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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Five things I learned from hanging out with Team Glenn Howard

The Team Glenn Howard Fantasy Curling Camp wrapped up at the Guelph Curling Club on Sunday afternoon, ending three days of - of - of what? Learning, laughing, and a fair bit of pain (delivery, after delivery, after delivery....!) Moments of illumination, moments (long ones!) of frustration. Good times with new friends. Lots of failure. A few successes. And a long list of "Things I'm going to do correctly from now on...."

Those boys - Glenn Howard, Richard Hart, Jon Mead and Craig Savill - make it look pretty darn easy. It isn't, as any curler knows. Having a chance to slide shakily out of the hack with a world champion skip critiquing your form, and then watching him demonstrate the ease and brilliance on the ice that years of dedicated training produce, well, "humbling" is the only word that comes to mind.

The Crazy 8s winners celebrate after outscoring the opposition (um, that would be
the campers!)

So here are five things I learned from hanging out with Team Glenn Howard and a staff of coaches and trainers at curling camp this past weekend:

1. Jon Mead is dead funny. Just in case you didn't know. We all know Glenn, Rich and Craig are jokers, but Jon is new on the Team Howard scene. He's got that serious expression on his face, and he's pretty fierce on the ice too, but oh my, he is scary funny. Some pretty good behind-the-scenes stories about life on the elite curling circuit, too.

2. You need really, really, really strong legs to be a curler. Just saying. I don't have those legs. In and out of the hack, up and down the ice on sweeping drills, (rocky) delivery after (rocky) delivery. Day One, then Day Two, then Day Three - the knees are burning, the quads are protesting. Hurray for that wonderful invention known as [insert name of painkiller of your choice here].

The camp coaches: Wendy Morgan, Maurice Wilson, Brian Savill and Jen Ferris,
after entertaining the crowd during the Crazy 8s competition.

3. Canadian flags and Olympic gold medals make me cry. Wendy Morgan, the Team Leader for the Canadian Paralympic Curling Team - yup, the team that won a third straight Olympic gold medal for Canada at the Sochi Games - gave us a slideshow of her experiences in Russia. She got choked up. Sitting in the audience, I got choked up. I hope all Canadian curlers - and sports fans - appreciate the incredible accomplishment of those athletes - Jim Armstrong, Ida Forrest, Dennis Thiessen, Sonja Gaudet and Mark Ideson, with their coach Joe Rae. Bad ice, bad rocks, difficult conditions - they just kept going forward, keeping positive, and winning games - and gold medals. From their wheelchairs. I am in awe, and I think the rest of the room felt the same.

Talking strategy before their turn at Crazy 8s, and in the distance, just between Craig and Jon, there's
coach and Balance Plus equipment expert Scott Taylor,
who coached us all (with help from wife, Bonnie) on our line of delivery, and who,
on the final afternoon, draped the chairs in the club room with jackets and shirts
from his long career of Briers and World Championships with Team Howard, and told us
to pick one and take it home. What a gesture!
(I know what I'm wearing for the Halloween Party at Friday Night Social Curling this year!)

4. Curlers are nice. I know I've said this before (like, in every blog I write), but it can't be said often enough. We were thrown together in groups of eight - two "teams" - who travelled together from session to session. We ended up eating together, hanging out, laughing, swapping emails. New friends, all because of curling. And everyone with something to offer - like a story about a bonspiel, or a suggestion about equipment, or advice on which dessert to pick from the buffet at lunch. Good times with good people. Curlers are nice.

Teams 13 and 14 with that guy, you know? That guy?
And lastly...

5. I learned what it feels like to make a big final shot. Yes, the stars - or rocks - aligned in our game on the last day. A long run-back double. I saw it, I resisted it, I finally went with it (much to my third's delight), and I threw it. Against all expectations, I made it - how?! Because my delivery had been so perfected from three days of close instruction on position and line? Because those sessions on confidence and mental toughness finally kicked in? I don't know, but I do know I felt as if I had just won the Scotties on last rock. That's probably as close as I'll ever get to a championship moment, so I'm going to tuck it away in my collection of great curling memories and bring it out every now and then for a look.

Dale gets some one-on-one advice on how to throw those big-weight bombs.
Or they may have been talking hairstyles. Not sure.

We hung around at the club as the crowd dwindled, gave the coaches and amazing Team Howard players a hug and a handshake. Then we went home to feed the dog and crash on the couch - and soak in a hot bath with epsom salts!

I'm still smiling - and I didn't even tell you about the Hospitality Room....