Best laid plans
Anyone who has met me and Garion knows that it’s difficult to get us in the same place, at the same time, both doing the correct thing, but on October 20th that’s exactly what happened. At 11:43pm we both touched down at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport, coming from different sides of the world. We literally saw each other before getting to the baggage carousel, which some might mistake for good planning, but we knew to be a whole lot of luck combined with me getting up very early in Scotland to catch a flight. After a big day of flying for both of us, we were about ready for bed. But first, some introductions had to be made.
The Native Population
The first Canadians we had the pleasure of meeting were our coaches, Chris and Lorne Hamblin. They picked us up from the airport (super late) which we were very thankful for. We’re going to be spending a lot of time with them, but fret not, they’re not interested in us developing a Manitoba tuck (whew). Chris and Lorne are world-class coaches with not only a Junior World Championship as coaches but also an Olympic Bronze medal! They have extensive experience coaching athletes from all around the world, so hopefully they’ll be able to polish the already beautiful techniques we possess (sure…).
We’ve honestly met so many people since arriving here, that we’ve forgotten more names that we even know. One that stands out to us is Bill from Stick Curling, he’s 91! And sweeps more than Garion does! In all seriousness though, if I’m still able to play curling when I’m even close to that age I’ll be pretty stoked. Despite us forgetting all their names on a regular basis, everyone here has been so lovely to us. It’s been a real pleasure getting to know everyone and curling with/against them.
A Not-At-All Busy Week
So for our first week in Morris, we thought we’d take it nice and easy. Our coaches, of course, had other ideas…
On Monday we were thrown in the deep end, with the coaching of the junior curlers. We quickly discovered that juniors in Canada can be anywhere from about 6 to 21 years old. The Monday course was the youngest cohort, which turns out can be quite challenging to coach. They’re all very talented when you have them in the hack, throwing the stones, but when they’re not focused and doing something, chaos emerges. In the two sessions we’ve done so far, Garion and I have had kids pretending to be doing pottery with curling stones, throwing without looking up (at any point) and being a sweeping fish. It’s been quite an experience… After coaching, we had our first game of club curling. To say we were underdone would be the understatement of the century, after scoring 3 in the first it all went pear-shaped, and the jet-lag took over.
On Tuesday we got to see how the high-performance program is run. There is a range of teams in this program, mostly juniors with a few adults here and there. All the players keep a journal, with a different focus every week to improve their curling. When on ice, they have access to the full facility including video feedback from iPads and use of the rock thrower. It was really cool to see such young teams playing at such a high level.
Wednesday was a very different day for us, as we had our first taste of Stick Curling. Neither of us had ever thrown with a stick before, and it could be said that it was obvious in our first game… Nonetheless, we had a great time, and we look forward to one day winning a game.
On Thursday we got our first taste of Canadian coaching. I think Garion and I would both agree that it went better than we thought it might. Turns out we’re not terrible at curling (yay!) there might be hope for us yet. For this session, we focused on the first few feet of the delivery. It was a bit rough but very cool to get instant feedback on our slides, either from the iPads or from the camera connected to the 55-inch tv next to the ice. Hopefully, we can compare the videos in 6 months and see just how far we’ve come.
Swan River (Not Swan Lake)
On Friday we were allowed to sleep in until 6am when we were picked up for the drive to Swan River, where we’d be helping run a weekend curling clinic. Garion decided to take advantage of the 6-hour drive to catch up on some sleep.
This turned out to be a great idea, as the next few days were a whirlwind of curling, bottomless ribs, more curling, and something called a double grilled cheese burger. We coached more juniors (slightly less hectic this time) and even managed to catch some curling on tv! All in all, it was an awesome weekend, and a great way to finish our first week in Canada.
Next week we have the Dekalb SuperSpiel! It’s a massive tournament with 24 men’s teams competing. Garion and I are helping with the ice and competing in the tournament too. We’re very much looking forward to our first competition over here!
Until next time, Mā Te Wā – Benji