Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Proceed With Caution

It's not only that time of year, it's that time in the Olympic quadrennial and when it happens with the most high profile teams, it gets played out in the media for all to see. Of course I'm taking about player personnel changes.

But, to be quite frank, I'm not that concerned about the elite teams and what they do re. player changes, they're big boys and girls so I'll defer to their experience in matters like this. No, this is directed at you, the serious recreational curler who might be contemplating a change in team personnel.

What follows are my thoughts on this most important issue but permit me one observation on what's happening literally as I publish this post. I'll not delve into the specifics of the teams who have announced changes although I will say in at least one instance, I'm really shaking my head (don't even ask)! I've looked at this team's decision from as many angles as I can and try as I might, it makes absolutely no sense to me. I hope there's something that we don't know because if that's not the case, yikes!

There are countless reasons for a team to make personnel changes. Family, work, financial situation etc. I'm taking all of those obvious reasons out of the mix for this posting. I want to focus on a change of players when the only reason is to improve team performance. There are three notes of caution. They are in no particular order;

1) You will change the team dynamics* (as one of the most high profile women's teams in Canada will soon discover). That may be indeed the reason for the player change as the player(s) to be changed caused that very commodity to be something less than you had hoped. But, if your team dynamics were rock solid, hmmm...

2) All the playing experience you gained over the time spent together now goes out the window to some degree and for most teams, it's a very large degree. While your competitors are moving forward, you're going to be moving in the opposite direction and then have to catch up just to draw even, hmmm...

3) If you really feel the players being replaced are somehow less skilled than the players coming on board then go ahead and make the change(s). But, and you knew there'd be one, did you consider the other qualities required of the new player(s)? Do they have the same view on how the game is to be played from strategical & tactical perspectives. What are their goals? Do they share a common vision, philosophy and attitude? What about their views on physical preparation, nutrition, mental preparation? Are the significant others (family & friends) in their lives as supportive as the team's experience & plans require? Will they have the same dedication to training and the time to devote to it? What about their skill set as a teammate, not just a curler? If your team has aspirations to play competitively to the point that travel to bonspiels plays a significant role in the team's plan and the team is not sponsored, will the player(s) have the financial resources to contribute to entries, travel, accommodation, equipment & food? Does their technical skill set work with those already on the team? If you feel that the player(s) joining the team ARE more skillful and what about the level of trust they have in those skills? How susceptible is/are the new player(s) to competive breakdown? If your team has a coach, will the new player(s) "listen" to the coach's suggestions?

I could go on for quite some time with #3 but I believe the point has been made. They are many questions that need to be both asked and answered before there's any consideration of a player personnel change.

Curling teams were never meant to stay together forever! Those of you familiar with the "Team Dynamics Wheel" know that there is a 5th stage (after forming, storming, norming & performing), "adjournment"! In high performance camps with rarely if ever talk about that stage but clearly that's the premise of this post so let's deal with "adjournment" from a process perspective.

As is my nature, I'll begin with questions. What is the genesis of the player change? In other words, who takes ownership? Is this one of those so-called skip decisions? What if the three "front end" players decide they want a different skip? What if the skip decides he/she wants a totally different team (that sounds familiar for some reason, let's see, hmm...)? Whatever the dynamic and/or impetus, don't use social media, telephone, smoke signals, pony express, telegram etc. to inform the principals. Do it the old fashioned way, face-to-face and make sure the team is the first to get the news of the final decision. That seems so obvious and common sense but experience has demonstrated that sometimes it's not so obvious and common sense isn't as common as one might think.

When I'm brought into the mix in situations like this, to quote my friend Terry O'Reilly's recent podcast (CBC's "Under the Influence") my "elevator pitch" is simple, "You make player personnel changes at your own peril. Make sure it's worth the risk?"

* It's my experience that the most valuable asset a team has is not its skill set but rather the state of the team's dynamics. It's the last item with which to play around! You want to treat it like so much gold!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

An Open Letter to Curling Officials

Dear Curling Official,
On behalf of my coaching colleagues & and the athletes with whom we're honoured to guide, thank you for your dedication to the sport of curling and the countless hours, many of them in below freezing temperatures, you devote to helping us enjoy the greatest game on ice. You are all volunteers who have studied the rules, attended officiating workshops & courses and have demonstrated proficiency in a task that largely goes unnoticed by many of us, and curling fans. At the highest level we can't play the game without you!

The game you've chosen to officiate is a curious one. The vast majority of the time it's contested without officials. In fact, there are thousounds, perhaps tens of thousands of curlers who participate recreationally for many decades, never to have played a game with an official of any kind present. Our summer companion sport of golf is played in a similar manner. Essentially, in both sports, the onus is on the player to both know the rules and to never take advantage of the fact that indeed there is no one to enforce them.

The very heart & soul of both sports is embodied in the notion that enforcement and application of the agreed upon guidelines of fair play are part of the responsibility assumed by the participant. Neither sport can be played without that understanding. The handshake that takes place prior to the start of a game of curling and a round of golf is a reaffirmation among its participants that the "code of ethics" is indeed the cornerstone of the sport and will be its guiding beacon throughout the contest. It's a clear statement to one's opponent that you know the rules, will not knowing breach any of them and if you happen to inadvertently do so you will divulge the violation. Our role as coach is to ensure that's the case!

It is our understanding that your role primarily is to be present to help us interpret and on occasion apply the rule(s) correctly if called upon to do so. We understand & generally appreciate your reluctance to be a constantly involved arbitrator.

Unfortunately not all players live up to their end of the tacit agreement outlined above. They do not know the rules and their adherence to the aforementioned "code of ethics" varys. When this occurs, hard feelings often are the residue of what should have been a wonderful experience.

When a player breaks a rule, regardless of the motivation, be it intentional or inadvertent through a lack of knowledge of the rule(s) we need you to step in, not wait for one of us to invite you in! When the onus is on us as player or coach, you place us in an awkward and frankly unwarranted situation. Often when we go to you for assistance we're seen as a complainer or whiner as opposed to someone who does know the rules, honours the game's code of ethics, and simply wishes to play the game in a fair manner.

The game of curling has changed in my lifetime. There are now large sums of money on the line and honours such as Olympic Champion which I never dreamed would be a driving force in curling. Mostly, those rewards give extra life to curling. For some, unfortunately, the prize has become so great that they will do anything to achieve it. On occasion the rules become something to circumvent rather than embrace.

This letter to you is to ask that you join with those of us who care about the spirit of curling by stepping into to a rules application situation without being invited to do so when, in your educated opinion, a rule has been broken and it's obvious the violator is not going to own up regardless of his/her motivation for not doing so. Please don't wait for one of us to ask you to step in!

I hope you agree, as distasteful as it might be and as much as it may be a change in operating procedure, it's time for officials to rethink their role.

And once again, thank you for all you do for us!
Coach Bill

Note to Curlers: As you can see by the open letter you've just read, it's your responsibility to know the rules, all the rules, not just the ones you "pick up" along the way. The curling rule book is not a voluminous publication and in most cases can be viewed on line (http://www.ontcurl.com/rules/general-play-rules.aspx). You can read the rules that apply to the actual playing of the game in about 15 minutes. It's something I do before every World Senior Championship (http://www.worldcurling.org) and I expect my players to do so as well.

While I'm on that subject, let me walk you through what one's role is in a rule violation. If you inadvertently break a rule, you have but one role, to indicate the breach. You and your teammates are done! It's now up to the offended team to apply the option afforded to it in the rules. If you and your teammates are "ticked" with the option selected, too bad! You caused the problem! Play on! To that skip of the offended team, you must know what your options are. That's why you need to know the rules.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Enhancing the Curling Experience

In a recent posting I discussed the "score line" on a curling stone. Today's topic re. curling stones is "papering", also known as "enhancement" and a number of other terms among ice technicians. For recreational curlers who watch TV events, almost always the stones have been "papered" which in part, and I repeat, in part, allows those elite athletes to make the shots you see them make to which you roll your eyes and shake your head in amazement.

I'll not deal with the ice surface in this posting, ice that I call, "pampered ice" (and it's not anything like the surface upon which you play in your Tuesday Night Adult Beverage League). We'll stick with this mystifying papering of stones.

The part of the stone that actually touches the ice is called the "running surface" and it's exposed granite, much like the "striking bands". If you turn a curling stone over and run your finger around the running surface, it's going to feel "rough" in relation to the polished part of the stone. That roughness touching the pebbled surface while the stone "rotates" is what makes the stone move from right-to-left (counter clockwise) or left-to-right (clockwise) as it makes its way down the ice. That movement is why the game is called "curling".

The amount of curl is critical to the playing of the game from both a competitive aspect as well as an enjoyment aspect. It's simply no fun to play when the stones do not curl. Yes, you might as well play shuffleboard if that's the case! So clearly the ice technician's main responsibility is to make ice that allows curling stones to curl. But it's not just the ice that allows for the "curl", the rocks, or more precisely the running surface of the stones also plays a key role. To ensure that the running surface will "grab" the "pebble " sometimes the running surface will be "enhanced" (the preferred term for ice technicians). That running surface enhancement is the subject of this posting.

For all we hear about running surface enhancement, it's a surprisingly simple process. All one needs is a supply of "emery paper", kerosene, some clean cloths and of course the curling stones. Oh yes, I forgot one thing, a measure of expertise gained from experience with this process.

The stone is placed on one end of the emery paper with the ice technician positioned behind the emery paper. With the handle of the stone at the 10 o'clock position the stone is pulled toward the ice technician (to the opposite end of the emery paper). When the stone reaches its destination it's lifted from the emery paper and repositioned so the handle is at the 2 o'clock position. The stone is then pushed along the emery paper to its original position.

The key element in this pull/push movement of the stone is "equal pressure" on the entire running surface. That's the skill & experience part! Sometimes the emery paper is placed into a wooden frame which limits the movement over the emery paper to ensure that each stone receives exactly the same distance over the abrasive surface.

The photo below shows the path a curling stone took along the emery paper. The travel distance is about 10 cm. in both directions then the stone is lifted from the emery paper. The running surface is cleaned of any "granite dust" by a cloth which has been dipped in kerosene. Kerosene evaporates very quickly.

Ice technicians use one piece of emery paper per stone so the grit (the roughness of the emery paper) is consistent from stone to stone. Emery paper has the appearance of sand paper but the grit of emery paper is minute stone particles called emery and is native to Turkey (the things you find out when you do your homework) not silica (sand particles) and is usually cloth backed as opposed to paper.

Papering of curling stones to enhance their performance is temporary. Under normal conditions in a curling facility its effects will be noticeable for approximately 4-6 weeks. If the stones were to be "repapered", the handles might be positioned at the 12 & 3 o'clock positions so the cross hatching of the emery paper is somewhat different from the previous papering process described above.

If you're informed at your curling facility that the stones have been papered/enhanced, expect them to not only curl more but to break late. Don't panic if that's not the type of stone reaction to which you've become accustomed. Embrace the new conditions! That's why it's called "curling" and consider yourself and your club mates fortunate to have an ice technician willing to put the curl back into curling!


If you want to learn more about curling stones I have two suggestions. Go to the web site for the World Curling Federation (worldcurling.org) and click on "videos" (on the left banner bar) to find a video entitled "From Island to Ice: A Journey of Curling Stones". For the Canadian perspective on the manufacture of quality curling stones go to canadacurlingstone.on.ca to check out the various types of granite and what makes them different from one another. 

As curlers, it's my experience we don't pay enough attention to the stones we use and the ice upon which we slide them! Education, what a novel idea!



Sunday, March 30, 2014

A National Championship From A Different Perspective

The Canadian Senior Curling Championship (CSCC) for 2014 is being hosted by the Yellowknife Curling Centre. Of course I'm always interested in this national event as I am honoured to accompany the winner in each gender category to the 2015 World Senior Curling Championship (WSCC). As a result, the two new Team Canadas will have approximately 13 months to prepare so even though they could be anywhere in the this vast land, I'll have opportunities as I travel the country to hopefully meet with them along the way.

This year, one of the teams I will take to the 2014 WSCC in Dumfries, Scotland late next month is here representing the province of Nova Scotia based upon its win in the NS provincial senior playdown. It's the Colleen Pinkney team from Truro.

Championships like this involve three groups of people, the local organizing committee, the officials and the Canadian Curling Association. The CCA staff person who is responsible to see that everything (and I'll define "everything" in a moment) arrives at the host site and is positioned so that the best senior athletes can compete for a national championship and entertain spectators is Danny Lamoureux who doesn't get nearly enough recognition for not only the work he does but his professionalism in doing that work!

Danny's official title with the CCA is "Director, Championship Services & Curling Club Development". Sounds like a cool job but as this post will reveal, it's demanding and onerous!

For four days leading to the onset of play, I tried to be Danny Lamoureux in Yellowknife as the World Senior Women's Curling Championship in Saint John, NB was under the direction of the CCA from a logistics perspective but of course the World Curling Federation conducted the event and therefore Danny was on site in Saint John. When the word "logistics" is mentioned, enter Danny and even Danny can't be in two places at one time so given my desire to attend the CSCC to see the competitors, again two of whom I'll take to the WSCC, I've always offered to be put to work at the event. This time Danny took me seriously about the "put me to work" part. He asked if I'd pinch hit for him until he arrived on the first day of competition.

As I begin to write this, we're on the first day of the pre-qualifying portion of the event. It's the event that takes place two days before the start of round robin play involving provincial & territorial representative teams. The pre-qualifying teams attempt to play their way into the event in a four team competition.

But before those teams could take to the ice, there were a seemingly endless number of tasks to be completed including but not limited to; erecting that blue bunting around the rink boards you see on TV, assembling the scoreboards (a vinyl fabric held erect with aluminum rods), finding the boxes of numerals for the scoreboards, uncrating the CCA time clocks and hanging them from the hockey Plexiglas (without breaking the Plexiglas), finding the wireless consoles and connecting them (to control the time clocks), finding the boxes with the team standings boards and erecting them, finding the boxes with the computers for statistics and live game scoring, assisting with the ice installation crew and technician to make sure they and he have/has everything required, finding the shipping crate with the provincial/territorial placards and flags, checking the crates with the trophies and awards. There were more responsibilities but I don't think you'll find the extended list too stimulating.

As you might guess by now, all the equipment we, as TV spectators take for granted, arrives at the site of the event via shipping crates, many shipping crates, each with a numeral and Danny knows what's inside, or should be inside each and everyone of them. This time, the contents were not complete for a few of them so it was Danny on speed dial that saved the day.

Another one of Danny's tasks is to ensure that players and officials have accommodations which means dialoguing with area hotels to reserve rooms which if you've ever done that for you and your family can be exacting and time consuming. Try doing it for over 100 people coming from all over the country. There were some "glitches" with which Danny had to deal and in the true spirit of co-operation and fellowship, the local teams put up their hands to make what could have been a very awkward situation work out! Heh, it's curling after all!

Then of course there's the dialoguing with the local organizing committee(s) to ensure what the CCA requires is being executed by the heads and members of those committees. In the case of Yellowknife, Maureen Miller, her steering committee and 170+ volunteers made our job very easy. They not only crossed all the "t's" and dotted all the "i's" but did it with a sense of humour that permeated everything we needed done! In terms of statistics, line scoring, time clock operation etc., many of those volunteers attended training sessions to ensure that the data gathered was accurate and meaningful to the athletes, spectators and media. If you've ever been part of a CCA event you know that it would come crashing to an unceremonious halt were it not for volunteers!

The head official for this event is Janie Hobart from Fort Smith, NT, ably assisted by her good friend, Marg White from Whitehorse, YK. Along with Janie and Marg, highly certified officials from western Canada joined them to complete that component.

When Danny finally arrived I was happy, and relieved that all was in place and pretty much ready to go. To say I was exhausted would be putting it mildly. Now I could watch the teams play and get a sense for which two I might be with in 2015.

I'm delighted to report that two of the teams in the semi-finals came from the pre-qualfying event, one women's team and one men's team and although they were not successful in reaching the final, it was an endorsement of the process to the point that if your province or territory is involved in the pre-qualifying portion of a national championship, don't despair, in fact, see the glass as half full as the two teams to which I referred above both saw the games played in the pre-qualifer as a chance to acclimate themselves to the ice, rocks and general competitive environment. And it's worthy of note that both the teams played the maximum number of games in the pre-qualifier!

As I was about to board the aircraft to head back to BC last Tuesday morning, I knew that should Danny ever need a back up, heh, I now knew what to do and what was in all those shipping crates. But the most important thing I took away was a much greater respect for all the little things needed to conduct a national championship!

As I'm about to hit "publish" on my software, the final games are about to start in Yellowknife and to two of those teams, congratulations. I'll be contacting you to get ready for 2015!!!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Know the Score

A number of emails have come into my inbox from curling television fans who have noticed on closeup shots of curling stones that there's a line etched into the circumference of the stone parallel and about a centimetre or two from the "striking band". It's called the "score line" and it was placed there when the stone was manufactured and here's why.

If one removes the plastic cap from a curling stone and the bolt that holds it in place, one will discover that a curling stone is perfectly symmetrical. When it's "naked", it has two running surfaces. In other words, a stone can be flipped over and it will respond as any curling stone might. In the "old days", when curlers still used actual curling brooms (can you imagine that, oh wait, that's what I used, yikes) most all curling stones were "homogeneous" (my word, not that of a curling stone manufacturer so my apologies to "Canada Curling Stone", "Kays of Scotland" etc.). In other words, the stone was formed from a single piece of granite, kinda like "single malt scotch" (and I don't even like scotch). When a set of curling stones arrived at a curling club, spankin' brand new, the handles were attached so that the "score line" on each stone was either above or below the striking band.

Over time, the ice technician might decide to turn/flip the stones so that the other running surface might get some "ice time". Well, this flipping could get confusing if there was no way to tell top-from-bottom. Without a handle or cap there would be no way to tell if a stone had been flipped. The score line removed that doubt.

In those same "old days" when most curlers employed a back swing delivery, the ice technician would regularly rotate the stone relative to the position of the handle so the same point on the running surface was not coming into contact with the ice when it literally struck the surface on the down swing and some down swingers really made the landing of the stone an adventure. With today's no back swing delivery, I doubt whether any ice technician does that any longer.

Most curling stones manufactured today are not "homogeneous". They are composed of two types of granite and are known by the term "insert". The shell of the stone is likely to be a type of granite known as "trefor" while the portion of the stone that actually touches the ice is "blue hone" granite which has been inserted into the trefor shell. Trefor granite makes for great striking bands while blue hone is ideally suited for running surfaces and will last, well, much longer than anyone reading this post. Although there is another running surface under the cap, it's not destined for use. So, I guess a score line for an inserted stone is really not necessary but many inserted stones are stones that started their curling life as homogeneous and the score line was already there.

And that's how many curling stones are made today. One of the manufacturers will take the blue hone curling stones a club might have and retrieve three "insert" cores. The manufacturer will then core out the bottom of a set of trefor stones and voila, that lucky curling facility has the best of both worlds and the curling stone manufacturer has two more inserts ready to be placed (by epoxy adhesive) into more trefor shells.

This "Season of Champions" we've been hearing a lot about "lively rocks". It's not exactly the rock material (i.e. the granite) that makes rocks lively, it's the profile of the striking bands. When stones are "new" the striking bands (they appear a lighter shade of grey [no ladies, we're NOT taking about  "Fifty Shades of Grey" so settle down]) are somewhat "convex" (get your dictionary out, you remember dictionaries, the books with all the words and their meanings). As a result, the stones have little actual striking surface and therefore "bounce". As those striking bands wear down, they flatten out and become wider. As that occurs, they become less lively!

Now, in the face of all that's been happening in our world of late, aren't you glad to have all this "useful" information about curling stones! But if it's more you want, the Canadian Curing Association has, on its web site (www.curling.ca) an excellent video on taking the mystery out of curling stones. As curlers, we need to learn as much as we can about our playing environment. The more you know about it (ice and stones) the better you will perform!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mailbag - Lost It, How Do I Get It Back?

I recently received an email from an athlete who, along with her teammate, has just qualified to represent her country in the 2014 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship in Dumfries, Scotland. Her letter to me revolved around an issue with which all curlers deal from time-to-time, that elusive "feel" for draw weight. In her case, she delivers stones #1 & #5. That stone #1 draw is crucial to success in mixed doubles, in fact, so much so that if it's missed (i.e. not frozen to the stationary opposition stone that's placed just behind the pin) to say you're in deep trouble would be an understatement. At the highest level of play in mixed doubles, you can just about kiss the end good-bye! I've written about this before but I'll embellish on that posting here.

I have had success with curlers on this topic by reminding them that "weight control" in a no backswing delivery is the "time" consumed between two stages of the delivery. I see five altogether. They are; #1 hack position (just the way it was taught at your novice clinic [you did start with a clinic didn't you?], #2 park (that position whereby your hips are brought to a spot from which you move forward), #3 bottom out (the very instant your hack foot leaves the hack), #4 slide (so that the weight of your body is evenly distributed on you slider) and lastly #5 release (remembering that if you have a million dollar delivery and a two cent release, you my friend, have a two cent delivery).

Q. - between which two stages is the amount of time consumed the essence of weight control (especially for "down weight" shots [defined as any shot that comes to rest in play])?

A. - stages #2 & #3 (park and bottom out)!

If you reduce the amount of time from park-to-bottom-out, you will be sliding faster and therefore you will impart more velocity to the stone. If, on the other hand, you consume more time from park-to-bottom-out, you will impart less velocity to the stone. Why, because more time consumed means one is sliding more slowly and less time consumed means one is sliding more quickly. This is not rocket science. Heh, I made this up and I'm not a rocket scientist (enough with the coughing and rolling of eyes out there). But it works and has helped countless athletes who get into a position similar to the one described in the email I received.

NB - You only think about time consumed between park and bottom out to get the "feel" back into weight control. You don't play like this from first shot of the game to the last. It's your weight control flotation device. It's there when you need it!

Before I close this today, I want to make a point here about the "topic de jour" in Canada and it's about the so-called "relegation" system that's now in place for national events. I'm not concerned about your feelings on the matter and I don't intend to air mine at this time but what I do want to caution those of you who are signing petitions and considering some form of speaking out to make sure you know to whom you should be speaking.

The term "Canadian Curling Association" (CCA) means just that. It's an association of members, in this case provincial and territorial curling associations (M.A.'s). My colleagues on staff at the office in Ottawa do not make this stuff up. Neither do the "board of governors"! It's your M.A. in concert with the other M.A.'s at the summer Curling Congress who make these types of decisions, so if you want answers or simply need to be heard on a topic, don't jump on the CCA staff or the board of governors. You're barking up the wrong tree. If it's governance or the way the directives of the M.A.'s are being implemented, then possibly Ottawa is the place to direct your attention. Bottom line, contact your M.A. not the CCA!

There are some of you out there who are scoffing at the inclusion of our newest territory, Nunavut, into the family of national curling competitors. I recently spent five days in "Rankin Inlet" with five young men who, in a few short years, are going to turn some heads in the rest of Canada. The same is happening in Iqaluit with a young women's team. Buckle your chin straps Canada, that sound you hear from the north are some really talented athletes training hard who just want a chance and they deserve that chance! They're just as Canadian, perhaps more so given their heritage, as the rest of us.

Many are using the model of the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Junior Curling Championship as the one to be followed. I think you'd better do some homework on how that event is conducted before jumping on that band wagon. I can tell you first hand that it's working well but I'm not sure it translates well to the other national championships. But, I'm happy that so many Canadians care. It shows that curling really is an important national sport and one about which its participants and fans care deeply. That's a good thing!

And, oh yah, let me know how that "time from park to bottom out" goes for you! You know how to reach me (billchpc@shaw.ca).

Friday, February 21, 2014

Never Provide "Bulletin Board" Material

I could not believe my eyes! On Bob Weeks' blog site (bobweeksoncurling.blogspot.ca) for today, Feb. 21 in the post "British Coach Takes A Swipe At Jacobs Before Gold Medal Match", Bob reported the comments of the Great Britain men's coach prior to the gold medal game versus Canada (Team Jacobs). I had no difficulty with "what" he said, in fact, I share much the same feelings and I'll explain my position on that later in this post but I have to take issue with the "forum and timing" he chose to express his feelings. Yikes, what was he thinking?

In essence he spoke out against the antics of Team Jacobs and the outward displays of emotion from time-to-time. But why on earth would he make his feelings public prior to the game for the Olympic gold medal and provide Team Jacobs with exactly the same incentive he feels Team Jacobs provides for its opponent? That's the part I don't understand.

Heh coach, I'm with you. When a team reacts overtly to a situation in a game, be it positive or negative, its opponent will be watching and when a member of the team slams a brush for example, I too feel it emboldens his/her opponent. I love to see the opposition bang brushes, kick stones etc. as I know we're into their head. Teams that do that will defend their actions by playing the "passion card". Well, go ahead and play that card but you do so at your own peril! I don't think it's a risk worth taking and it appears neither does the GB men's coach.

I hope when he made those statements he had the blessing of all the members of Team GB and its entourage. If he did it independently, I think if I were a member of a team about to do battle with a team that's on an extended winning streak and starting the game with last stone advantage for an Olympic title, I'd be a little miffed (or insert descriptive phrase of your choice here if "miffed" is a little mild). That's a distraction I would not need.

Call me old school but I prefer the counsel of a CFL/NFL coach of yesteryear whose words I have used before. His name is Bud Grant and he issued the following "suggestion" to his players. "When you score a touchdown, you have two choices. You may drop the ball onto the ground and jog to the bench or you may hand the ball to the nearest official and jog to the bench. Make it look like you've been there before and you're coming back real soon!"

The last thing a team (and the coach is a member of the team) wants to do is provide "bulletin board" material for an  upcoming opponent. What the GB coach said prior to the gold medal game might have had no affect on the outcome but why take the chance?