N. Ontario stays hot

The Canadian Press

BRANDON, Man.–Brad Jacobs’ team stood at a crossroads after the 2018 Winter Olympics when the curling carousel was in full spin.
Many of Canada’s top male curlers were mixing and matching lineups, with some forming “super-teams” to set up for a run at the next Winter Games in 2022.
Winning a Canadian title in 2013 and an Olympic gold medal in 2014 made Jacobs, vice Ryan Fry, and front-end brothers E.J. and Ryan Harnden loathe to dismantle their team with a track record of winning big events.
But something was missing for the foursome from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
“At the end of last year, I believe our team was at a teetering point where, yes, we decided to stick together but we had one of two directions to go and that was either down or up,” Jacobs noted.
“We definitely do have a good thing going but if we didn’t make some sort of a change in the aspect of the mental performance, we were never going to change,” he stressed.
“I think we would still be good but we wouldn’t be world-class.”
Enter Adam Kingsbury, a clinical psychology student at the University of Ottawa who applied his unique skill set of mental training and data analytics to Rachel Homan’s team for three years.
When Kingsbury parted company with Homan in the spring of 2018, he heard from Jacobs.
“I really think all of the issues and all of the tension, the stress, the problems our team was having was in between the ears for all four of us,” Jacobs conceded.
“Patience has probably been the biggest one,” he remarked. “I think because we know each other so well and we’re family, we can get annoyed with one another very easily.
“We’ve been together a long time so we can say things to one another and we can almost take ourselves out of the game.
“I believe we picked the right guy for the job in Adam,” Jacobs added. “He’s done a great job in figuring out what makes us tick, how to communicate with us, and helping us work on the things we need to work on.”
After the first of three-straight wins to open this year’s Canadian men’s curling championship, Jacobs said “this was probably one of the calmest Team Jacobs you’ve seen at any Brier.”
Northern Ontario was alone atop Pool ‘A’ at 3-0 heading into today’s draws.
Manitoba’s Mike McEwen, Saskatchewan’s Kirk Muyres, and the wild-card team skipped by Brendan Bottcher all were 2-1.
Quebec’s Martin Crete, P.E.I.’s John Likely, and Yukon’s John Solberg were 1-2 while Andrew Symonds of Newfoundland and Labrador was winless in Pool ‘A.’
Canada’s Brad Gushue, Alberta’s Kevin Koe, and B.C.’s Jim Cotter were tied for first at 2-0 in Pool ‘B’ going into play today.
Nova Scotia’s Terry Odishaw and Nova Scotia’s Stuart Thompson were knotted at 1-1.
Ontario’s Scott McDonald, Jamie Koe of Northwest Territories, and Nunavut’s Dave St. Louis still were seeking their first Pool ‘B’ wins.
The top four teams in each pool at the conclusion of the round-robin Wednesday advance to the championship round, from which four Page playoff teams will emerge.
Jacobs and the Harnden brothers were in their mid-20s when Fry joined them for the 2012-13 season.
In their first year together, they won their first Brier, the Olympic trials, and an Olympic gold medal.
They’ve remained an elite team for seven years with a cohesion now atypical in the sport.
Their familiarity with each other, however, put them in danger of taking each other and their success for granted.
“We ascended to the top extremely fast,” Jacobs said. “As you stay together as a team, that’s when you kind of go through that storming phase and we went through that.”
The four men have worked with Algoma University psychology professor Arthur Perlini for several years and continue to do so, but Kingsbury travels with Jacobs.
With a young son at home, Kingsbury contemplated a break from the curling road. But when a team like Jacobs thinks you can help them, he said it’s difficult to say no.