Tuesday, August 10, 2010

John Brown's Toothy Tales

Welcome to my new 'column' on Bob’s blog. Those of you old enough to remember me at school will know the origin of the title but for those one or two who are too young, it all goes back to my school nickname which, apparently because I smiled a lot, was 'Toothy'. Now that my family has finally found out, thanks to our chief blogger, I felt it was time to come out of the closet and use it to my advantage (or not).

And the obvious next question is why not 'Smiler'? Well there was one of those in the school already – and he became a famous football referee – Andrew Waddell. His biography on Wikipedia reads:

"Andrew Wilson Waddell (born 26 September 1950) became a qualified referee in 1965 (when he was 15) and joined the Senior List of SFA referees in 1973. From 1989 to 1997 he represented Scotland on the FIFA list of international referees. He retired from refereeing in 1999 and subsequently became secretary of Preston Athletic F.C., and campaigned for the club to be admitted to the Scottish Football League in 2008 (they failed).

Dr Waddell is the vice-chairman of the East of Scotland Football League and represents it on the Council of the Scottish Football Association (SFA). Professionally he is Managing Director of a Quality Assurance consultancy and is Chairman Elect of the British Association for Research Quality Assurance (BARQA)."

But down to business and the first of what may be a frequent, or maybe infrequent, sideways look at curling. I have no doubt you will soon tell me, or Bob, where to go if it gets boring…. No not yet – I have not written anything about curling yet!


Saturday 7th August and one young girl’s dream of wearing an Olympic medal came true – and it was gold. Unfortunately it was not her own medal but the one so wonderfully won eight years ago in Salt Lake City by Rhona Martin. It was the first evening of a daring venture by iceSheffield to develop curling further at their rink and, to help them get good publicity, I asked Rhona if she would come down and help out. Although she was actually meant to be on holiday, she graciously said she would and the scene was set.

You can see all the details here and there is a short film about the event here.

For just £3.50 an hour visitors get a short coaching session and then are able to play 40 minutes of curling. Currently it is being played on two short rinks across one of the ice pads but this is partly an attempt to increase interest as, on the other side of a portable barrier, a public skating session is held and it is hoped some of those who stop to watch as they are whizzing around on their skates may one day give it a try.

Playing across a skating ice pad is interesting as instead of having the end sheets diving to the wall as when used longitudinally, the problem is similar to what it used to be (and maybe still is?) in Kirkcaldy – you have to get the stone to the top of the hill and then let it slide down the other side!

And while curling has been on offer in a basic form at iceSheffield for quite a while and has been popular with the corporate market, its timing of early afternoon has proved to be a drawback in attracting the general public. Saturday evening is obviously prime time and it is a brave venture by iceSheffield to give curling such a good time slot.

It was also the first time that a proper pebble had been laid and obviously this made everything so much better. The English Curling Association (ECA) has bought two pebblers using WCF DAP funding and has loaned one to iceSheffield and the other to Solihull Ice Rink where there have been two successful come and try sessions in recent months.

So where next for Sheffield? The RCCC have been asked to hold a Level 1 Assistant Coach Course there on 22nd August when the local staff, and other ECA members, will get trained to be able to give good quality coaching to the public. The RCCC coaches will also give an extra morning of on-ice mentoring to those who have passed the Level 1 course on the Monday morning, before the public session on the Monday lunchtime.

We are still trying to persuade them to borrow some real curling stones as they are still playing with the plastic 'practice' ones which they bought from Braehead. But the enthusiasm of the management and staff is high at the moment and you never know, we may yet get a major championship in England.

Picture of ice technician Simon Butterworth’s appropriate top.

John Brown 10/8/2010