The ice is down and today I headed for the Greenacres rink.
I had been invited to see some of the country's top teams in their squad training. I'm talking here about the teams that are in the Royal Club/British Curling World Class Performance Programme (see here) and the World Class Wheelchair Curling Performance Programme (here).
In this cycle that leads towards the Sochi Olympics and Paralympics in 2014, there have been significant changes in the way Scotland's 'performance programme' is being organised. Yes, many of the curlers are well kent faces, but much is new.
For the first time, all the various strands that make up 'performance' are being knitted together. For example, there's a new Talent Programme, and the Royal Club Academy Programme. More about the latter (probably on Monday) as I'm off to see these teams in training tomorrow at Stirling! Good to see the wheelchair curlers were on the ice, and in the classroom, alongside the ABs today.
It's important, I think, to emphasize that the divisions of the past between the Institute and the Royal Club - with 'Institute teams' and 'National Academy' teams - are history. There's ONE performance pathway. The role of the sportscotland Institute of Sport is to be the support network for the delivery of the World Class Performance Programmes. Indeed, there were many Institute staff involved today. It may seem perhaps to some to be just window dressing, but I do think that the changes, which have evolved from critical reports post Vancouver, are very much in the right direction, and good luck to all in taking it forward.
Let's put the politics aside. I enjoyed my day. I was made very welcome. It was fun being a 'fly on the wall' with the opportunity to see top curlers and their coaches in action. (Especially at Greenacres, where I did spent many of my own coaching years in the 80s. How things have moved on since then!)
Here are just a few pics - not comprehensive - to give a flavour of what was going on, and to show some - again not all - of those involved.
Colin Campbell and David Edwards here are working with Soren Grahn.
Here's Soren, the Men's Head Coach. A Swedish National Champion as a player, he certainly seems to be enjoying working with Scots curlers.
Scottish Champion skip Tom Brewster sweeping is not something you see every day! Here he is with Greg Drummond, working on a Scott Andrews stone.
They were being videoed by Simon Lovelock, here with Nancy Murdoch in her role as High Performance Coach (men), with the other member of Team Brewster, Michael Goodfellow, behind.
A more usual pic of Tom!
So much of the training I saw today was about technique, whether that was of delivery, or of sweeping. And that's as it should be, of course. Whose fingers are driving this camera?
They belong to Rhona Martin, the Head Women's Coach. That's Jackie Lockhart behind. Cate Brewster is the High Performance Coach (women).
Here's Jackie, and team coach Isobel Hannen, with Sarah Macintyre and Kay Adams doing the hard work!
This is an interesting piece of equipment being used by the wheelchair curlers to show the accuracy of their delivery line.
Tony Zummack is the Head Coach in the Wheelchair Curling Programme. I think here he is explaining two different options!
Tony was being helped on the day by Joan Reed and Albert Middler.
Tom Killin is one of eight curlers in the Wheelchair Curling Squad 2011-12, see here.
Team Murdoch were working hard. Here David delivers with Ross Paterson and Richard Woods in this pic.
Glen Muirhead is in the head, with coach David Ramsay keeping them right, even if it does look like he is holding up the Bellhaven advert for me to photograph!
And yes, I certainly approve of the team's new uniforms, unveiled this weekend!
Keeping a watching eye over everything was Dave Crosbee, the Performance Director of the World Class Programmes. Good to talk to him today. He gave a presentation to the athletes about Sochi, having already visited the venue. The curling arena there is expected to be completed next year, and he reminded me that it will host the World Junior Curling Championships and the World Wheelchair Curling Championships in 2013, as test events for the Games the following year.
Photos © Skip Cottage