Twenty six wheelchair users and a dozen coaches will gather this weekend at the Richmond CC in British Columbia, the pay-off to last season's promise that the regional development camps held across the country would lead to opportunities to connect with the present Team Canada squad and their coaches. Attendees will have an opportunity to learn what it takes to win at the international level, and use those insights to strengthen their provincial programmes.
It's easy to underestimate just how much work, and how many hours go into developing the skills that underpin winning performance, hours that for the national squad are eased by financial support, and guided by coaching staff with the resources to analyse and adjust performance. While Canada is blessed with enormous coaching experience across the country, specific experience in wheelchair curling is very limited outside of the national program, and the efforts of a handful of provincially based coaches volunteering their time.
So the weekend will be an opportunity to spread the word about good practices and proven methods that can improve standards nationally. It will also probably demonstrate how wide is the gap both in execution and ambition between those athletes with access to expert coaching and training and the resources to devote significant hours each week to their sport, and those making their own way.
Expert coaching can change that equation, especially in the area of technique, on which all else rests, and which even experienced able-bodied coaches will find alien. A stable repeatable delivery is essential to success, and while individuals will differ in their throwing motions, delivery positions, and stick configurations depending on their physique, an educated eye can help maintain the consistency that eventually allows for measured change of force, and the ability to judge distance.
Anyone disappointed at not receiving an invite to Richmond can console themselves knowing that with a settled squad holding both Paralympic and World titles and unlikely to voluntarily give up carding system booty, the opportunity to break into the squad before 2014, baring accident, illness or even more dramatic legal imbroglios than a felony drug distribution conviction, remains slim to none. The true worth of the weekend will be whether teams competing in Thunder Bay next March arrive better prepared to bridge the gap between the National Champions, and the chosen.