By Kim Nawyn, Director of Growth & Development

Recruiting New Members:  One Approach Does Not Suit All

              The highlight of the 2017-18 curling season will undoubtedly be the Olympic Winter Games, which will take place in PyeongChang, South Korea, in February. For clubs seeking to increase their membership, scheduling outreach efforts immediately before, during, and following the Games can be effective. USA Curling has been talking to clubs of different sizes and types (e.g., arena-based, dedicated ice) in various geographic locations about recruiting and retention practices that work for them. To date, summaries of interviews with representatives from Cedar Rapids Curling Club, Coyotes Curling Club, Curl San Diego, Evergreen Curling Club, Nutmeg Curling Club, and Wausau Curling Club have been published in a limited-edition, monthly e-newsletter on this topic. While these discussions have shown that there is no one-size-fits-all model for effective recruitment, a number of themes have emerged.

              First, it is important for the club to have a strong presence in the local community. People must know that a club exists in order to participate in its programs. Clubs have had success with social media campaigns, local commercials, tables at fairs and festivals, and posting events on community calendars, as a few examples. USA Curling will be assisting member clubs in their outreach efforts this season by developing a broadcast quality commercial, which can be posted online or shown on local television stations. The release date for the commercial is expected to be at the end of 2017. Through mentions on a variety of broadcasts, the national organization will also be directing members of the public to the USA Curling website to access specific details about the opportunity to try the sport at member clubs. In addition to such efforts designed to reach large numbers of people, clubs should not forget about the importance of word-of-mouth advertising. Strong word-of-mouth recommendations can be one of the most effective and least expensive means of reaching new potential recruits.

               Planning a variety of options for members of the public to try the sport is encouraged. While some people who try curling want to learn as much about the sport as possible, many are satisfied with a single experience where they can sweep and throw a stone or two. Even though safety is key, making these sessions fun and providing time for attendees to take photographs is an effective way to generate positive local buzz on social media and bring in extra funds for the club. Some clubs structure these introductory sessions as a series of stations where attendees work with several instructors who focus on different skills; other clubs assign small groups to individual instructors for a set period of time (e.g., a half hour). Limiting the time spent with each participant in these initial sessions can help prevent volunteer burnout, especially for those clubs that have hundreds to thousands of people attend introductory events. Clubs seeking material about the sport to hand out to attendees can request brochures for free on the USA Curling website.

              Offering more in-depth training in the form of a detailed introductory course or series of lessons can help recruit those who express more interest in the sport. In addition to working on technical skills, discussions on club traditions, etiquette, and volunteerism can enhance the experience of new curlers as they transition into leagues. Clubs seeking to bring consistency to their instructional team may consider encouraging their members to attend USA Curling Level I and/or Level II Instructor Certification and Training Courses, or even hosting a course at their own club if there is enough interest in the area.

              Finally, clubs should consider options for transitioning new curlers into leagues. Some clubs offer rookie or five-and-under leagues in which additional training and support can be provided. Other clubs guide new curlers into less competitive leagues, assigning them to teams with experienced curlers who can serve as mentors. Regardless of the structure, it is important that there is an obvious pathway to transition from training courses and/or a new curler leagues to teams in established leagues. For more information on these and other aspects of recruiting new curlers this season, keep an eye out for the next edition of the “Preparing for the Olympic Winter Games 2018” e-newsletter. Anyone who does not currently receive emails from USA Curling, but would like to, should send a request to info@usacurl.org containing their name, club, and email address.

Click here for more information on Recruiting Events. Samples of club Learn to Curl and Corporate event structures can be found by clicking here.