By Chris Stevenson, Rideau View Golf Insider
Adam Kingsbury’s biggest job heading into the women’s curling competition at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics has been getting Team Canada – Ottawa’s Rachel Homan rink from the Ottawa Curling Club – to be well, less Canadian.
We’re very polite, but we don’t have to apologize for being good.
Kingsbury, the 34-year-old Rideau View Golf Club (Manotick) member who is the head coach for Team Homan, has spent the run-up to the Games getting the athletes to embrace the favourites’ role. Team Homan, the 2017 World and Scotties Tournament of Hearts champs, plays its first game Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET against the host Koreans.
“I have a message for them because I have heard a couple of their quotes. ‘Oh, we just want to have a chance. We just want to get to the playoffs. There are a lot of good teams.’ Those are the talking points,” Kingsbury said. “What I have said to them is you can say that as much as you want, but you don’t believe it. When you play your best, you are the greatest women’s curling team in the world.
“Why would you be ashamed of saying our hope and everything we are working towards is to come back with the gold medal? You’re lying. Everything that you say that doesn’t say that is a lie. Let’s own the fact that you are the favourite and embrace it.”
That was the first step for Homan, third Emma Miskey, second Joanne Courtney and lead Lisa Weagle.
“If we know you are the best team, what do we need to do to make sure that the likelihood of you bringing your best performance is there when it matters most? Every decision we make, everything we do is based around those principles. Why lie? Why say to anyone ‘Oh, we’re just excited for the opportunity?’ Of course we are. But that doesn’t mean that a gold medal is not what everyone is aiming for. Of course it is.”
Kingsbury is a recreational curler so he wouldn’t exactly fit the profile of your typical high-performance coach who is usually a former elite player. He completed his residency at the University of Ottawa in clinical psychology dealing with severe mental health issues and his doctoral research focuses on performance under pressure.
His ability to help Team Homan be prepared mentally to perform at its best is his greatest contribution to the excellence the team has achieved in the last year. In addition to the world and Scotties titles, they won the Roar of the Rings Olympic qualifier at Canadian Tire Centre in December.
Even if a humble Team Homan won’t say it, Kingsbury’s data collection has revealed opponents know it: they are playing the best in the world and need to bring their “A” game to compete. They usually do. Kingsbury’s research reveals opponents usually curl about 10 percent above their average against Homan, so Kingsbury said part of the preparation for the Olympics has been preparing Team Canada to deal with that fact.
“That’s what happens. When you play with Tiger Woods, when you play the defending Stanley Cup champions, every team we play brings their absolute best stuff,” he said. “There were times the girls would be frustrated. ‘Oh, they’re making every shot. We would have won that game, but they played out of their boots,’” Kingsbury said. “I said, ‘Stop. Of course they were because they are playing the best team the world.’ In fact you must respect your opponent and expect that every team you play you are going to see the best version of that team.”
Kingsbury, who has coached Team Homan for the last couple of years, expects this will be his last season. He wants to spend more time with his young family.
A golden sunset would be a nice way to go out and they have put everything into being ready.
“I’ve tried to train the mindset with these girls which is this: the ultimate scenario is you shake hands after six ends if it’s not televised, eight because you have to play a minimum of eight, you shake hands after eight and the score is a million to nothing,” he said. “You win every game in the round robin and you win every game in the playoffs and you dominate. Of course that’s the goal.
“Is that reality? No. But if our bar is we’re going to go 5-4 and squeak in and just give ourselves a chance, when we fall short of that, that performance might not be good enough. So you set the bar high, but you’re accepting of the reality you will very rarely be perfect.”
While he loves walking Rideau View’s fairways in summer, curling has surpassed golf as his favourite sport.
“My mission would be for every golfer to curl in the winter because the depression and everything that comes with living in this (crap) is gone because the experience and the love we have when we play golf is perfectly mirrored and mapped onto curling,” he said.
“They are the same game. It’s a four-person scramble. That’s what’s great about it. The way you treat each other and the things you say, the art of delivering a curling stone is difficult, but you can learn easily. The same with the putting stroke. You can eventually learn how to putt. They are the same the game.
“So I love curling more than I love golf now. I’m more excited about the winter. Before I would be depressed because golf season was over and now October comes around and I’m like, ‘here we go.’ Now golf is my thing that I do in the nice, beautiful weather to wait for curling season to start,” he said.
Kingsbury has spent a lot of time cocooning the team from the distractions in the lead up to the Games. He has been a buffer to leave them free to be ready to perform their best.
“My entire job has been just politics,” he said. “Most of what I do is put out fires for them and they had no idea and I don’t want them to know because I want them to focus on curling. To get to a point where they are insulated, it just takes a lot of foresight and a lot of effort. I don’t throw the rock. It’s worked thus far.”
Now they need it to work for another 10 days.
Women’s Team Canada Olympic Curling Schedule (Times ET)
Wed, 7 p.m. Canada vs. Korea
Thu, 6 a.m. Canada vs. Sweden
Fri, 12 a.m., Canada vs. Denmark
Sat, 6 a.m. Canada vs. USA
Sun, 12 a.m., Canada vs Switzerland
Sun, 7 p.m., Canada vs. Japan
Tue, 12 a.m., Canada vs China
Tue, 7 p.m., Canada vs. Great Britain
Wed, 7 p.m. Tiebreakers
Fri, 6 a.m., Semi-final
Sat. 6 a.m., Bronze Medal Game
Sat, 7 p.m., Gold Medal Game
Follow me on Twitter: @CJ_Stevenson