David Gourlay, Bowls Scotland’s Head Coach who guided the country’s lawn bowlers to a highly successful Glasgow Games, announced today (22 September 2014) he is stepping down from the role.
A former World Champion, Gourlay’s team produced a medal winning run during his three years in the role. In Glasgow this summer the integrated team of mainstream and para bowlers won four medals, three of them gold. Two years previously Scotland returned from the Adelaide World Championships with six medals, including three golds.
Like others who have put everything into maximising the home Games opportunity, Gourlay realised that nothing he could subsequently do as a coach would ever match this summer in Glasgow.
Although he has no immediate plans he does intend to focus on his own competition and is not ruling out the opportunity of travelling.
“For me the Head Coach role was only ever going to be to be for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games,” said Gourlay. “And I don’t think that anything will ever beat that experience of being coach at a home Games, so I feel now the time is right to move on.
“It’s an incredibly hard decision to make because the squad and I have grown really close over the past three years. It’s been a long journey and you get to know people really well in a way that you never knew them before. I’ll miss working in the sport but most of all I’ll miss the players.”
Training Scotland’s Glasgow-bound bowls team was all consuming. ‘Best prepared team’ was not just a mantra but a goal that every team member committed to during the years that led up to the Games.
Gourlay and his Team Manager, Ricky Taylor, left nothing to chance. They acknowledge the support of the sportscotland institute of sport as indispensible. Together they worked to ensure the para team was fully integrated into the main squad and were delighted with what they achieved.
“With David as coach we had far more training camps, test series, seminars, team building days, psychology sessions with the full support of the sportscotland institute of sport, and lots of practice sessions at Kelvingrove,” said double gold medallist and Scottish Sportsperson of 2014, Alex Marshall MBE.
“David and Ricky built a programme based on the team’s shots on every rink in every direction at Kelvingrove. So when we competed at the Games, whatever green or rink we found ourselves on, we had a great idea how it was going to perform before we went on it. That made a massive difference.”
The outcomes of Gourlay’s near forensic preparations were obvious in the team’s performances. It doubled the original aim of two medals, although Gourlay admits disappointment that the women did not win medals.
“I have mixed emotions about the results,” said Gourlay. “The men excelled themselves but I was disappointed with the women’s results and I thought we had a really good team, but they were so unlucky the first week. They could easily have won two medals and I’m not sure we recovered from those near misses.”
Measured purely on medals Gourlay’s plan was a success. But he also made equally important progress in changing the image of the game and the culture of performance bowling in Scotland. In his programme’s three years the Scottish game moved on by decades.
“One of the highlights for me was the recognition and respect that bowls got at the Games, not only through the media but with other sports,” said Gourlay. We’ve got to be a professional sport if we want to be taken seriously and we’ve taken a couple of steps on the performance ladder.
“The players were fully committed in terms of their attitudes and behaviour leading up to and during the Games. The backing that we’ve had from sportscotland and Bowls Scotland has been incredible and that’s just testament to the programme that the guys were committed to.”
Following a review, Bowls Scotland will begin the process to recruit a new head coach. His successor will have a different plan for the build up to the 2018 Games but in Gourlay’s modern approach the benchmark has already been set.
“David has made fantastic progress with bowls for the past three years and the medal stats from the Commonwealth Games and World Championships speak for themselves,” said Marshall.
“Do we keep up the high performance approach? Without a doubt we do. We’ve got to continue at the same level because other countries will be striving to try and do the same as we have done in the next Worlds and Commonwealth Games.”
Paying tribute to Gourlay, Bowls Scotland’s CEO Alan McMillan said:
“I have witnessed firsthand how David and his team have grown over the last three years. When he took on the post there was a lot to learn and a lot to do, and David’s commitment to his players and support staff was immense.
“Whilst I am disappointed that David is leaving the post he has left performance bowls in a better place and set a benchmark for anyone who has aspirations to become a world class player.”
Bowls Scotland would like to thank David for all that he has done for the game and wish him well for the future. We will now continue to build on his good work as we plan towards the 2018 Commonwealth Games.”
Jon Doig Chief Executive Commonwealth Games Scotland said: “On behalf of Team Scotland I would like to thank David for the huge contribution he made to the success of the Lawn Bowls team at Glasgow 2014.
“From the careful planning and preparation to the feel good factor he created amongst the players and staff, it was fantastic to see them reap the rewards of a well executed campaign. They had their best Games ever and made a major contribution to Team Scotland’s overall success. We wish him all the best for the future.”