Thursday, December 3, 2009

Jim Armstrong to be a special guest at Olympic Trials

Jim Armstrong will be one of the special guests at the Opening Ceremonies at the Tim Horton's Roar Of The Rings in Edmonton.

He can discuss with Randy Ferbey the mechanics of external team selection. Ferbey has insisted that he won't allow the CCA to influence his pick of a 5th player should he win the Olympic trials.

CCA chief Greg Stremlaw is quoted as saying that the CCA owes a duty to the Canadian Olympic Committee to not allow just anyone (a 5th) to play. "Obviously the individual can't be just anybody, right?"

Apart from the insulting inference that a skip on a competitive team would select "just anybody," Stemlaw is wrong if he cares about the overall heath of the sport he is paid to oversee.

The health of a sport relies on the enthusiasm of its participants, not the ambitions of administrators and funders. The ability to choose who you play with is the essential fertilizer of Canadian grassroots curling. Canada does well internationally because from those grassroots grow a great many teams, raising each other's play by competing as a unit to be the best.

If you define a sport in terms of podium success, you end up with a tiny group of sponsored athletes drawn from an ever-diminishing pool that will see no incentive to grow larger. That's how it is in most countries, and that's how it may, but does not need to become in Canada.

While Armstrong has bought into the apologists' argument that there has not been enough players to justify a 'win to play' system in wheelchair curling, and is fulsome in his praise for the team members who have been chosen to play alongside him, he tells me he is open to exploring other proposals after the Paralympics.


Anonymous said...

Eric, do you really think that thw able body sport has grown in the last decade? As Wayne Middaugh said on a TSN progam a few years back, the Olymics will kill curling. Back in the day the best club team in your province had a good chance o going to a brier. While some provinces were always stronger than others, this remained true until about 1988. I challenge anyone to find me totally nw teams that emerged and then maintained world class levels in the last 15-20 years and especially the last 8 years. The sport at the elite level has changed drastically and many curlers have walked away from the game because there is no "real" competition for them above club and below pro. Canadian "grass roots" curling will not be driven or grow because of the Olympics, we have had that stimulus for 20 years and the sport continues to grow older and fewer. I love this game and am involved at many levels. I am worried about our futre as a grass roots sport but definitely not concerned about the elite few because they will always take cae themselves and be taken care of. Grass roots needs to take care of grass roots and understand it is a different sport and even different demographic than the tour players are involved in. Wheelchair curling will be the same in another 4-8 years. I would not be at all suprised to see Canada have some form of pool in the near future for able body as well as wheelchair.

Anonymous said...

Will Armstrong, as a guy that still gets around somewhat take a chance on killing the golden goose by suggesting a Team Canada - National Winner playoff? Why should he? He is on the team until he tires of it.......

Anonymous said...

To have Jim Armstrong suggest that "he is open to exploring other proposals after the Paralympics" is somewhat presumptuous on his part, isn't it. I have the utmost regard for Jim as a player, however, the future of the process for choosing Team Canada after the Paralympics will be, or at least should be, strongly influenced by the Provincial Associations. There are a lot of very competent wheelchair curlers across the country today and if the CCA were to continue along it's selection process, I fear that the sport will loose a lot of those players. Why work hard, get to the Nationals, win and receive nothing but a cold clamy handshake. Wayne Middaugh could very well be correct with respect to Wheelchair Curling if the "closed shop" selection process continues after 2010.

Eric Eales said...

I don't think that the comment was presumptious on Jim's part unless you try to make it sound as though he thinks he is the sole arbiter of decisions affecting the sport, which he is not and would not claim to be.

After 2010 there will be an opportunity to revisit the procedure for choosing a national team. Jim's opinion, when he formulates one, will I expect be listened to, as will I hope the voices of everyone who argues their case.

Some of us have warned for years that acquiescence to the argument that there not enough wheelchair curlers to allow "win to play" was a really bad idea. We argued that selection damaged the long-term growth prospects for the sport, and defined success in terms of medals not overall participation.

Wheelchair curlers have to organize if they want change. Follow Manitoba's example and form Associations. The CCA is not structurally able to respond very easily to individual opinions. To influence policy, you must organise politically.

That's eventually how BC overcame selection - through winning over delegates to CurlBC's AGM and winning votes.

If you want change, form an Association, affiliate to your Provincial Curling Association, make "win to play" the official policy of your Province, convince your better players that it is not in their interests to be bought off by invitations to attend selection camps, and carry the day at the CCA's General Meeting.

Of course just sitting and complaining is the easier path.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely Eric----and a lot of us are in fact working towards a "win to play" format. One of the ways is to make our opinions known through various venues including Don't misunderstand that just because we make our feelings known on your web site that we are not also working diligently towards an open "win to play" process. We are in fact working through our Provincial Association as are other teams across the country. The debate will be quite heated I expect---but will not and should not get into high gear until after March 2010.

Eric Eales said...

I'm glad to hear that. Though this blog can provide a focal point for the expression of ideas and opinions, policies will not be changed here.

Change requires political action through official channels. It can be tiresome and thankless work, but the goal of having a wheelchair sport where the participants are treated in the same way as our counterparts who do not use wheelchairs, is a goal worth achieving - and essential for wheelchair curling's growth.

Anonymous said...


I agree that the time is approaching that we need player representation to the CCA. My guess is that the CCA would be approachable, much like the World Curling Players Association did. It would be advantageous to have this sooner than later to be involved in the developmental aspects, rather than trying to change things after the fact.

Anonymous said...

So, the obvious choice for players' rep is Jim Armstrong, but how do we know that he will represent us in issues, like say win to play?

Anonymous said...

Saw Jim here in Edmonton at the opening. It was unbelievable. After the ceremonie, EVERY male curler (he was on that side of the arena) shook his hand and wished him well. Even the young guys know all about him.

Anonymous said...

Like it or not, Jim has the profile and connections to improve our sports future in the competitve arena