Yukon curler Wade Scoffin has plenty of experience playing and coaching at some of the sport’s highest levels.
As a player, Scoffin has represented the Yukon at the Tim Horton’s Brier, Mixed Nationals and Mixed Doubles 15 times.
Since getting his coaching certifications in 1986, Scoffin has coached over 20 national and international events, including the Scottie’s Tournament of Hearts, Brier, Junior Nationals, Canada Winter Games and World Mixed Doubles for Team Brazil.
In September, a new opportunity came to Scoffin, as he accepted the head coaching job for the Korean National Mixed Doubles Program.
“There was a posting in the summer,” said Scoffin from Austria. “I went through the official channels of putting in an application and was fortunate enough to be offered the position.”
Scoffin said the Korean Curling Federation is ranked eighth in the world.
“That’s a high ranking and they have done well in the past being in the top,” said Scoffin.
At last year’s World Championships, the Korean team did not have the showing they would have hoped for.
“They struggled and finished near the bottom of the rankings so they didn’t have the opportunity to have a direct qualification to China,” said Scoffin.
The qualification Scoffin speaks of is for the Olympics. The 2022 Winter Olympics will be held in February in Beijing.
Although the Korean team didn’t qualify, there are still two spots remaining in the Olympic tournament. Scoffin has been working with the team to best prepare them for the Olympic qualifying event.
The Olympic qualifier will be held in December in Holland and 14 teams will be competing for the final two spots in the Olympics.
The two athletes Scoffin is working with are Min-ji Kim and Ki-Jeong Lee. The duo was declared the Korean national team representatives after a national championship — similar to what they do in Canada, said Scoffin.
|The Korean mixed doubles curling team Ki-Jeong Lee, sweeping, and Min-ji Kim competing in Bern, Germany. (Submitted)|
“The focus right now is to assist them with qualifying with this event in December and we certainly have some plans and hopes to be able to do more with the program as a whole,” said Scoffin.
“But the priority and focus in this particular time period are the Olympics.”
Scoffin said he has an absolute belief that the two can qualify for the Olympics.
“They have the potential and ability and everyone is working really, really hard,” said Scoffin. “That’s why we’re here (in Austria) participating and competing against many of the teams that will be at that event and competing with teams that have already qualified for the Olympics.”
The event the team is at in Austria won’t affect their ranking or help them qualify for the Olympics, but Scoffin said it’s a good way to get them ready for December.
“It’s that and long term as well,” said Scoffin. “(It’s important for) the World Championships so that Korea can get repositioned into the top 16 in the world so they’ll have that secure spot and not have to be as worried about qualifying for the World Championships.”
Before meeting the athletes, Scoffin said he did a lot of film-watching to get a sense of the athlete’s play styles. Now working with Min-ji Kim and Ki-Jeong Lee, Scoffin said he’s working on implementing and applying consistent principles.
“(We’re doing that so) they’re making wise choices and decisions and being able to put the game plans into action,” said Scoffin. “These athletes are so talented. While throwing rocks they could probably hit a hair and they’re really precise with their weight management.
“What we are focusing on is making sure they make the right decisions so that they have the right decisions in mind then that they’re successful with the execution.”
Outside of Olympic qualifying, Scoffin said the Korean Curling Federation has strong visions for the future.
“They have a strong relationship with the Korean Olympic Association and they see that curling has a high potential for Winter Olympic medalling for their country,” said Scoffin.
“They are very supportive of the initiatives and have been able to secure additional funding for coaches and the training plan that we are currently in the middle of.”
On a personal level, Scoffin said he feels “very lucky and very blessed” to have the opportunity.
“It’s something that you know, I certainly put my name forward knowing I had the confidence in being able to contribute to the program and the development of the sport for these athletes,” said Scoffin.
“Still, I feel very humbled and fortunate to be able to have these opportunities and experiences.”
The Mixed Doubles Olympic qualifier will run from Dec. 5-9 in Leeuwarden, Netherlands.
Canada has already qualified for the Mixed Doubles event, it’s also qualified for the men’s and women’s tournaments. If you’re a curling fan watching the Olympic qualifiers, tune in to the Korean team.
Ten teams will compete in each curling event at the Olympics.
Contact John Tonin at email@example.com