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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Winning isn't everything - or is it?

So this has been bugging me for a while. This will be a curling and non-curling post – as a few events in my life seem to be hitting on this this point lately - so forgive me for venting a bit.

So my son plays house league hockey. He is pretty good for house league – he scores a lot and is fun to watch. He has no allusions of being a professional hockey player, but he genuinely loves the game. He tapes and re-tapes his stick before every game. He looks at standings from his league on-line (probably instead of doing homework). This year he is playing Bantam B. In house-league hockey – there are two levels – A and B. The better/bigger kids play in A. The smaller or less-skilled players play in B.

So this year my son got put in B. Fine. He will enjoy it, he will score a bunch of goals.

But predictably, the league in which he plays, like a lot of kid’s sports, was affected by parents and politics. Somehow – the league decided it was better to load up and stack the A teams with 17-18 players and leave my son’s team undermanned with 12. Strange. Also, the balancing of the teams was horribly biased, and seems to have resulted in my son’s team getting the short end of the stick.
But what disappointed me the most is the obsession people seem to have to win at all costs, vs. the notion of playing in leagues that are well balanced with players of equal abilities. If your goal is to produce young athletes that enjoy the game, should we not be obsessed with making the games fun for all, not just the team that wins the trophy at the end of the year? 

So now let me bring this back to curling.

I read an article by the excellent Devin Heroux on the CBC site where he interviewed Mark Kennedy, who has switched from a playing to a role in Curling Canada’s high-performance development team.
Mark basically said in the interview, that he thought it was unpatriotic for Canadian coaches to be doing such a good job at making other teams from around the world better. We should instead keep our knowledge of high performance curling secret, presumably so that we can win more.

I love Mark – have always been a big fan, but Ugh - what a misguided thing to say! I was dumbfounded that a curler in Canada, especially one who has won a gold medal, would say something like that.

Is winning more important than developing the sport we love around the world? 
Would a gold medal mean as much to us if it was easier – because the rest of the world failed to get better?

To me, it comes down to the scourge of winning.

Let me make this clear: I play sports, and I love sports. I play golf, soccer and curling a lot. And I hate to lose at any of them. Every time I step on a field/rink/course I really, REALLY hate to lose. To quote Billy Bean of Moneyball fame: “I hate losing more than I like winning.” 

But here is the thing, for there to be sports, someone has to lose. 
And for it to matter to anyone - the fans or the players, the outcome of the game can't be predetermined. For every winner, there is a loser.

For kids, sports is an awesome learning experience. But that experience is not all about winning, or stacking your team so that it’s easy. Winning builds confidence, but losing builds character.
If we make it all about winning all the time, and if it’s the same team or guys that win all the time, the losers will start staying home. I think this is part of why the majority of kids (not all but the majority) seem to lose interest and stop playing team sports as they get older. The fact is – out of a league of 10 teams, only one team will win in the end.

To bring it back to curling, if Canada wins every Olympics easily, then why should other countries play? Would we care as much? Would it be as interesting? I don't think so.

Anyway, this is just me venting. My son will likely enjoy his season anyway, and I am hoping his team will use the whole biased balancing process as a motivation to have a Vegas Golden Knights kind of year. If they win, he will build his confidence, if they lose he will build character. 

And I’m pretty sure that Canadian curling coaches will not be turning down lucrative coaching contracts from outside of Canada because Mark doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

But please if you are involved in sports at any level, let’s always remember the bigger picture and not get all hung up on who gets to bring home the trophy at the end of the season. It's bigger than that.

Venting Over.


So we are off to Halifax this weekend to play the Stu Sells 1824 classic. Should be a fun weekend, with Gushue, Howard and Murphy in the field! We get to fly to a spiel – which is a big deal for us. We have decided to not take chances with Felix this time after he lost his luggage and our rock book heading to the Brier last year, so Felix will be dressed in full curling gear on the plane, and we are making him travel in Will’s carry-on luggage just to be safe.

We were asked to do a promotional video for the event – you can see it later today on our team Facebook page (Team Fournier Facebook page )in case you want to see what I have to endure every game from my front end.


  1. Great post! I have co-workers whose kids play hockey and they are under the misguided assumption their children are NHL bound. Yeah, they are already 14/15 and haven't been scouted for Junior. Far better they learn to enjoy the game, pick up skills not only on the ice but those they can use outside the rink, leadership, cooperation, and perseverance.

    Ditto for your comment about Mark Kennedy. There is nothing better (for me) than watching two really good teams battle it out on the ice. That's why I love curling - the strategy and the ability to place the rocks is key.

    Good luck in Halifax, and have fun! Lift an Alexander Keiths (or two) for me.

  2. Mike, merci de dire (d'écrire) ce que plusieurs de nous pensent!
    Tes commentaires mettent en lumière la raison pour laquelle je peux apprécier tout ce que plusieurs Canadiens font pour le curling (bien sûr je pense particulièrement à Dan Raphael)...

    Nous allons tous sur la glace (ou le terrain de golf) pour gagner et je ne connais personne (Dieu m'en garde) qui commet sciemment une mauvaise performance. Lorsque notre équipe perds une partie de curling, je souligne généralement que nous avons pris la deuxième place. Vrai, comme tu le dis, que ceci s'applique à tout sport... Je dirais même comme toi que dans la défaite, nous pouvons tirer des leçons qui ferons de nous de meilleures personnes pour affronter la vie.

    Bon! Assez philosophé... Sur ce, je vous souhaite une saison 2018-2019 remplie de belles expériences et de bon temps. Je suis persuadé que vous garderez votre légendaire joie de vivre et que vous continuerez de bien représenter notre sport.

  3. Does not the Spirit of Curling's meaning of a good game aim for 2 well matched teams fighting to the last rock with stronger teams never wanting to humble a weaker opponent,and after a game is over, with kindly feelings, all happy to socialize and **play** again? I shall never understand people who think winning games is the most important thing in this game. I often think of the curlers who wrote - and enforced - the Spirit of Curling over the Centuries. The current emphasis on winning or even worse the "consistent" winning demanded by some national governing bodies complete with grooming children to be professionals is contrary to the core values of the game. But, once we let "professionalism" and even betting into the game perhaps this trend is unstoppable at the elite levels?