Monday, September 8, 2008

Team Canada athletes released to play in Provincials

The five BC athletes on Team Canada 2008 can compete in the 2009 provincial playdowns - with one proviso: no more than two members on any one team. This avoids any embarrassment were they to all play for a team that did not qualify for, or win the national title.

British Columbia's laudable decision to scrap selection camps in favour of a provincial  playdown is running up against a harsh fact plaguing all provincial programmes - too few female participants. Going into its sixth season, BC has just five women with any playing experience, and two of those are Team Canada members.

WCF rules define wheelchair curling as a mixed gender sport. This is of little consequence to the rest of the world who (apart from Scotland) have just enough participants to qualify for the Paralympics. In Canada, with potentially thousands of participants at hundreds of clubs, ambitious curling teams must include 25% women, even though women comprise far less than 25% of the potential athlete pool.

If the idea is establish curling in Canada as the primary winter recreation for wheelchair users, there should no impediment to team formation. As present CCA policy precludes the national champions from representing Canada in WCF events, then it shouldn't matter if provincial teams are mixed gender or not.

If on the other hand, the idea is to encourage women to play a mixed gender sport, then present athletes, coaches and provincial bodies need to do a far better job at outreach if overall growth is not to be stymied by a lack of women.


Bruce Cameron said...

Very interesting restriction on Team Canada members of not more than two per team.It seems to me that with this restriction, the CCA is not 100% confident they have chosen the correct method of putting together a "team" to represent our country at the International level.

Anonymous said...

That is a possibility, but more likely Team B.C., with it depth, would use the rest of the country as cannon fodder.

That said, if everyone is up to it, how about Team Canada getting an open invitation to Nationals, so everyone can check the present benchmark for ability?

Bruce Cameron said...

Although Team B.C. has won the Nationals the last few years it wasn't exactly a "cake walk" and the rest of the country was not their cannon fodder. Check results of previous Nationals.

FYI, Team Canada's presence has been requested at the Nationals in the past and the CCA has not allowed their participation. As I recall a plausible excuse and/or reason was never given.

Winning the Canadian Wheelchair Championship means nothing other bragging rights. It is rather disappointing/discouraging when you know there is another level of competition....the Worlds. Can you imagine the Brier/Scotties winners being told they can not attend the Worlds because we (CCA) have hand picked another team. Does anyone really think that the top mens/womens teams would put up with that??? Then why should wheelchair curlers have to put up with it.......

Eric Eales said...

It's an open secret that the coaches at the CCA would like nothing better than the right to choose which athletes represent Canada at international competitions, just as they do for wheelchair curling, and as happens in Scotland. Their problem is how to sell it.

The process has already begun, with certain receiving additional financial and coaching support. That makes for a smaller step to the sponsors' right to choose the make-up of Team Canada.

I suspect the CCA is less concerned with the long term development of the sport than they are about winning medals, which is what most Canadians understand a sports success to mean. To win medals the CCA feels they must raise money, and then they will quote the financial sponsors' insistence of the "best available athletes" as justification for destroying the present team structure of the sport. I think the cavalier disregard of grassroots team formation, which has made curling so successful in Canada, is very shortsighted - selling out the sport for at best an tiny incremental increase in the chance of winning a gold medal.

Wheelchair curlers have only themselves to blame for this. They could have stood together and insisted that our sport be treated like regular curling, and raised their own money if necessary. But those invited to participate in the national program chose to sell out that principle in favour of the chance for personal glory. And now $1,500 a month.

Anonymous said...

the suggestion of "cannon fodder" does not relate to B.C.'s recent successes. This has been done WITHOUT Team Canada. Now add Team Canada into B.C.'s program, and there is a huge advantage of a plethora of experienced players.

Bring Team Canada to the Nationals, and let the winner represent Canada the next year.

End of story.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the more one thinks of the concept of bringing Team Canada to the Nationals, the more sense it seems to make.

It provides the selection process an avenue for validation against the rest of the country, and if the winner represented Canada, it gives the naysayers of selection the opportunity to win and represent Canada.

Send this on to the CCA, Eric.

Eric Eales said...

If you provide me with your email address, I'd be happy to pass it on - with or without identifying you. If you email me directly, or phone me, we can discuss why I think this is a dead issue - at least until after 2010, and beyond if Team Canada repeat gold. I wrote about these issues in my January 2007 SWEEP Magazine column, available in the website.