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A Tale of Two Olympic Teams

I had the pleasure of travelling to the Cactus Pheasant Classic with our National Men’s Coach Jim Waite and what an event these people had put on.  With a $70,000 purse, this second year event, boasted almost every top team in men’s curling, along with one international team from Scotland.  It was an interesting dynamic seeing the Scotland team here in Canada training.   From all accounts it sounds as though this foursome will be making up the Great Britain team that goes onto compete in 2010.

This is truly a tale of two Olympic teams and you could not find a different system from the route Canada has chosen.  Great Britain has decided to go with a selection process whereby they create a pool of athletes, create teams and have them compete.  This time around, I am unsure the exact process, it seems that there is only one team designated.   The entire concept here is that this team will have the time to train, time to deal with the pressures of being the Olympic team and with the help of their support staff (they had four support staff in Brooks) they will try to peak in February 2010.

Now the argument against this type of system would be what if they are faultering in their play just prior to February 2010?  How do you manage a team who may be struggling with the event of their lifetime just around the corner? On the flipside they have a immense amount of time to train and ready themselves both physically and mentally to compete in Vancouver.  Canada has a different system altogether!

Our system stems from our opinion that we have a breadth of talent in our country and the process of picking a team and deciding who goes to the Olympics would be a full out argument in itself!  This concept reminds me of the arguments and arm-chair managing that surrounds our Olympic hockey team every four years – and if you know how that process has gone it is definitley tough to produce a team in a short while; key on the word team.

Our system is designed solely around the concept of team, allowing teams to form and compete to represent our country.  In reality you, right now, have a chance to represent Canada in 2010.  Now there may be a team or two in your way but if you can find four friends and enter some of the bonspiels….win some games and get some points you are well on your way.  Well maybe not, but I like to dream myself.

The Canadian Curling Association has designed a process that is designed to allow the most consistent performing teams in the three years prior to the Olympics to play off for this right.  It is then designed to take the hottest team at that point and allow them to continue that streak into the Games with the knowledge, that to get there, they have arguably beat 7 of the top teams in the world.

The argument against this system is that the athlete/team may not have enough time to deal with the pressures of the Olympics.   We try to get all of the teams qualifed, this summer, to start training, to begin thinking that they are going to the Olympics.   It is never a fool-proof system and the CCA has done a great job, in my opinion, of taking the advice of players and coaches to tweak the system each time there has been a Trials.

With the world knocking at the podium we can only continue to try and better our ways of coaching, thinking and most importantly watch what our best teams are doing and learn from them.

Yours in curling,

Paul