There has been much weeping and gnashing of teeth by pundits (myself included) on Scottish competitive curling these past few seasons. I even read somewhere that a Scottish person was actually supporting the other team in a World Championship game because he was so vehemently opposed to 'the system'. Didn’t really know what to make of that, to be honest; it struck me as odd.
But, and it is something of a big 'but', (I might rephrase that last bit in the edit in case I am accused of being a fatist. Que – moi?), you cannot argue with the facts. This season, in the six major annual competitions, the World Championships, the World Junior Championships and the European Championships (with due respect to the European Mixed, the World Mixed Doubles and the World Senior Championships), Scotland has finished on the podium in all but one. Our tally is two Gold Medals, two Silver Medals and one Bronze. It is a pretty astonishing record when all said and done and credit needs to be given to all of the competitors, too numerous to mention now.
I have as much of a problem as anyone with the level of commitment that is demanded of our young competitors. I fear for their collective futures when the good times, as they surely will, come to an end and they are left with medals, memories but – no job, or perhaps less of a job than their talent deserves. But hey; it’s a free world and choices have to be made. Make your choice and get on with it.
I have just finished reading Jim Telfer’s autobiography. In it, he talks about commitment and the difficulties that Scottish rugby faced in the transition from a wholly amateur game to professionalism. He was firmly of the view that there needed to be an elite level and that the elite clubs (he lobbied for four Scottish elite clubs, loosely based on the old 'districts') would only prosper in a seriously competitive league. He also argued for a vibrant 'amateur' club scene that would develop and nurture new talent. The established clubs, of course, were adamantly opposed to that set-up and instead wanted to become 'elite' themselves. It is fair to say that the sport is only now recovering from the internecine war that developed.
Curling needs to be careful about how it handles the rise of the elite. There is still a stairway that individuals can climb from mere mortal status to international curler. That the system has flaws is not in question. It is wrong and misguided, for example to be proscriptive and judgemental about young teenagers. Kids develop at different speeds. The fourteen year old star may not be so brilliant at twenty. The gauche young teenager may develop into something like the finished article later on in his teens. Let the kids enjoy themselves; let them learn to play in teams of their own choosing; don’t over-coach them – rather make sure that they have the basics right.
When it comes to the business end of the Scottish Championship I remain steadfast in my view that four talented curlers should be able to get together, enter their national championship and win the right to represent Scotland at world level. Trouble for them is that they will have to get past the likes of teams Brewster or Muirhead; there’s the challenge.
Now, let’s talk about five men teams. Actually, let’s not!
Well done though to all of our medal winners. An amazing achievement that would be good to repeat next season when the Olympics make their quadrennial appearance.