Inside the NTP: What is the National Team Program?

The CCA’s National Team Program is an all-encompassing title given to four major funding programs… all with the financial assistance of four major funding partners. The Programs:
  1. La Releve –A program to assist top young curlers with Training to Improve their skills
  2. “SR” Carding for our top two men’s and women’s teams –Brier, Hearts, Olympics
  3. “D” Carding for 18 of our top young curlers –related to success on CTRS
  4. National Team Funding – for our top six men’s and women’s teams.
The Funding Partners:
  1. Canadian Curling Association
  2. Sport Canada
  3. Own The Podium
  4. Canadian Olympic Association

Mark Kennedy and Ben Hebert at the La Releve Camp in Edmonton (Photo: Wendy Morgan)

La Releve Let’s have a look at the first program listed above. “La Releve” , loosely translated, means The Next Generation …..the future of the game in Canada. The CCA has identified 30 young men and 30 young women through their recent success as Canadian Junior Champions, Canadian University Champions, or through the 2009-2010 CTRS results. This program started eight years ago when we identified a similar group of young curlers…..with the plan to assist them in their preparation for podium performances in Canadian and International events. La Releve was initially the brain child of CCA Director of High Performance, Gerry Peckham. There is no country in the world that invests in the future stars of our game as does Canada. Team Gushue was a part of this program as were so many other successful young athletes. As we approach the Olympics in each quadrennial, the number of “kids” in the program is reduced annually, as they receive other types of funding within the National Team Program. This year’s version will do the same. We have started with 60 young people, all under 32 years of age and we will add Canadian Junior Champions each year but we will also reduce the numbers if the athletes in the program do not produce the results needed to remain in the program. Hopefully, most of these athletes will continue to train, to compete, to improve, to win, and to prepare themselves for Podium performances. The first event of this quadrennial for the LR athletes took place in early September in Edmonton. Ironically, Gerry, the founder of the program could not be with us in Edmonton (more meetings in Ottawa) but he desperately wanted to be a part of this event. 56 of the 60 invited athletes came to the Coaching / Training weekend and it was an absolute, outstanding success. The curlers were exposed to top Canadian coaches and competitive curling athletes for three days and nights. Jeff Stoughton, Marc Kennedy, Ben Hebert, Nolan Thiessen, Cathy Overton-Clapham, Marcel Rocque worked with these curlers and filled them with their knowledge and experiences. How amazing is it that these people, who are still competing, would spill all they know for the young people trying to beat them out of a spot in the next Olympics??… only in Canada!!!!! National and Provincial Coaches Connie Laliberte, Rick Lang, Linda Moore, Helen Radford, Paul Webster, Scott Arnold, Rob Krepps, Melissa Soligo, Wayne Kiel, Wendy Morgan, Jock Tyre, Elaine Dagg-Jackson and Jim Waite contributed their experiences with top teams at Canadian and International events. The curlers were video-taped and analyzed on the “state of the art” camera/video set-up at the Saville Centre, soaked up the results of the Sweeping Study done at the University of Western Ontario, sweated through a fitness session with our Conditioning Expert, Bob Comartin and worked from some of the top skips, thirds and front-end players in the country. As well, we all listened with awe to Marnie McBean as she re-lived her “lessons learned” during Olympic medal performances in rowing. John Dunn, a world respected Sport- Psychologist, presented for two hours and left us wishing for more. It was an amazing weekend! The future of the La Releve project is still in the planning stages but we hope to host a second training 3-day weekend… possibly in March, for many of these same curlers. Next year we will continue the training and may be able to offer some direct funding to many of the athletes. The three days (and nights) flew by and the learning, the work, the bonding and the fun experienced by all the athletes was obvious. There were three goals presented to the athletes at the opening session.
  1. Listen, improve and learn from many of the top people in the game.
  2. Meet and make friends with the rest of the group of 60 athletes with whom you will compete over the next couple of decades.
  3. Have fun.
And did they have fun!!! But, that’s what curlers do!!! The mission was accomplished in all three areas. Moving forward, this project will be under the leadership of Paul Webster and Melissa Soligo with the assistance of the National and Provincial Coaches across the country, In next week’s blog article, we will look at the twelve National Teams in our National Team Program.