Sports Rachel Homan's secret weapon is a curling coach who doesn't really coach curling

22:36  07 december  2017
22:36  07 december  2017 Source:   cbc.ca

Battle of the Brads: Gushue, Jacobs on collision course at Olympic trials

  Battle of the Brads: Gushue, Jacobs on collision course at Olympic trials The Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa will be rocking when Olympic champion Brad Jacobs clashes with world and Brier champion Brad Gushue in a pivotal match Monday night (7 p.m. ET). Four years ago Brad Jacobs went on a somewhat improbable undefeated run at the trials to win it all and represent Canada at the Olympics. The northern Ontario team then went on to win Olympic gold.

For the past two years, he's been the head coach of Rachel Homan ' s curling team — even though he doesn ' t have much of a curling background. "I get a lot of questions about what exactly it is I do," he says.

It's become known as "The Weagle", but Rachel Homan ' s curling team refers to it internally as the "tick bomb" because it can have the opposition scrambling early in an end. "In our vernacular, on the scoresheet it's a tick-bomb bonus," coach Earle Morris says.

OTTAWA — Some athletes find a way to deliver under pressure. Others crumble when the moment becomes too big.

Adam Kingsbury's obsession is finding out why some are better than others at making the game-winning shot. For the past two years, he's been the head coach of Rachel Homan's curling team — even though he doesn't have much of a curling background.

"I get a lot of questions about what exactly it is I do," he says.

Kingsbury, 34, was a competitive golfer during university. During that time he took a serious interest in performance under pressure. He started conducting research to find out what happens to fine motor skills when sporting situations intensify.

Bad break: Brad Gushue's rock picks on debris and Brad Jacobs capitalizes for win

  Bad break: Brad Gushue's rock picks on debris and Brad Jacobs capitalizes for win Facing three Brad Jacobs' stones in the third end, Brad Gushue's last shot picked debris on the ice and came to a screeching halt. Jacobs went on to a 7-4 victory on Monday. Facing three Brad Jacobs' stones in the third end, Gushue's last shot picked debris on the ice and came to a screeching halt.

Adam Kingsbury' s academic background comes in handy in his work with Rachel Homan and her Ottawa Curling Club teammates. The coach of the reigning women’ s world curling champions has never curled competitively.

A level 3 certified coach , Jock is a renowned instructor and coach who brings skill and expertise to this camp. President of True North Curling Inc. Rachel Homan . 2 Time Scottie Champion.

"Let's say you turn on the TV on Sunday and a golfer has a six-foot putt for a $1-million first-place prize," Kingsbury says. "Even though the task itself is quite simple, the expectations, the people around you, the storylines in your head about what would happen if you made that putt or miss it, it's a lot for most people."

Kingsbury says we still know very little about what happens to athletes in those moments, especially in curling.

A PhD candidate in sports psychology, Kingsbury is using everything he's learned in the academic world to help Homan and her teammates Emma Miskew, Joanne Courtney and Lisa Weagle. The reigning world champions are in Ottawa this week for the Canadian curling trials, where they hope to earn a spot in the Winter Olympics for the first time.

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  'Anything is possible': Canadian curler Jennifer Jones eyes another Olympics 2014 Olympic gold medallist Jennifer Jones says her team did a reset after missing the Scotties earlier this year, and it has re-established her rink as one of the favourites to make it to Pyeongchang. If there's a curling bonspiel with Jones in it, she's expected to win. So when she lost the Manitoba playdowns last year to miss the Scotties, after 12 previous appearances, players and fans across Canada were shocked.

“I was shocked,” said Courtney, who along with teammates Homan , third Aside from a few meetings in competition, Homan ’ s squad didn’ t really know Courtney that well. Brian Chick is a life-long curler and coach , and a frequent contributor to the Curling Canada's multimedia and development projects.

It all started at Ottawa’s City View Curling Club in 1996. That’s when Alison – the sister who won the 2014 Scotties Tournament of Hearts with Rachel Homan ’ s Team By this time, Alison was already playing with Homan , and the parents were heavily involved, assisting coach Earle Morris, holding the

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"I still get challenged about being their coach," Kingsbury says. "Last year it was, you don't curl, you don't know curling, which isn't true."

Indeed, Kingsbury now curls three times a week in leagues in Ottawa. But he only starting dabbling with the game in high school, so he lacks the lifelong experience of your typical veteran curling coach.

"The big storyline in curling is that you can only coach this game if you've been to a Brier or have won a Scotties before," he says.

While mental preparation is his specialty, Kingsbury is also busy during games. He sits on the team bench behind the sheet of ice, often with multiple devices on the go, tracking every rock thrown. He inputs the information on his iPad, compiling a list of stats he goes over with the team after every game.

Fears and motivations

Hebert, Englot celebrate different outcomes from curling trials

  Hebert, Englot celebrate different outcomes from curling trials Hebert, Englot celebrate different outcomes from curling trialsBen Hebert and Michelle Englot, both of whom hail from Regina, had their own reasons to celebrate after the Canadian Olympic team curling trials.

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It's been a remarkable year for Homan's Ottawa-based rink. They won the Scotties title in February and followed it up with an undefeated world championship victory in March.

In the Scotties final, Homan had to make two or three breathtaking shots late in the game to win it. The entire team came through in the clutch. Kingsbury considers that a defining moment for the skip and the team, and he believes the work they've put in behind the scenes allows them to rise to the occasion when the stakes are highest.

Courtney credits Kingsbury for his help.

"Being able to embrace the pressures of the big stage and play free in the moments that matter most are keys to this team's success, and he's helped us get there in the last few years," she says.

While the technical aspect of curling is paramount, Kingsbury agrees, the work Homan's team has done off the ice has allowed them to reach a different level. He's encouraged them to be vulnerable with one another, to share their fears and motivations.

"The greatest performers in the world are the ones who go to those deep, vulnerable places and figure out what motivates them to be there," he says.

Curling Trials to determine Canada’s representatives at 2018 Games

  Curling Trials to determine Canada’s representatives at 2018 Games Brad Gushue has seen some curling teams fold under pressure at Olympic qualification events and watched others rise to the occasion. The skip from St. John’s, N.L., was a surprise winner at the 2005 Trials and went on to win gold at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy. He also watched the action from the bench as an alternate four years ago. One thing he has learned is teams that change their style under the heightened pressure of the Trials tend to struggle, while those who stay the course are often rewarded. "We approached it just like any other event," Gushue said of his 2005 victory.

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"If you work with an athlete, you have to understand who this person is, what their competitive background is and what are the narratives and beliefs they have. Then we're going to unpack all of those and find out what stories they have that are associated with high performance and what ones are debilitating to it."

It's a far cry from the old way of thinking when it comes to sports. Kingsbury says it's about taking a meticulous, calculated and thoughtful approach to every decision Homan's team makes on the ice.

"I'm an academic. I come with a scientific perspective. One of the things I try to do as my guiding principle is not rely on my gut to make big decisions," he says.

Rachel Homan's secret weapon is a curling coach who doesn't really coach curling© Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press Rachel Homan's secret weapon is a curling coach who doesn't really coach curling

"We often have emotional responses dictate much of our decisions. Under pressure, much of the emotions we experience are very much automatic and, despite our best intentions, we can often hijack ourselves in big moments."

Pressure situation

Kingsbury's work is being put on trial at the trials in Ottawa. The pressure is squarely on the shoulders of the four members of Team Homan. They are considered the favourites to win. They're playing in their hometown. The situation couldn't be more intense.

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When they lost their opening game, Kingsbury says the media and fans pressed the panic button but the team didn't flinch.

"There wasn't a sense of, uh oh, now everything is going down the drain," he says.

Team Homan hasn't lost since. There have been some tough battles but they've come out on the winning side in five straight games.

That run culminated in an intense moment Wednesday night. Down one point with the hammer in the final end, Homan needed to make an incredibly difficult double to win the game against Carey Scheidegger. Talk about a pressure situation.

Homan didn't blink. She threw it perfectly, made the shot and got the win in dramatic fashion. The place went crazy.

"What we've done for the past two years has been getting down to helping these girls master the moment and thrive in competitive environments like this," Kingsbury says.

"That was a good example of it."

Homan's team has made its goal very clear: it's win the Olympic trials or bust. But for as much expectation as that creates, Kingsbury says it won't be a disaster if they don't achieve that goal.

"If that doesn't happen, does that mean that this whole year was a failure? Not at all. Success is looking back and saying I would not have done anything different."

Jones, Homan trending in different directions entering semifinals .
Jones, Homan trending in different directions entering semifinals“Playoffs,” the veteran Winnipeg-born skip said, grinning. “That’s what it’s all about.

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