How effective is your curling club’s onboarding?

Previously, we discussed how to utilize inexpensive marketing efforts to bring people into our curling organizations and then how to convert them into new curlers. Now, we’ll focus on what I would consider the most important aspect of new curler recruitment: Welcoming and onboarding new curlers into curling leagues.

We noted the importance of turning current curlers into boosters and enthusiasts when we discussed the concept of the curling sales funnel. The effectiveness of new curler onboarding goes a long way to determining not only if your new curlers will feel committed and connected to your organization, but if they’ll be retained at all.

Why is onboarding important for curling organizations?

So why should we care about new curler onboarding? Organizations all over the world have realized the importance of onboarding and not just because there’s a connection between onboarding and productivity. It’s because it helps companies all over the world with retention and building a stronger culture.

BambooHR conducted a survey of over 1,000 US-based full-time employees about their onboarding and the results show what a difference the quality of onboarding can make:

  • 80% of people who received effective onboarding rated their organization’s performance as “strong” vs. just 11% who received ineffective onboarding.
  • 89% of those who received effective onboarding said they felt strongly integrated into their organization’s culture.
  • People who received effective onboarding were 18x more likely to feel highly committed to their organization.
  • And 91% of those who felt their onboarding was effective felt strong connectedness at their organization.

This is what we’re striving for at the grassroots level of curling. Onboarding helps create a strong culture of curlers who feel committed and connected to an organization they’re proud to be associated with.

What are the aspects of effective curling onboarding?

It’s natural for curling organizations to become more professional as curling itself becomes more professional. And one of the most important things curling can learn from the business world is the difference between effective and ineffective onboarding. 

Think about your own onboarding experiences whenever you’ve changed jobs. Did you have any that made you excited to come back for Day 2? Did you have any that left you lying awake that night wondering what you’d gotten yourself into?

More than likely your feelings toward your onboarding process, and thus your new job, came down to how many of the Four Cs of Onboarding your new company focused on. According to the SHRM Foundation, the Four Cs of Onboarding are Compliance, Clarification, Culture and Connection.

Onboarding is not orientation

More than likely you’ve started at a job that simply made sure you had the proper paperwork filled out, gave you an idea of what you would be doing and what you were responsible for and left you to figure out the rest on your own.

This kind of passive onboarding only focused on Compliance and Clarification. For a curling organization, this would mean just making sure a new curler has signed their waiver and knows what team they’ll be on for the fall curling league.

Proactive onboarding focuses just as much on Culture and Connection as they do on the other two. And for curling organizations, Culture and Connection are the most important aspects of onboarding new curlers.

Triangle Curling Club’s Saturday instructional league is a tremendous example of a club that takes a proactive approach to making sure new curlers feel welcome at their organization. Unfortunately, not every club has the ice availability (or access) to accomplish what they do. However, there are other ways to take a proactive approach to onboarding new curlers.

How can my curling organization improve its onboarding?

One of the biggest trends in onboarding is the shift from process-based onboarding to experience-based onboarding

How perfect for curling! You can’t get more experience-based than joining a new curling league. And while you can’t control how quickly a new curler improves or if their team wins, you absolutely can control whether or not a new curler enjoys their time curling.

Here are some ways curling organizations can use experience-based onboarding to make new curlers feel more welcome and connected and build a stronger culture:

Improve your preboarding

Get the paperwork out of the way before the first draw. Can your waivers and payments be accepted online? If so, great. If not, at least send them the required documents so they can fill them out and bring them or at least read them over to know what they’re signing to save time.

Use the buddy system

Find experienced curlers within your club who can partner with each new curler, whether they’re on their team or not. Have them call or send an email welcoming them to the club and have them greet them when they arrive. This will give them someone they feel comfortable asking their “stupid questions.” Have the experienced curler check in with them during the week to see how their first game went. Are you a club that plays on skating ice? Have your new curler’s buddy invite them to help set up the ice before the draw.

Make the first day special

Thinking about my own onboarding experiences, every job I liked I felt good about after the first day and every job I hated gave me warning signs the first day. Do something that makes your new curlers feel special their first time playing in a league, even if it’s just introducing them to everyone prior to the first stone. Even better, explain that one of our curling traditions is to hang out together after the game. Ask them what their favorite beverage (or appetizer) is so you can have it on hand. 

Drip feed information

You don’t want to overwhelm new curlers with a bunch of forms and rules right off the bat. Another trend in onboarding is the concept of microlearnings. These are videos or trainings that are shorter and more easily retained. For curling, that could mean occasionally sending new curlers a video about tactics from Curling Class or even a podcast from Rocks Across the Pond about etiquette throughout their first league season.

Bring this to your organization

As we have said before, your members are your greatest asset. There is likely someone at your club who is in human resources and can help implement a new onboarding plan. Or, there could be someone in your club who is an event planner and just knows how to make people feel welcome when they walk in a room.

Empower those people. Create a position on your curling organization’s board: Director of New Member Experience. Give them a role at your club that increases their buy-in and improves the onboarding process for new curlers. 

Ryan is a marketing professional and a member of Curling Club of Virginia. He spent 12 years in marketing and media relations in sports and live events, including time with a Major League Baseball club. What does your club do to onboard new curlers? Tell us at

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