How were you first introduced to the sport of curling?
My father played recreationally for as long as I can remember and I was drawn in by the game. I started when I was ten years old and haven’t looked back.
Can you give us an overview of your journey from playing and how you transitioned into coaching?
Even as a young competitive athlete I knew I wanted to go into teaching as a profession. With curling competitions taking sometimes two work days per event I knew at some point I would have to taper my competitive career to focus on teaching. Once I began teaching in 1999 I still wanted to stay involved and got more into the coaching side of things. I was introduced to one of our National Coaches, Jim Waite, when I was 18 and began working with him at an Ontario provincial junior camp in the summers soon after that. I was very involved coaching during my five years of teaching and it got to a point where I took a year leave of absence to come out to Calgary to take my Level IV coaching at the University of Calgary. During that process I was invited to coach with our 2006 Olympic teams and the rest is history! Three Olympics and over 14 World Championships later and here I am.
That's quite a change of career paths, what pushed you to make that decision?
The decision to really jump at coaching was simply one to follow a dream. Being able to marry my ability to teach and coach with my love for the sport of curling seemed surreal, however it came to be and I had to chase it. It truly was a big risk personally however it has turned out to be the best decision I have ever made.
Did you always know you wanted to be on the coaching side instead of playing?
I wish I could sit here and say I should be on the ice instead of behind the glass, but I can recognize talent when I see it and vice versa. What drove me into the coaching side of things is my love for teaching, being able to look at a player or at team, identify how they can get better and then put it into action so they do get better.
My days are so random! When I am in Calgary I am lucky to hang my hat at our National Training Centre at The Glencoe Club in Calgary. I also look after organizing the programming and leagues for the club. It is one of the premier private sport clubs in the world and has the best curling ice for a club in the world. There are a number of practices curing a day when I am here with everyone from new junior curlers to our current Men’s World Champions. When I am away it is usually at a World Curling Tour event across Canada or some of the very cool locations for our world championships.
Do you have a specific coaching method? How has it developed over the years?
I would say simplicity. My challenge is always ensuring I can help the athlete or team understand the problem and how to fix it and I work as a catalyst to get to that point. I am most proud when we set that athlete up to a point where they don’t need me for a bit. Too many coaches, in my opinion, want to be the reason for their team’s success, I simply want to be part of the process that helps them get there.
What is been your greatest curling achievement?
In 2014 I was the Olympic Team Leader for both Canadian Men and Women and for the first time in the history of our sport one country brought home both gold medals for women and men. That truly was a dream come true.
What do you enjoy the most about the sport? Anything you dislike?
Bottom line, the people. Our sport allows you to play from when you are 5 to 95, so we get the opportunity to work with a lot of people over and over again.
What are your greatest challenges when coaching?
My greatest challenge used to be listening and not jumping the gun to ensure they knew what I knew. Now, as I have been coaching for 20 years it is so inspiring to sit back and help that athlete create a pathway to discovery and improvement.
What do you see for the future of the sport, for coaching, and for you?
Curling is growing around the world in great numbers. Our TV numbers continue to astound - do you know our average audiences usually beat NBA broadcasts? Imagine a Poppy Barley curling team on tv!!
Do you find you transfer your coaching background into your personal life?
I have two young daughters, 6 & 8, and really a parent is just a life coach. Watching them discover things, people, activities and sports is so inspiring and innocent. Allowing them to make mistakes and learn from it is one of my coaching philosophies and one I will try to ensure I keep as a parent.
I assume you are on the road a lot; how do you manage your time?
Bottom line, my iPhone. Thanks to Apple I am quite organized. I have to put any appointment or practice into my phone as soon as I get it, along with two alerts. It keeps me on top of everything.
If you could coach another sport in the Olympics, what would it be?
Rugby or volleyball. I coached and played both as well as playing rugby at Wilfrid Laurier University. I love the interaction during the game that we simply don’t get in curling
What are you most proud of?
My two daughters. Raising children in this world is seemingly tougher and tougher. I have two daughters that I am proud to say our polite, respectful, inquisitive, thoughtful and kind. I would like to think I had something to do with that, even a little bit and that makes me the most proud.
What do you love most about your Poppy Barley’s?
The comfort, the style and the fact they are from Canada. We need to look inside our borders to celebrate all-star Canadian manufacturers like Poppy Barley.
The Poppy Barley Team has an annual curling day and it can get quite competitive. Are there any secrets (or tips!) for a beginner curler like myself?
Practice - even a day ahead of time. And, find your draw weight. If you can put a rock into the house it is a skill most new players don’t have. Oh, and lastly, get good coaching!
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