| Feb 6, 2015

Kyle Paquette, Sport Science and Mental Performance Lead for Curling Canada, explains how learning from Red Bull and the United States Marine Corps helped drive them to Olympic Success. 

The Background

Despite its coast-to-coast popularity and cultural symbolism, the current landscape of Canadian curling does not include a model of professionalization, and Canada’s part-time athletes are positioned to compete against full-time athletes from other countries that amass a significantly greater volume of training and competition. Therefore, to satisfy the culture of expectation and to continue to pursue Olympic glory, Canada must continue to find ways to make training more efficient, relevant, and impactful. As such, Curling Canada’s National Team Program (NTP) is built on a compilation of best practices and evidence-based approaches to achieving world-leading performances. The NTP’s leadership is relentless in identifying, developing, and implementing these best practices to prepare Canadians to better manage the moments that matter most in competition – not just for the athletes, but also for their family and friends, communities and cities, and the country as a whole.

The Leaders Sport Performance Summit

For Curling Canada, The Leaders Sport Performance Summit 2014 in New York provided an exceptional opportunity to learn from some of the most successful leaders in the world of high performance. The diverse panel of speakers truly provided an array of expertise and a wealth of knowledge related to the high-performance pursuit of many elite performers and organizations. Among the many valuable insights and inspirational stories shared, there were three messages that very much resonated with Curling Canada’s leadership:

–          Dr. Andy Walshe, Director of High Performance for Red Bull, presented a riveting overview of Red Bull’s high performance initiatives and vision, including efforts to support the famed Stratos mission. In short, Dr. Walshe described a culture of continuous exploration into physical and psychological boundaries of human potential. He resolutely stated, “We are not in the business of looking for the 1%; we are striving to enhance performance by 100%”.

–          Lieutenant General John Wissler of the United States Marine Corps, delivered an impassioned talk about the philosophical underpinnings and processes by which the Marines prioritize the development of the warrior character in all of its recruits. As part of his presentation, Lt Gen. Wissler spoke of the necessity to “train to the nature of war – train for friction, uncertainty, fluidity, disorder, and complexity”.

–          Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code, provided an enlightened account of his exploration of talent and journey to uncovering the patterns of some of the world’s greatest talent hotbeds. Among his findings, he highlighted that “struggle makes you smarter”, and continued to discuss the importance of helping performers find the “sweet spot” in training – the place where the desired outcome is just beyond the scope of their current skill. 

The Success

Upon returning to Canada, despite the relatively small window of opportunity to engender change leading up to Sochi 2014, the messages taken from the Leaders Sport Performance Summit disseminated quickly. The impact­, albeit subtle, soon became noticeable. Language began changing; perspective started shifting; newfound training and performance habits began emerging. Systemic efforts to align a high-performance culture that emphasizes the exploration of human potential, as well as the need to seek discomfort, struggle and uncertainty have indeed already begun to reap tremendous benefits for Curling Canada.

Following a triple gold medal performance in Sochi (men’s, women’s, and wheelchair), which saw the women’s team set a new standard of performance and the men’s and wheelchair teams overcome tremendous adversity to succeed, Canada became the first country to top the season-ending rankings in all three disciplines. After another season of international success, Canada has once again topped the three World Curling Federation rankings this year. As Curling Canada continues to nurture a culture of excellence in an effort to expand the gap between Canada and the world, the culture of expectation continues to flourish in the backdrop leading into PyeongChang 2018. As such, the demand for new insights and best practices has once again prompted Curling Canada to set its sights on the upcoming Leaders Sport Performance Summit in New York in late June with great anticipation. 

Kyle Paquette is the Sport Science and Mental Performance Lead for Curling Canada. He is a professional member of the Canadian Sport Psychology Association, and he is completing the final stages of a doctoral degree in Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa, Canada.

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