Monday, May 13, 2013

Golden Hawks High Performance Centre

We're quickly approaching that time of year when one's high school career enters the rear view mirror phase. And what a time it is, graduation ceremony, prom, parties ....! I hope all you high school grads had the same mentorship I had when I was about to enter high school in my hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo, ON. His name was Leroy (Lee) Hallman, one of our boy scout troop leaders, family friend and high school teacher at, ahem, another secondary institution in K-W (our great rival). I remember the moment well.

We were on a canoe trip in Ontario's Algonquin Provincial Park. And as stated above, it was the summer before starting high school. Lee and I were at the water's edge "shooting the breeze" when the subject morphed into my pending high school career and what it might bring. That prompted Lee to say, "Bill, your high school days will be among the best days of your life!" As usual, Lee was right! He justified his statement by saying, "You will have the best balance of independence, resources and responsibility. You will have more independence and more resources later in life but those will be balanced off by much greater responsibility. Enjoy your high school days!"

Little did I know at the time that following my formal education, I would spend about 30 years, teaching middle school students and passing along to them, Lee's words of wisdom. As you can see, this post is for all high school graduating students, but with a twist not available to me at that time beside Canoe Lake.

If you're looking for a post secondary institution with a superb curling training programme, you would do well to consider Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, ON. The excellent high performance programme about which I speak is the title of this post. It's under the direction of my friend Gary Crossley. Gary is ably assisted by Glenn Paulley, Maurice Wilson and David Kaun. It's located in what I consider to be my home curling facility, The Kitchener-Waterloo Granite Curling Club.

Curling, almost from the outset, has had strong "Little Rocks", bantam & junior programmes. The "gap" occurred most frequently at the post-secondary level. There was always the thought that the gap was the graveyard for much of the work that was done with and for young curlers. By the time they exited their post-secondary institution, thoughts turned to career and family more so than competitive curling. Oh, there were varsity curling programmes. I coached at the University of Waterloo from 1990-99 but despite my best efforts, I hesitate to say that I had a curling high performance programme.

Gary was a curler and world class track & field (now "athletics") coach at the international level. He was the National Team Head Coach specializing in women's hurdles. He had become accustomed to working with elite athletes. When he decided to go "all in" with curling, not surprisingly he did so with the same expertise and passion he had exhibited with athletics.

The next step was to find a location for his programme and to say the K-W Granite Curling Club stepped up to the plate would be putting it mildly. They embraced Gary's vision and became for all intents and purpose, partners in the venture and I'm pleased to say that partnership continues and flourishes. The K-WGCC has provided office & equipment space, a dedicated fitness facility which includes a TRX system, treadmill, elliptical trainer, workout mats and a variety of apparatus including medicine balls, rollers and skip ropes.

The next item on the agenda was support from existing individuals in the area of high performance training in curling and associations willing to share what they already had learned along that trail. A key individual was Jim Waite and the Canadian Curling Association provided Gary with all the help they could to get the programme off the ground.

Next was the affiliation with Wilfrid Laurier University and again, he found an enthusiastic ally. Gary was named varsity curling coach at WLU and with that came a group of talented, passionate and dedicated athletes. The main pieces of the puzzle were in place to allow Gary and his colleagues to "hang their shingle".

It soon became apparent that the LHPC was a goal-oriented centre with solid pedagogy and a vision. Soon other partners came on board, notably the WLU Kinesiology Dept., the Ontario Curling Association and some community based programmes who supplied staff.

From the outset the goals for the LHPC were;
  • to serve as a technical resource to both coaches & athletes in every aspect of the sport of curling
  • to offer a single location, with dedicated staffing, providing a full spectrum of resources & services to meet the needs of competitive teams
  • to serve "anchor teams" (teams not affiliated withe either WLU or the KWGCC of which there were 7 in 2012)
  • to provide services, in particular customized on-ice or off-ice team sessions
  • to support mandates from the Ontario Curling Council, the Ontario Curling Association & the Canadian Curling Association through programme delivery, particularly in the areas of bantam & junior aged player development as outlined in the CCA's "Long Term Athlete Development model
  • to build partnerships with other individuals, groups & agencies in the sport of curling that share the same vision of long term athlete development

During the season just concluded, the LHPC's offerings have expanded significantly and a number of successful teams &/or individuals athletes, including bantam-aged athletes, have taken advantage of the on-ice & off-ice services. The LHPC has conducted 3 public clinics at the KWGCC and another three week, six session clinic at the Galt (Cambridge) Curling Club and another this past February at the Elmira Curling Club (north of Waterloo in Mennonite country). The four clinics attracted in excess of 300 participants. In addition, the LHPC has conducted 15 anchor teams sessions and a weekend anchor team clinic, 13 non-anchor team sessions and 20 individual sessions. These sessions included both on-ice & off-ice sessions covering a  wide variety of topics including mental preparation, strategy & team dynamics.

Success soon followed. Twelve athletes (9 female & 3 male) played on various teams at the 2013 Ontario Provincial Junior Championships (including the champion male skip and the women's runner-up skip). Four female athletes earned a berth to the bantam provincial championships. Another four female athletes advanced to Senior Women's provincial play downs and 3 male athletes earned their second consecutive zone crest at the Fairfield Marriott Challenge.

In addition to the four regular staff members mentioned above, the LHPC has an ancillary staff of professionals on call in the areas of health & wellness, athletic therapy, chiropractic, massage therapy & reflexology, yoga and sport psychology.

Even though the Wilfrid Laurier University varsity curling programme trains at the same facility as the LHPC, the intent was never to use the LHPC as a recruiting vehicle for Laurier varsity athletes but rather it was hoped the centre could capitalize on the brand and success of the Laurier curling programme to bring credibility in its early stages. While Laurier athletes benefit from having the centre in the same facility, the LHPC offers its many services to a wide spectrum of athletes, from bantam and junior aged curlers in and around southern Ontario to varsity athletes at other post secondary institutions and to senior adult teams.

I'm guessing by this point in the post you can see how impressed I am with this programme for post-secondary aged athletes but I don't want anyone reading this to conclude that Wilfrid Laurier University is the only post-secondary institution with a high performance curling programme. There are others around the country, notably at the University of Alberta at the Saville Sports Centre in Edmonton under the direction of Robb Krepps.

When I get "home" to the Kitchener-Waterloo area to visit family and friends, I warn Gary of my arrival and most times he takes me up on my offer to do a presentation to the varsity athletes of both Waterloo universities (WLU and U of W). The are always attentive and make me feel  that I'm adding to the programmes at those institutions but in reality, they've likely already heard my words come from the skilled and experience coaches on site every day.

You can reach the LHPC in a variety of ways:
on the web:
on Facebook: http://www.facebook, com/pages/Golden-Hawks-Curling-HPC/347187318641464
on Twitter: @hawkscurlinghpc
by phone: +1(519)897-2875
by mail: Gary Crossley, Director, Golden Hawks High Performance Centre, Kitchener-Waterloo Granite Curling Club, 99 Seagram Drive, Waterloo, ON, Canada, N2L 3B

Gary & Co. have absolutely no intention of resting on their laurels as plans are in the works to establish a provincial "La Releve" programme, designed to bridge the gap between the "Own the Podium" bantam project and the National La Releve programme.

So, graduating high school curlers, perhaps your chosen field of study CAN co-exist with a first class curling high performance programme. Consider the LHPC in Waterloo, ON. If you do find your way there in September, be sure to say "Hi" to Gary for me and another thing, those high school days will be among if not the best days of your life!

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