fees would be less of a burden on the curling demographic. What the curling customer wants is value. Sport and recreation are counter balances to stressful work environments. Create a social, stress-free environment, and they will come knocking.


Curling Customers desire to be part of the organization, to make it their own and to have an influence on what best suits their own purposes. Volunteering enhances social experience at a curling facility. Just as there is segmentation for customers, so too are there segments for volunteers:


  • This segment includes managers and professionals. When they retire, they are looking for time fillers.
  • As physical capabilities decline, seniors may look for other less vigorous activities. Volunteering for administrative work and coaching fits the bill.


  • High School students are looking to fill volunteer hours obligatory in many provinces.
  • Voluntarism makes an impression on the résumé.
  • University and colleges look at volunteer hours as part of the evaluation for candidate students.


  • Participation promotes bonding with children.
  • Involvement ensures that children are in a safe environment.
  • Directing activities also directs their children to interact with suitable compatriots.

Business persons

  • Positions on boards impress others.
  • Volunteering increases contacts with future clients.
  • Applying professional skills not only enhances the image, but hones the skills.

In each of the segments above, there is one common ingredient: a need to be given responsibility. Dole out responsibility to your customers and they will become your volunteers. Give a finite task to any of your customers, and they will gladly lend a hand, knowing that it contributes to the experience and is not a life sentence. As an aside: I attended the 2015 Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary. During two consecutive between-ends distractions, I became conflicted with the response to the presentations. The first was the snare rapping and cymbals slashing of the surprisingly young 9 year-old Jaxon Smith, likely paid entertainment. There was an immediate and long standing ovation for the young Phenom. In the next break, Curling Canada presented their 2015 Volunteer Award to Harvey Lyons, who relaunched his Lorette, Manitoba curling club, raising it from the solvency fires like the proverbial Phoenix. This feat took many years of 40-hour unpaid work weeks to accomplish. The response from the audience… polite applause from those who had not left for beer. Volunteers do not require payment or accolades, but Harvey Lyons deserved a better response.

See also:



reprinted from www.curling.ca

Harvey Lyons – reprinted from www.curling.ca

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