Perspective: Canadian coaches must do more for their national teams

Canada sees its national teams as a source of pride—but our coaches accept jobs across international borders

Canadian coaches should stop crossing borders to lead other national teams.
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You may not have watched much international curling lately. If you have, you might have noticed Canada’s teams haven’t looked nearly as comfortable as one might expect, given we have the most prolific history of any country in international play.

Simply put, recent Canadian curling teams have not achieved the results their fans have come to expect. The women’s teams have finished off the podium in back-to-back Olympics and haven’t won a World Championship since 2018, and the men’s teams haven’t won a World Championship since 2017.

There’s been much debate as to the causes, and many stones—pardon the pun—have been cast at Curling Canada for the lackluster performance of its teams. But there’s one factor being overlooked when analyzing Canada’s recent lack of results—Canadian coaches are coaching several of the international teams that have become Canada’s biggest foes.

For example, six teams led by Canadian coaches helped eliminate Canada’s Jennifer Jones—whose own coach was Swedish—before the semifinals at the Beijing Olympics. Ontario’s Glenn Howard coached the British team in 2018 that knocked out Canada’s Rachel Homan late in the round robin, and Charlottetown’s Peter Gallant coached the Korean women’s team to a silver in the same year.

Even Mike Harris, the 1998 Olympian and outspoken critic of Curling Canada, openly talks about the work he’s done with the Chinese curling program.

And in perhaps the most frustrating example of all, Ontario’s Wayne Middaugh is currently working with the Swedish team skipped by Anna Hasselborg. Seeing one of Canada’s golden sons—who used his national team to become one of the most decorated curlers of all time—walk out to timeouts with the Tre Kronor on his back simply feels like an act of betrayal.

Canadian coaches in other sports also search internationally for greener pastures. Jay Triano, one of the faces of Canadian basketball, hopped south of the border when he served as an assistant coach for Team USA in the 2010 FIBA World Championship.

Canada isn’t the only country with a history of exporting its coaching talent. Soccer powerhouses like England also breed coaches that sometimes end up leading the national teams of foreign lands. Take Canada’s women’s team, for example. Led by UK-native Bev Priestman, Canada won its first gold medal in Women’s Soccer at the Tokyo Olympics this past summer.

Canada’s men’s team is also in a similar situation. The squad just qualified for its second World Cup—its first since 1986—and did so under an English coach, John Herdman.

While I believe the women’s soccer gold medal in Tokyo is one of the greatest moments in our country’s sporting history, it will always be slightly tainted by questions Priestman received after the final about being the first English head coach to win soccer gold since 1948. And even though Herdman has done wonders for the men’s program, he will always be from County Durham, not the Regional Municipality of Durham.

Even our men’s basketball team has a non-Canadian coach. In hiring Nick Nurse, it feels like Canada Basketball scooped up the closest thing to a Canadian it could find—the head coach of the Toronto Raptors—and expected us not to notice that he’s from Iowa.

All these teams foster a feeling of inferiority when they should be a source of national pride for Canadians.

It signals a lack of confidence in our own infrastructure when we hire foreign coaches to head our national teams. Any victories that Canadians achieve with non-Canadians at the helm are tainted by the impression that we’re unable to climb the mountain when left to our own devices.

All in all, Canada might have to start accepting that maybe it doesn’t belong among the best in the world if it cannot get there headed by its own.

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