KEYS TO SUSTAINABLE CURLING – TOTAL SUM GAIN
This “Keys to Sustainable Curling” series of articles has defined sectors of your curling market by age demographics. The articles were prompted by doomsayers and incomplete rationale that hydro rates were closing clubs. Clubs are not closing because of costs! Fake News! Clubs are closing because of lack of adaptation by boards of directors to changing demographics. Let me summarize how you can rethink your position on curling as a business, based on demographics.
Teach them early… teach them well
“We just spend time and money teaching them and they leave!”
This is the misguided way to dismiss developing a youth program. It has been shown that people want to return to their roots. “Stayers most often cite the tug of family and connections” http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/Movers-and-Stayers.pdf . Pew Research Center in the USA shows evidence that four in ten remain in the towns in which they were raised. The ability to work remotely from an office setting will enhance the stability of populations. Counter to that is the phenomenon of cocooning. The advent of technology has tended to isolate us. More reason to get our children into a social and active situation that curling programs can provide.
Follow your youth to their post-secondary destinations
Weak clubs are those that let their leaving members go without an exit interview and without reconnecting. Youth members will have fond memories of their time at curling programs. At 17, they may leave for post-secondary education. Remind them of the good times by sending them updates about the club activities. For university/college students, host homecoming events at the holiday breaks and reading week. Perhaps they have gone on to glory in the sport. Celebrate their successes with a homecoming party/bonspiel.
Trends indicate that millennial couples link later in age. “For many young people across the country, putting off marriage — or even settling down with a partner long term — has become the norm. The average age for first marriage is 27 for women and 29 for men; in urban areas …, those averages are higher. It seems that everyone has a different answer for why: Blame it on the economy. Or dating apps. Or women’s ability to delay childbearing.“ https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/soloish/wp/2016/06/06/why-are-millennials-putting-off-marriage-let-me-count-the-ways/?utm_term=.a3674802b63b
Create an app for your club! Make your club facility the desired meeting place for millennials. Your club is competing with bars for the 20-35 year-olds. What are the bars doing to attract new customers? THEY ARE CREATING A MEETING PLACE!
Create the date
Families of North Americans are shrinking. Shrinking, not disappearing. For those with children, couples look forward to their first child reaching teen age when they can finally go out on a date. You will attract them at an earlier age if they can find a facility that has day care. Remember those youth that you are trying to encourage? Hire them as babysitters in the curling venue.
Childless couples look for the opportunity to participate together in an activity on a regular basis, but they also look for variety, so change it up. Make leagues that have attendance flexibility, or jitneys that allow teams to change. Why does a league have to be every week? What if a league was every working day of a one week period? Plug it in: as an introductory league; as an elite week event; as a camp; whadyathink?
Curling is a sport for life. Curling attracts all levels of athleticism. Academics can compete in curling because strategic thinking complements agility. The +60 demographic can be an introductory age. If they were athletes in other sports, they can adapt to the agility required by curling. If they are academics or professionals without active recreation in their past appeal to their mathematical or intuitive mindset.
Most importantly, cross-generate
Boards of Directors must reflect the membership. Yes, put a teenager on your Board! And have at least one from each generation: youth; 20 to 39; 40 to 59; and +60. Mandate it in your bylaws. Ontario clubs can adapt the recent Ontario Curling Association seminar in which a sample “Bylaws” was provided:
The teenager under 18 can be ex-officio. They may become bored with protocols, but, just maybe, they will inject a spark into the proceedings.
Engage the senior members with worlds of experience to teach new members or children. Recently retired persons seek out volunteer opportunities to fill the void left from vacating their daily work habits. Ask them.
Family events will ensure that generations overlap. Many clubs have bonspiels. But what about summer use of the curling facility to remind the families of the importance of the facility to their recreation needs?
While we are at it, how often is your lounge idle? Rent it…. For free. Yes, FREE! How else can you get potential members into your club? Spend money to make it a pleasant environment for non-curlers. This borrows from the church community who offer their parish buildings to non-affiliated groups. Marketing has a cost, but the cost is not as expensive as the alternative – attrition. For those that have municipal government owners, convince them of the value of lounge rental / use as a community benefit.
Create challenges between the generations – A Generational Bonspiel. What eighty year old kid doesn’t want to whoop a teenager?
Adapting to changes in the sport of curling will reduce the threat that is posited by doomsayers. Curling has emerged as both a sport and a recreation, but it is the recreation side that attracts 95% of your market. And your market is all age groups. Reflect your community’s demographic and your curling will continue as a
Total Sum Gain.