Team Canada coaches this season are undertaking two tasks. The first, to prepare a team that will travel to Prague next February to defend their World title and hopefully gain their first points towards qualifying for the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, Russia. The second, to organise a series of talent identification and development camps across the country, giving those wheelchair users not currently part of the national program, an opportunity to demonstrate their skills.
Whenever there is a post about Team Canada the comments tend to concentrate on personalities: why has this person been favoured over that, why isn't this person being considered, my dad's bigger than your dad and so on. To 'clear up any confusion', National Team Coach Joe Rea writes:
"Just to clear the air about who attended the Richmond Camp last weekend: it was Jim, Darryl, Ina, Sonja, Bruno, Chris Sobkowicz, Gerry Austgarden, Gary Cormack, Whitney Warren and Frank LaBounty.
"These players were invited to camp because of their record in Nationals last season and/or being part of the last cuts to Team Canada.
"We will also have a second team competing in the Richmond (RDC) spiel at the beginning of December consisting of Gerry Austgarden, Anne Hibberd from Calgary, Whitney and Frank. Bruno Yizek will start playing with a second Korean team, which is a player short.
"We are continuing with the regional camps in each province to help identify potential Team Canada pool participants over the balance of this season. I hope this clears up any confusion."
Attendance at the provincial camps is at the discretion of provincial, not national coaches. Although CCA guidance was for provincial champions and perhaps one or two additional players to be invited, different provinces have taken different approaches to who and how many should attend.
"By the end of the season," Joe Rea told me, "we will have seen most if not all players with the skills and attitude to become part of Team Canada. If anyone feels they have been overlooked, they must ask their provincial coaches to recommend that we take a look at them. Players are asked to make a big commitment, and one of the things these provincial camps allow us to do is explain what is expected. We understand that players seen at the beginning of the season will not have had the same opportunities to practice as those seen later, but the evaluation process is not just about statistics."
In addition to the Richmond spiel in December, Team Canada hope to take a team to Scotland in the middle of January, though whether that will be the medal team or a development team hasn't been decided.
At the end of the season, after the provincial camps, there will be a large Team Canada training camp of players who will form the core group for the 2014 Paralympics, though it will still be possible to break into this group next season.
"Standards of play have risen significantly over the past several years," says Joe Rea. "We need players who have the time and commitment to put in the necessary work. We also need players who understand the game, and have what it takes to be a team player. The aim is for an open and honest evaluation to make the Canadian Team.”
The CCA, to their credit, have made an effort this year to give everyone who's shown ability, an opportunity to impress national coaches. The path is clear - convince your province's wheelchair curling co-ordinator that you should attend a camp in your area, and then show who you are and what you can do. You may not make it, but at least you'll have had the opportunity to try.