The Curling News learned weeks ago that a big life change was in store for Mike Harris.
Now that the National Post has let the cat out the bag, so shall we.
Harris, the silver-winning skip of Canada's 1998 Olympic team in Nagano, and a CBC curling analyst for the last decade, is off to Switzerland to lead what he and his Swiss partners are declaring to be Europe’s first designated and independent high-performance training centre for curling.
Located in Champéry, the “Palladium” includes a dedicated curling facility that was recently built, plus an adjacent ice arena that hosted the 2010 European Championships.
Harris resigned as the head golf professional at Toronto’s Donalda Club a week ago. He's spent 25 years in the golf industry, so this is certainly a different career angle.
“There’s 26 countries that compete at the European championships and only eight of those, or so, end up at the worlds or Olympics,” Harris told the Post. “So there’s 18 other countries that have curling... not your traditional curling countries, that have national team programs, that really don’t have (good) ice conditions or coaching to them on a regular basis.
“(Switzerland) is a neutral base for a lot of these countries to come and learn to improve.”
Harris is correct – however, his initiative does not mark the first independent launch of Euro-based high-performance curling instruction. The country is already host to a few international coaches who work en masse with a variety of curlers and curling teams, and exclusively with others, and that list includes Scottish expatriate Brian Gray (smartCurling) as well as regular TCN columnist Rodger Schmidt (Curling Academy), a Canadian-born former competitor who represented Germany at the world championships.
Harris will spend half of each month in Switzerland and the other half at home in Canada. He also has a clause in his contract that will free him up for any TV commentary work, should any materialize.
As TCN Blog readers know, Sportsnet recently scored ownership of the Grand Slam of Curling series, and has sub-licensed some of the coverage to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The CBC has also won the rights to televise the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games in Canada, and is expected to provide host broadcast duties for the global feed.
Harris has been toying with the high-performance coaching world for a while now. He had recently been approached by various teams, and two years ago he finished second for the top HP job in the United States.
“I really don’t know what's going to happen when I actually have a Saturday and Sunday off in the summer,” Harris joked to the Post. “I’ve never had that in my entire career... I got into the golf business so it would give me free time to curl.
“(Now) I have a chance to do something in sport and that I’m passionate about and looking at growing from the ground up.”
Action photo copyright The Curling News by Anil Mungal • Champéry photo copyright Champéry Tourisme
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