As many readers will testify, I have been banging on far too long about the level of commitment that the current system demands of our elite young curlers and the detrimental effect that this can have on their studies or the early part of their career. It is important that those older and wiser give appropriate guidance and advice to athletes who, if we are not careful, will have their heads turned with the promise of medals, fame and fortune when at least one -and probably two in our football-obsessed sporting culture - of these flighty mistresses will remain unattainable.
It is all very well for full-time coaches who are paid to get that commitment; it is all very well for the self-employed; it is all very well for full-time curlers; it is all very well for the children of Croesus. But what about the rest of us?
And how do we square another circle? Evidence demonstrates time and again that curlers hit their peaks at different times. Glenn Howard and Kevin Martin, to name but two Canadian stars, are well into their forties, yet are still curling at the very top level. They would be nowhere in Scotland’s current system, because they all have jobs and careers to pursue as well as their curling dreams.
At this point, I shall make a startling admission. I play golf – not, to be fair, as anyone else might recognise it, but I do wander around the long grass in search of lost causes most Saturday mornings when the rest of you are still tucked up in the warm quagmire that passes for your pit. The course that has been most damaged in the course of this typically weekly pursuit (not the right word; it suggests speed!) is Baberton on the south-west side of Edinburgh. It is a fine course and has produced Ewan Murray as an example as well as a couple of other golfers good enough to pursue their golfing dreams on the American golfing circuit.
This got me and an old curling friend a-talking after my last post. Would it not be possible to negotiate some kind of deal with the University of Stirling? Could they not be persuaded to run a curling programme that on the one hand gave participants the chance to secure a good degree and on the other gave them the appropriate time as required to train and compete?
Perhaps we need our sporting authorities to get together and thrash some kind of deal out with the university? I suspect that a benefactor might be required to help sponsor the programme – I don’t know, really I don’t how these things work, but this would surely help those at the start of their careers at least.
The next challenge will be to keep the talented late twenties- and early thirties-brigade on side. Right now, we have Tom Brewster, the manager at Aberdeen curling club and David Murdoch, a full-time curler in that age bracket. But how do we keep the likes of Logan Gray and David Edwards enthused and committed enough to keep challenging? Therein lies your problem.
Talking of benefactors, curling needs these now more than ever. I am going to give a plug here. My old mucker and team mate Tom Pendreigh started his business, British Curling Supplies a few years ago and he does a power of unsung work supporting junior teams and curling generally; he is also a great 'fixer' who was, for example closely involved with the putting together of Goldline’s sponsorship of the Scottish curling tour. He is also heavily involved in the running and management of the Inverness rink. Look him up on the web; we need more of his type supporting our great game. By the way, he can’t help how he looks; his coupon is a gift from on high, though that didn’t stop his mother from pulling the pram!
And on that happy note, I bid you a good summer!