OTTAWA – When Melvin Lee stepped onto the curling rink ice for the primary time, he says he felt pleasure — not simply because he discovered a sport he would come to adore, but additionally as a result of he was being welcomed by friends who shared a few of the identical lived expertise.
That first invitation to twist with a various group of legislation college students got here greater than 20 years in the past.
Now, the avid roller has a wealth of expertise below his belt. And he’s making an attempt to present the same welcome to others who’re underrepresented within the sport.
“Many members of my neighborhood, they’re not going to on their very own determine to hitch a curling membership,” mentioned Lee, who’s Korean-Canadian and works as a health-care skilled in Ottawa.
“As a result of it’s all white, they usually simply really feel like they don’t belong.”
In Might final 12 months, Lee, who went on to turn into a guide for South Korea’s nationwide curling groups, attended a Curling Canada symposium that centered on range, fairness and inclusion.
There, he heard about native initiatives that have been welcoming extra folks of color and various teams to the game.
He was impressed to comply with their lead and accepted a place as the range, fairness and inclusion director on the Ottawa Valley Curling Affiliation. However he left not lengthy after as a result of he mentioned he felt unheard on the group, although he maintains a relationship with a few of its members. The affiliation didn’t reply to a request for remark.
As an alternative, Lee is working with organizations corresponding to UnitedWeCurl and the Black Rock Initiative to see how he can convey a few of the identical methods to Ottawa.
One of many first steps he’s taking domestically is to arrange “be taught to twist classes” — two- to three-hour classes for newbies who don’t have any gear however are serious about getting a really feel for the game. The purpose is to introduce them to a curling membership after creating their expertise and confidence as a roller.
Andrew Paris, who based the Black Rock Initiative in Nova Scotia in 2021, mentioned his purpose is to introduce younger folks of color and various teams to the game by giving them a chance to be taught earlier than heading right into a curling membership — a method that he mentioned has “100 per cent” resulted in a development in curiosity amongst these teams.
“It’s not simply sufficient to have that open door in your facility. It’s good to be susceptible and attain out to these communities the place they reside,” he mentioned.
When Lee requested Paris for recommendation, Paris mentioned he informed him that constructing relationships is a crucial step towards higher inclusiveness. And curling golf equipment have to be receptive to the thought, too.
Lee mentioned he’s working with the youth program director on the Ottawa Valley Curling Affiliation to encourage extra range.
“There are (many) doable methods to look out new members, and I believe there are various golf equipment within the Ottawa space that might be keen to try this,” mentioned Lee.
Curling Canada CEO Katherine Henderson mentioned the subject of range is “extremely necessary” to the sporting group.
She acknowledged that as Canada welcomes newcomers, the group must work in tandem with that development.
However massive organizations are solely doing an “OK” job, mentioned the president of UnitedWeCurl, a company that works with curling golf equipment to assist them turn into extra inclusive areas.
Sabena Islam mentioned such organizations want to maneuver past creating written toolkits and as an alternative implement packages which might be designed to yield lasting change on the ice.
“Range, fairness and inclusion is not only a tagline or a poster you place up in your wall. It must be embedded in every little thing you do,” she mentioned.
Whilst Lee works on discovering methods to do exactly that in Ottawa, he continues to work as a guide for the Korean nationwide groups.
It began with an opportunity encounter in 2003, when Lee was dwelling in Winnipeg for varsity.
On a whim, Lee determined to collect a gaggle of younger Koreans to cheer on their nationwide group on the males’s curling world championships in Winnipeg. The group’s coach approached Lee after the sport, thanked him for bringing different followers and invited him to dinner. Later, Lee linked the coach with an area curling membership that needed to assist the Koreans construct a brand new rink.
They misplaced contact till the Korean ladies’s group was in search of a brand new coach following allegations of abuse towards their former coach and two different curling officers.
Lee mentioned the group reached out to him and requested for his assist to reconnect them with their earlier coach Peter Gallant, a fixture within the Canadian curling scene. He acted as a liaison and has stayed in contact.
This previous week, Lee curled with the Korean ladies’s group in Pyeongchang on the identical sheet of ice the place they gained the silver medal on the 2018 Winter Olympics.
“It’s a kind of issues that while you do one thing that’s close to the highest of your bucket checklist, you’ve performed it, however you possibly can’t consider it,” he mentioned.
“You assume it’s a dream.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first printed Jan. 8, 2023.
This story was produced with the monetary help of the Meta and Canadian Press Information Fellowship.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Leave a Reply