HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
FOR THE LOVE OF CURLING – PART 3: Ten years ago, Calgary’s Christopher Pratt had an unforgettable and inspirational elementary school gym class. That moment opened his eyes to the sport of curling.
And a decade later, the second-year global and international studies student at Carleton University has embraced Canada’s popular winter pastime in different ways – player, coach, manager, team founder, executive member and volunteer.
It all started with Curling Canada’s introductory Rocks and Rings program. And it continues today with the national sport governing body naming Pratt as one of the 11 recipients in its For the Love of Curling scholarship program.
Pratt, along with Ottawa’s Celeste Gauthier (Ryerson University, graphic communications management) and Calissa Daly (Queen’s University, master of public administration), will receive a $2,500 academic/athletic scholarship.
“I started curling after a program called Rocks and Rings came to my elementary school,” Pratt wrote in an email interview. “After tossing a couple of plastic rocks on wheels around the floor, my friend and I were hooked.”
The Rocks and Rings program, which is sponsored by Egg Farmers of Canada, teaches elementary school children the basics of the game in a couple of classes.
Enthused by the roaring game, Pratt and his friend convinced their parents to register them for the junior program at the Huntington Hills Curling Club with Barb Dickson, who “is someone who understands the spirit of the game,” he added.
Since that time, Pratt has enjoyed the game as a recreational and a competitive player, established many friendships and created many memories on and off the ice.
After playing mixed doubles last season with Zoe Cinnamon, Pratt plans to play this year as the third for Team Ballance with skip James Ballance, Ethan Drysdale and Neil Donovan. There are titles to chase, but having fun is the top goal.
Pratt looks back to 2016 to find his proudest curling moment. As a Grade 10 student at William Aberhart High School, he founded the boys’ curling team and served as coach and manager until the 2019-20 COVID-19 pandemic season.
His daring move attracted 15 curlers the first year, 80 for the second school season and 60 each for the third and fourth years. Those student/athlete curlers continued the game after graduation in leagues and bonspiels.
As coach and manager of the William Aberhart team, his student-athletes were impressive in their first four seasons, winning four Calgary high school championships, two Alberta bronze medals and one provincial sportsmanship banner.
Pratt also served on the administrative side of the sport as a member of the Calgary Youth Curling Association board of directors for five years, and director at large and junior co-chair for the Cochrane Curling Club for one year.
Pratt was extremely happy and surprised to be selected as a For the Love of Curling scholarship winner.
“I have put a lot of time and energy back into the game, including hundreds of volunteer hours with various junior programs, high school curling events and curling boards. I do not do any of that in return for recognition,” he wrote.
“I feel extremely happy, thankful and humbled to know that I was selected because of the work I have put into keeping the spirit of the game growing and alive. I love being involved in the curling community.”
Pratt loves curling and its various formats because he sees it as everyone’s game and is for people of all ages, abilities and disabilities. He also likes that it can be played as a recreational game or a competitive sport.
“When I was working to coach and manage the William Aberhart curling team, I met friends that I still talk to and curl with, which is super awesome,” Pratt continued.
“I have so many amazing memories from not only curling, but also all of the awesome people and events that are a part of the broader curling community.”
Inclusivity is a big issue facing many sports, but Pratt is confident “we are already working to build a more diverse and stronger community that truly represents the multiculturalism that Canada is recognized for globally.”
“I love both the game and the sport of curling because of its accessibility, awesome sense of community and current dedication to Canadian values,” Pratt added.
A couple of years ago, Pratt stepped back from competitive curling to focus on the recreational game as he found it was getting too intense and dampening his enjoyment of the game. This season, it’s all about fun.
“I want to continue to play the game for the rest of my life, so I want to ensure that I can continue to enjoy the sport as well as the game,” Pratt reasoned.
“Furthermore, I always curl better when I’m not stressed and having a blast out on the ice, so keeping the mental side of the game upbeat and happy is super important for me.”
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.