Curling and community in rural Canada


Growing up in the village of Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick, Heather Mair had a sense that the local curling club played an important role in the community that went far beyond just sport.

So, as an associate professor at the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Recreation and Leisure Studies, she conducted a large ethnographic study looking at 22 curling clubs across the country to examine their role in rural Canada.

Getting to know curlers at a grassroots level, it became clear to Mair and her team that the local curling club is important to rural life and contributes to the sport’s sense of itself.

“I wanted to investigate and talk to people across the country and see how they described the role of the club in their community,” says Mair. “It turns out that these places are social hubs and gathering places for all ages and abilities.”

For over a decade, Mair’s group has developed a strong working relationship with Curling Canada.

“We helped them make the argument that curling was important, and articulate all the social aspects around the sport,” says Mair.  

Her work has broad policy implications, addressing issues of diversity in order to open up the sport to non-traditional curlers, as well as assisting recreational programmers working in various levels of municipal and provincial government.

This research was funded by Sport Canada through the Sports Participation Research Initiative.