DAVID Gourlay, Bowls Scotland’s head coach, announced yesterday 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. At the Commonwealth Games 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.
Double gold medallist and Scottish Sportsperson of 2014, Alex Marshall MBE, said: “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.”
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.”
Paying tribute to Gourlay, Bowls Scotland’s CEO Alan McMillan said: “I have witnessed first hand 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.”
Mike Whittingham, director of high performance at the sportscotland institute of sport, said: “David has been a fantastic appointment for Bowls Scotland and the results delivered in Glasgow demonstrate the effectiveness of the integrated approach he adopted across the sport.
“We wish David every success for the future.”
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 bowls team at Glasgow 2014.
“From the careful planning and preparation to the feelgood 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.”