Laurier curling alum heading to Sochi 2014
Paul Webster is no rookie when it comes to the Olympics. But this time around, he’ll be behind the scenes.
Webster, a Laurier alum, was recently named the team leader of the 2014 Canadian curling team, which will compete at the Sochi Olympics.
“Our sport’s a little unique. We put a big menu out in front of them on things we can provide.” Webster said in a phone interview from his home in Calgary, Alta regarding his national duties. “A lot of what we try to do is be extremely flexible with what we can provide them.”
As team leader, Webster takes care of any issues the curlers have. Their game becomes entirely separate from the outside world, which is what Webster works to ensure continues. He does not intrude, but rather ensures complete focus.
After coaching in Torino and Vancouver in 2006 and 2010, as well as helping with managerial duties in Vancouver, Webster is ready to sit back and wait for the players to come to him.
“Once the teams get to know you, they understand that at a major championship you’re not going to tell them what to do, but you wait for direction from them on what you can provide,” he said.
Webster will help the athletes’ family and friends with accommodations, as well as scouting out competition before the Olympics begin and taking care of the stresses the curlers don’t need to worry about. But the national developmental coach’s journey to the Olympics began when he was just a student in a Laurier lecture hall.
Webster started at Laurier studying kinesiology in 1994, where he curled while also playing rugby. That same year, the athletics department tried to cut curling because of funding. Ironically, the same year Brent Lang — who now plays as Ontario’s Glenn Howard’s second — was Webster’s lead. Webster also worked for the phys-ed department, and ended up bringing in John Morris – who is now 2010 Olympic gold medalist Kevin Martin’s vice- into the program.
“I always like to say [Lang] was my lead in university,” Webster laughed.
After he graduated in 1998, Webster went to the University of Ottawa and pursued his bachelor of education, then started teaching in Peterborough. But curling became the main priority.
“I was pretty realistic with the talent that I brought to the table and with a lot of the bigger events nowadays you need to start on Thursday and possibly come back on Monday,” he said. “So, I knew as a teacher you couldn’t do that. That’s when I started focusing more on the coaching side.”
He began to travel across Canada for camps, and took a leave of absence from teaching to go to Calgary so he could upgrade to a level four coaching education in 2004.
“Then I never left,” Webster said.
From there, Webster has taken on multiple rolls to create what he says is one job. Nationally, the Canadian Curling Association (CCA) has his job title as national developmental coach. He is also the provincial high performance coach for Alberta, helping teams such as Team Martin.
In Calgary, he is also the curling director for the Glencoe Club, where they run their training centre.
Webster will travel to Sochi in 2013 for the world junior championships with the coaches and crew to examine the ice conditions and get a feel for the Olympic village, so that he can successfully accommodate the players’ needs.
“We’re preplanning for family and friends right now,” said Webster. “It’s probably one of the — and I don’t want to use distraction as a bad word — but possible distractions while they’re at the Olympics is their friends and family.”
And when asked if he saw himself in Calgary working on his third Olympics fifteen years ago as a student in the curling program, Webster didn’t hesitate.
“Not a chance. No.”