I thought the rink at The Peak, Stirling, was looking splendid yesterday, the ice technicians having stripped it back to the concrete and relaid the ice pad with a new paint job, minus the ice hockey lines. Almost sacrilege to be playing on it!
The Royal Club Academy teams (listed here) were there for a Squad Day. Team coaches and technical coaches were all involved too, the day being organised by Nancy Murdoch and Brad Askew.
So, the challenge for me now is to give a flavour of what was crammed into nine hours, from 09.00 to 18.00. Above is Katie Murray (whose team is Sophie Jackson, Gayle Allan and Kirsty Morton), and Gina Aitken (who'll skip Rowena Kerr, Katy Richardson and Rachel Hannen). Margaret Richardson watches the action.
Spot the coach! Jennifer Dodds, Susan Kesley and Becca Kesley. (Vicky Wright and Mhairi Baird are the other members of Jennifer's team)
Gary Cannell (skip of Jamie Fraser, Daryl Russell and Fraser Thomson) battles it out in a short game against Stuart Marshall (who's with Thomas Halder, James Carswell and Grant Barr) with Trevor Dodds, Claire Milne and Jane Marshall watching behind.
Lorraine Henderson with Duncan Menzies, Stuart Taylor, Angus Dowell and Robert Fawns.
Brad Askew getting things organised.
Nancy Murdoch here, with Norman Cathcart, Colin Morrison and Kerr Drummond.
Tom Pendreigh, Stewart Sturrock and Susan Kesley. Now for today's competition.
What is the collective noun for a group of coaches? Best answer gets submitted to this page. Suggestions so far include 'A wisdom of coaches', 'a chariot of coaches' a 'paper bag of coaches' and (top of the list so far, but unlikely to get 100% support) 'an irrelevance of coaches'!
Tom Pendreigh jnr, lead for Ally Fraser, David Reid and Ruairidh Greenwood.
Here's a lineup photo of Rachel Hannen, Rowena Kerr, Katy Richardson and skip Gina Aitken, with coach Margaret Richardson. I personally think the RCA uniform tops look very smart.
Here's a team wearing the men's tops: Colin Mouat, Ross Fraser, Derrick Sloan, skip Bruce Mouat, and coach David Aitken. Smart.
But I like the little touches that show individual nods to fashion. Here is a good example of matching nail polish with the colour of your brush. I'll not say who, to save any embarrassment, but I'll give you a clue. It's one of the girls.
All involved, all learning.
Trevor Dodds and Becca Kesley, in a lesson about Japanese culture.
Smiles of the day. Claire Milne and Judith McFarlane. (Judith straight on to the ice after running a 10k in the morning. Fit!)
Stewart Surrock and Nancy Murdoch working with Ally Fraser and team.
Competition time. Gary Cannell. Put an X on the photo to illustrate where the missing piece of Gary's equipment should go.
Coaches Albert Middler and Jane Marshall in serious mode as they study their team's stats.
Lorraine studies how well her team are hitting the brush.
Back to basics as Claire and Norman talk about grip and release with Fraser Thomson.
Sophie Jackson in a split timing session.
At 16.00 it was into the classroom. Brad Askew introduces yesterday's speaker....
...to an attentive audience.
Tony Stanger, former rugby internationalist, joined the sportscotland Institute of Sport in 2008 in the position of Talent Manager. He has a degree in Applied Sports Science and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Edinburgh.
Tony gave an interesting presentation on our understanding of what 'talent' is, and the importance of mindset. Challenging my own ideas certainly, but again that's what sports psychology is all about. Carol Dweck's book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is now on my reading list.
So, how fit are the curlers in the RCA? The day finished with a bleep test, an assessment of everyone's cardiovascular fitness (see here).
I was quietly impressed.
Star marks on the day must go to one of the coaches, David Aitken. At 47 he was still going after most of the youngsters in his group had dropped out. That's what I call 'setting an example'.
All in all, a great day. Thanks to organisers and curlers for including me.
Photos © Skip Cottage