For others, lets hear/see what your little rockers favourite drills are. What little twists have you incorporated to improve on anything or to help keeps the kids engaged.
To the original poster, great to see that you recognize you have inherited a program that was “doing it wrong” for lack of a better term. I can’t think of many (any?) kids sports where the entire season is just playing the real game after a warm up. Drills and practice are a part of every kids sport, it’s the only way the coaches can teach kids proper techniques.
Hockey/soccer/basketball/gymnastics/golf/football all have a large practice component to them separate from the real game. You need to explain to the parents and the kids that curling is no different than other sports. If all you do is play a six end game each kid at best is throwing 12 rocks. Impossible to teach/correct anything. Practice can be made fun as other’s have replied, there are lots of fun drills the kids can do while throwing WAY more rocks. Any reasonable parent can see the common sense in this so I can't imagine you will have too much blow back from the other parents. If you do, compare a curling delivery to a golf swing. How the heck would any kid learn golf swinging a club 12 times a week?
For the record we do a 50 minute practice, come in for hot chocolate/snacks and then play a two-end game afterwards. Getting the kids to enter little rocks bonspiels is a great way for them to see their skills in action.
For our program, our youth spend a minimum of 30 minutes working on a particular skill each week. I have at least 2 instructors per group on the ice @ all times. I also found that we can keep the kids attention for 90 minutes MAXIMUM. A 2 hour program is too long, especially for some of the younger kids.
We don't get into playing a full ends or more until around Christmas. We start off by playing 1 end only & we build from there. By the end of the year, the kids are playing a full 6 ends...
I also found breaking the kids up into 3 groups helped to keep things organized a lot better out on the ice.
Tickers (6-8) use a 1/2 sheet of ice
Biters (8-10) use a full sheet & lite rocks
Peelers (10-12) us a full sheet & full rocks
For the Tickers, I use a 3 part delivery we teach to the kids: Get Ready, Get Set & Go.
For the older kids, I use the Curl Canada teaching approach.
For the most part, a lot of the drills used for teaching adults work well for the kids.
I find that a lot of the skill development revolves around balance, balance, balance, even for the older kids...
We've had an awards presentation at the end of the year where the badges and certificates are presented. I've even seen some clubs with a plaque on the wall where the kids are recognized for these achievements. Kids that don't meet the requirements can carry forward the points they've earned to the next season, so they don't have to start over.
You can also make a game out of practice. If you're working on throwing hits, for example, after some time for instruction and practice kids can throw hits for points, like a Hot Shots thing. Hit and stick = 5 points, roll away = 3 points, roll out = 1 point. Or whatever scoring system you can come up with.
Every now and then throw in a 4 end game so they can see how the skills are translating to a "real" game. If you have an odd number of kids you can swap some in and out of the games for some one-on-one instruction on an empty sheet. Parents like to see that attention paid to the kids.
USA Curling piloted a program for younger kids this past year. Maybe somebody could share the curriculum/program notes for that effort?
There is a changing of the guard at our club with the organizers of our little rock program (ages 7-13, or Grade 2-8).
A few of us are taking over the program this upcoming season and are looking for ideas on how to better the program. We would like to be to have fun drills & games that keep the kids interested at the same time as learning and honing their skills.
We have the Literock Junior Stones (composites) and curly ice. This has seem to be problematic for the kids as they need to slide out to the 12' or more to keep the rocks from curling off the sheet.
In the past the kids have had a short warm up drill (5-10 minutes), then they have gone directly into a 4 to 5 end game (as time permitted). We have found that it is hard to work with the kids while they are playing a game to correct any delivery issues (especially since they are only throwing 8-10 rocks a day).
The teams are made up new each week and points are awarded individually if you win, lose or tie, as well for showing up to the game. At the end of the season there are awards for most points, perfect attendance etc.
Obviously the kids like playing games the entire time they are out there and like to watch their point totals grow. How do we revamp the program to allow more instruction (which would mean less ends being played each week) while still keeping the kids interested?
What drills/games do you do for your program that you have found to work well?
Our goal is to give the kids more instruction, without ticking off the kids and parents since we are playing less of a game each week. There is a large percentage of children whose parents do not curl, so those parents like to watch their kids play games (and win them).