Having been a curler since she was 10 years old, it only made sense to Kay Montgomery that she transitioned into the world of coaching once her competitive career came to an end.
“It just felt like a natural move for me,” said Montgomery, who lives just east of Mervin. “I had been involved in teaching already at the schools so it just felt like a good way to help younger curlers achieve their potential.”
Having gone to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in 1994 and 1995 as the third for the Sherry Anderson rink, which picked up a bronze medal for Saskatchewan at the 1994 event, and later competing at the 2001 Olympic Curling Trials as the third for Amber Holland’s squad, Montgomery had years of experience to draw from when helping the next wave of curlers.
“As I sat down to watch the Olympic Trials this week in Ottawa, it’s quite phenomenal to think of all the curlers that I’ve either played with, played against or coached that are playing in that event,” Montgomery said.
“I started with the junior boys teams that would vie for spots at the Canada Winter Games and the Canadian Juniors championships, so that included the likes of the Heidt family [Drew, Josh and Mitch] and the Muyres brothers [Dallan and Kirk]. I later moved on to the ladies scene and coached Brett Barber’s rink that competed at a number of provincial championships in Saskatchewan, and I also had the chance to coach Shannon Kleibrink’s rink when they went to the Olympic Pre-Trials in 2013, which was a memorable experience.”
As her coaching career was getting underway, Montgomery received an opportunity to coach the Netherlands national curling program as they were looking to work their way up on the international stage.
“I found out about the position just through word of mouth from people that I knew in the coaching scene already,” Montgomery said. “It was shortly after the Netherlands women’s team made it to the World Championships in 2006, so they were looking for someone to help them improve their skills so they compete well at those major events.
“As it turned out, I had the package they were looking for. They wanted a coach with a competitive background, someone who had the mental training and someone with a higher level of coaching certification, which I happened to have.”
After running the entire national program for a number of years, Montgomery has now spent the majority of her time coaching the women’s team, which features skip Marianne Neeleman, third Ester Romijn, second Linda Krejins and lead Bonnie Nilhamn.
“There’s a mix of youth and experience on the team, but the core of the group has been together for about five years now,” Montgomery said. “Marianne is a brave young lady. She’s a tremendous thrower and she had a great mind for the game.”
Unlike the men’s team skipped by Jaap Van Dorp, who made it the World Championships in Edmonton back in March, the women’s team doesn’t have national funding and is unable to play as much on the cash circuit.
“They do a little bit of traveling to Belgium and the eastern part of Germany, but they can’t afford to go to the big European events in Scotland, Sweden and Switzerland,” Montgomery said.
“This is a nation where the game is still developing. There’s 150 curlers in the Netherlands and they all curl out of the same three-sheet facility.”
In November, Montgomery met up with the team at the European Curling Championships in St. Gallen, Switzerland, where they were competing in the ‘B’ group.
“You have your top teams like an Eve Muirhead from Scotland and Anna Hasselborg from Sweden who are at the top of the ‘A’ pool, then you have a number of teams at the bottom of the ‘A’ pool and the top of the ‘B’ pool who can mix it up with the best of them,” Montgomery said.
“Then there’s a bit of a gap down to the countries that are just developing their game and looking to get better, which is where we stand at the moment.”
The Netherlands finished in a tie for seventh place with a 3-6 record, which allowed them to stay in the ‘B’ group for next year’s tournament.
“That entire week was a tremendous opportunity for us to see where we matched up compared to the other countries at the moment,” Montgomery said.
“Our goal was to win five games and were pretty close to doing that. We lost on a measurement in one game and we lost another one in an extra end, so that could have gone either way.”
While the big event for the Netherlands rink is now over, Montgomery might have a chance to coach the Ryan Deis and Sherry Just mixed doubles rink at the Olympic Trials event that will be held in Portage La Prairie, Man., in January.
“Our fingers are crossed that the right number of teams will drop out for us to get in,” Montgomery smiled. “We were the fourth team on the waiting list the last I heard, but we have to see how many other teams won’t be able to take part now with Rachel Homan and Kevin Koe’s rinks qualifying for the Olympics.”
While Montgomery curls just once a week in North Battleford, she feels like the future of the game is strong on the competitive scene.
“It’s getting younger and younger all the time and I think a lot of that has to do with the junior programs so many countries have been putting together,” Montgomery said. “When you look at the likes of a Rachel Homan or a Kyle Smith [from Scotland], they are able to compete right away on the big stage.
“However, I think we’re still looking to get more recreation curlers in the clubs on a regular basis, so that’s something that I think we can all do a better job at in order to grow the sport.”