Let’s say you’re starting to get serious about competitive curling, whether it’s at the junior, men’s/women’s, senior or mixed doubles level. You’ve watched or read about the Olympics and World Championships, but now you actually want to take the steps necessary to actually playing in them some day.
How, you may ask, can I become a part of Team Canada?
Well, the answer, to paraphrase an old joke, is pretty simple: practice, practice, practice.
The truth of the matter is that the process toward wearing the Maple Leaf at an international competition such as the Winter Olympics or World Championship (the Paralympics and World Wheelchair Championship have a different process) is pretty straightforward, although anything but easy.
In the case of the World Championships, win your provincial championship and then win the Canadian Championship and you’re Team Canada.
In the case of the Olympics, you need to build up points through the Canadian Team Ranking System to be eligible for the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials; win that event, and you’re off to the Winter Olympics.
Let’s get a little more in-depth about the process with some answers to these Frequently Asked Questions:
1. How do I join a competitive curling team?
Easier said than done, of course, but it always starts at your local club, and it starts with practising as often as you can. You will find like-minded people around you. Every successful curler has a story of how they joined their first competitive team. It can start in a junior program, through a school program or in an adult competitive league. But it always starts by being at the club and throwing rocks. Talk to people. Talk to the club manager. Word gets around. But it won’t get around unless you put in the time on the ice.
2. I’m on a team. How do we get better so that we can compete to represent Canada?
There’s no substitute for hard work, on and off the ice. On the ice, it means hours of practice on deliveries and sweeping techniques, ideally with a coach well-versed in the technical aspects of the sport (all Canadian curling centres will have access to prospective coaches and coaching materials). Off the ice, dryland training has never been more important, focusing on both endurance and core strength to help with sweeping. As well, playing as many games as possible, and being exposed to as many different strategies as possible to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your own team. For teams starting out, playing high-end opponents will result in some humbling results, but it’s the only way to get better and learn.
3. We’ve decided we’re ready to enter the playdowns leading to a Canadian Championship. How do we do that?
Your local curling centre and provincial/territorial association will have information about how to enter the playdowns at all levels. Typically, there are regional qualifiers within each province/territory that teams must enter to qualify for their provincial championship. As well, each Member Association website will have information on playdown dates, locations and entry information.
4. Is there any way we can qualify directly for a Canadian Championship?
There are only two directly seeded teams at Canadian Championship events that lead to a world-level event — the defending champions at both the Tim Hortons Brier and Scotties Tournament of Hearts both get the privilege of returning the following year to compete as Team Canada.
5. How can we qualify for the Olympics?
As opposed to the annual Canadian championships, the Winter Olympics are held only every four years, so the qualifying process is a little more complicated and more in-depth to ensure that Canada’s best and most consistent teams are all in the final stage of qualifying, In essence, teams can start meeting the qualifying standards for a future Games three years in advance, although it is the final two seasons leading to the Olympics that carry the most weight in qualifying through the Canadian Team Ranking System. Six teams of each gender are seeded directly into the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings (which is held approximately two months prior to the Winter Olympics) based on their performances in provincial, national and world championships, along with World Curling Tour bonspiels, which are weighted depending on the level of the field. Additionally, the next 12 best-performing teams of each gender that didn’t meet enough of the qualifying standards to play in the Tim Horton Roar of the Rings are given a second chance to qualify. They play at the Road to the Roar Pre-Trials for the final two qualifying spots into the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings.
The final eight teams play at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings for the right to represent Canada at the Winter Olympics.
6. We’re a wheelchair curling team. How can we play for Team Canada?
The national team wheelchair curling program operates a little differently, although ultimately, as is the case with able-bodied teams, it is still a performance-based criteria. Wheelchair curling teams still have to win their province to compete at the Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship, but winning the Canadian championship does not guarantee a trip to the World Wheelchair Curling Championship. Instead, the national coaching staff keeps tabs on all competitive wheelchair curlers and puts together a talent pool of players. From that talent pool, after selection camps, teams are picked to represent Canada in international competitions.
7. Are there programs, grants, services, etc., available to teams or players with aspirations of one day representing Canada?
Curling Canada has some amazing resources in all of these areas to help our curlers get better, on and off the ice. Once curlers reach certain standards of performance, they have access to training centres in Calgary and Edmonton with highly trained coaches on hand to work with curlers, in addition to video analysis of delivery and sweeping techniques.
Also, there is always information available to competitive curling teams at your local curling centre as well as on www.curling.ca