US Curling Power Rankings – December 20, 2016

Team Heath McCormick continue their domination of the American bonspiel circuit with a third title in three US-based World Curling Tour events, winning the Curl Mesabi Classic this past weekend. On the women’s side, former Olympian Cassie Potter’s rink clawed their way to the final in Eveleth following a year-to-date best 4-1 round-robin record. Elsewhere on the planet, Team Craig Brown came fourth at the Qinghai (China) International while Nina Roth’s foursome finished third in the women’s event. The results of this week’s action brings a shuffling to both the men’s and women’s rankings as we head into the holidays.

Men

  1. Heath McCormick – Champion at the Curl Mesabi Classic; beat #3 John Shuster in the final. (PW: 1)
  2. Craig Brown – Fourth place at the Qinghai International. (PW: 2)
  3. John Shuster – Finalist at Curl Mesabi. (PW: 5)
  4. Brady Clark – Made the round of 12 at Curl Mesabi; beat #6 Stephen Dropkin in round-robin play. (PW:3)
  5. Todd Birr – Made the round of 12 at Curl Mesabi; beat #4 Brady Clark and #6 Stephen Dropkin in round-robin play. (PW: 6)
  6. Stephen Dropkin – Missed playoffs at Curl Mesabi. (PW: 4)

Women

  1. Nina Roth – Third place at the Qinghai International. (PW: 2)
  2. Jamie Sinclair – Made playoffs at Curl Mesabi; beat #5 Jessica Schultz in round-robin play. (PW: 1)
  3. Cassie Potter – Finalist at Curl Mesabi; beat #2 Jamie Sinclair and #5 Jessica Schultz in round-robin play; beat Sinclair in the quarterfinals and #4 Cory Christensen in the semifinals. (PW: 5)
  4. Cory Christensen – Semifinalist at Curl Mesabi; beat #6 Cristin Clark in round-robin play. (PW: 3)
  5. Jessica Schultz – Missed playoffs at Curl Mesabi (PW: 4)
  6. Cristin Clark – Missed playoffs at Curl Mesabi (PW: 6)

A wrap-up of the first half of the 2016-2017 season will be posted later this week, so keep an eye out for it.

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US Curling Power Rankings – December 13, 2016

A light schedule since the Duluth Cash Spiel results in little movement in the power rankings, with Heath McCormick and Jamie Sinclair maintaining their #1 positions. No women’s team has played on tour since Duluth, so their rankings remain the same from two weeks ago, while the men’s poll sees Stephen Dropkin move up following another playoff qualification in Manitoba.

Men

  1. Heath McCormick – Idle.
  2. Craig Brown – Idle.
  3. Brady Clark – Idle.
  4. Stephen Dropkin – B-qualifier at the Thistle Integrity Stakes (third playoff appearance in four events) (PW: 6)
  5. John Shuster – 0-4 at the Boost National, missed playoffs (PW: 4)
  6. Todd Birr – Idle. (PW: 5)

Women

  1. Jamie Sinclair – Idle.
  2. Nina Roth – Idle.
  3. Cory Christensen – Idle.
  4. Jessica Schultz – Idle.
  5. Cassie Potter – Idle.
  6. Cristin Clark – Idle.

 

This week will see all the listed teams except for Craig Brown and Nina Roth playing in the Curl Mesabi Classic in Eveleth, MN (Brown and Roth are representing the US in the Qinghai International in China, with both posting 2-1 records in the event as of this post). With Curl Mesabi being the final event before automatic berths to the USA Nationals are allocated (top five men’s rinks and top four women’s rinks qualify directly), a jostle for points this weekend will make for some fierce action amongst our ranked teams. Next week, we will do a first-half review and look for a spotlight piece on Tom Howell, lead for Team McCormick, to appear in a future edition of the rankings. Also, congratulations to Alex Leichter on being named to Team USA for the 2017 Winter University Games in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

US Curling Power Rankings – November 29, 2016

Heath McCormick and Nina Roth came out on top at the Duluth Cash Spiel this past weekend in the second big showdown amongst US teams on this year’s World Curling Tour schedule. When the dust settled, there was some shuffling in the rankings, but not as much as one might expect.

Men

  1. Heath McCormick – Champion at Duluth; third title of the season (40-16 overall record); beat #5 Todd Birr in a B-final, #4 John Shuster in the playoff final.
  2. Craig Brown – Semifinalist in Duluth; 4-3 for the week;  beat #3 Brady Clark in a quarterfinal.
  3. Brady Clark – B-qualifier in Duluth; beat #5 Todd Birr in A-bracket play. (PW:4)
  4. John Shuster – Finalist in Duluth (first trip past quarters this season); beat #2 Craig Brown in a semifinal. (PW:5)
  5. Todd Birr – Made B-final and C-final in Duluth;  beat #2 Craig Brown in B-bracket play. (PW:3)
  6. Stephen Dropkin – A-qualifier in Duluth (second playoff appearance in three events); beat #2 Craig Brown and #3 Brady Clark in A-bracket play. (PW:NR)

Women

  1. Jamie Sinclair – Finalist in Duluth; beat #4 Jessica Schultz in pool play.
  2. Nina Roth – Champion in Duluth; beat #5 Cassie Potter and #6 Cristin Clark in pool play, #4 Cory Christensen in a semifinal, #1 Jamie Sinclair in the final.(PW:3)
  3. Cory Christensen – Semifinalist in Duluth; beat #6 Cristin Clark, #5 Cassie Potter, and #2 Nina Roth in pool play. (PW:4)
  4. Jessica Schultz – Missed playoffs in Duluth. (PW:2)
  5. Cassie Potter – Missed playoffs in Duluth; beat #6 Cristin Clark in pool play.
  6. Cristin Clark – Missed playoffs in Duluth.

 

As of posting time, it looks to be a light week on the docket for the US teams. John Shuster and Nina Roth will be representing the US in NBC Sports Network’s “Curling Night in America” series, to be taped Thursday-Saturday in Duluth, while Stephen Dropkin will be playing in the Thistle Integrity Stakes in Winnipeg, MB. With just a couple of weeks remaining until automatic berths to the USA National Championships are announced, the fight will be fierce for those spots and the ability to avoid the Challenge Rounds in January.

A Second Go For The Bruce

On Tuesday, Bruce Arena was installed as manager of the US Men’s National Team following the dismissal of Jurgen Klinsmann the previous day. Let’s be clear, these moves are not made without the US Soccer Federation first prioritizing qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup above EVERYTHING ELSE in the national team program and then seeing said goal being severely threatened by the team’s results in its first matches of the Hex (a 2-1 home loss to Mexico followed by a 4-0 drubbing in Costa Rica). For those of you who believe Arena will magically move the Yanks into a qualifying spot after the matches in March, news for you: not gonna happen. For those who see this change of course as a step backwards, news for you: it’s not nearly the disaster you are wishing it to be. For the soccer writers singing the praises of Jesse Marsch, Tab Ramos, and Oscar Pareja as Il Bruce’s successor, news for you: they lack the goods right now. Allow me to break this down logically for you.

The rest of the Hex will be a slough, but there is light at the end. The US sits on zero points after two matches, with 24 points available the rest of the way. A reasonable pathway for the US to qualify is to go 5-1-2 over the last eight matches, which is 17 points and would match their 2001 qualifying total, where they punched their ticket to the 2002 World Cup with a game to spare. Those 17 points are most likely gotten this way: win the remaining home matches (12 points); draw at Panama and Honduras (2 points); win at Trinidad and Tobago on the last day (3 points). Could they do better than that (for instance, a win at either Panama or Honduras or a draw at Mexico, which have been achieved in previous qualifying cycles)? Sure, but let’s not bank the life savings on it. Patience is vital, as this accumulation of points would put the US at four points after four matches, seven points after six, eleven points after eight, and requires winning the last two matches to reach 17.

This is a stop-gap, not a turning-back. Bringing in Arena to rescue the qualifying campaign is not an admission that the path USSF took five years ago to hire Klinsmann was bad or that the progress made under him will cease. Klinsmann was brought in at a time where the current system had reached its zenith with the tools at its disposal, and a fresh perspective was necessary in the evolution of the national team program. Much as Klinsmann’s tenure was a step on the evolutionary path, Arena’s will be as well. We will see a re-calibration of the program in the short term to insert things that have been lacking recently (such as spirit and collective will that teams without elite-level weapons rely upon to slug it out with more talented sides, along with mental acumen), all with an eye to get this team to Russia by whatever means necessary. Following the World Cup, that evolution can progress on a path best-suited for the times and be led by a manager who fits the direction the Fed wishes to go.

Different times call for different visions. National team programs evolve over time, and one point in the path requires different tools and skills than another one. Klinsmann’s vision as an outsider was necessary to “move the goalposts” of where the US existed in the soccer world (prior to him, king of CONCACAF was the pinnacle and the direction was geared to that end) and how we would go about moving closer to the top end of that world. I held after the 2014 World Cup that the US needed to take its next step in that path, and the person to lead it would need two specific qualifications: significant US National Team playing experience and professional managerial experience. Those three names mentioned in the opening (Marsch, Ramos, and Pareja) don’t meet that criteria in full (Marsch was not a critical piece of the USNT player pool, Pareja didn’t play for the US National Team, and Ramos hasn’t spent time leading a professional soccer team). Can they make up for that in some way? Sure, but in my opinion it would require being part of Arena’s team in this interim period with a succession plan in place to take over following Russia 2018. Barring that, we should consider others who meet both criteria and wouldn’t require such an internship. The names at the top of my list in that regard are Dominic Kinnear and Peter Vermes. Both have won multiple trophies in their coaching careers, both earned more than 50 caps for the US National Team in their playing careers, but I would place Kinnear ahead of Vermes based on the tactical flexibility he has exhibited during his tenure in Houston and San Jose, a trait that is key when dealing with an ever-changing player pool.

That’s my take. What’s yours?

US Curling Power Rankings – November 22, 2016

Another big week in US Curling is ahead of us, with all of the ranked American rinks (both men’s and women’s) heading to Duluth, MN for the Coors Light/Molson Cash Spiel. In addition, USA Curling will announce later today the men’s and women’s teams that will be part of Team North America at the Continental Cup of Curling in Las Vegas in January (based on year-to-date rankings, the foursomes led by Heath McCormick and Jamie Sinclair are expected to be the US representatives). The rankings will be at the bottom of this week’s post (there is a new #1 on the women’s side), but I want to start with spotlighting a pair of curlers from California that are heading to Abbotsford, BC for their first-ever World Curling Tour event this weekend.

I met Auria Moore and Porsche Renae Stephenson through the power of Twitter while following the US Arena Nationals in May. They were part of a rink from the Wine Country Curling Club in Roseville, CA, finishing 2-3 in their pool but failing to advance to the playoffs. After reading their profiles and seeing some of their goals (2018 Olympian being the big one), I decided to keep a tab on them. Following their trip to the US Olympic Training Center in Blaine, MN for a High Performance Program Open Camp in August, I started conversing a bit with Auria and when I saw that they were listed for the WCT event in Abbotsford over the Thanksgiving weekend (the only US team this week not playing in Duluth), we talked about giving them a little publicity in the US curling community.

cxk6htiukaes4npAuria (center) and Porsche with Darryl Horsman at the Coyotes Curling Club in Tempe, AZ.

Auria came to the sport after injuries forced her to shelve a competitive career in boxing. Oddly, her and Porsche were watching the Beatles movie Help! and there is a scene where the band is curling. It triggered memories of a trip to Canada where Auria saw curling all over TV and wondered if California had anything to do with the sport. A Learn-to-Curl led them to begin subbing at the club the next week, and then onto bonspieling. The trip to Arena Nationals and then the HPP Open Camp were further steps in playing at a competitive level, and Abbotsford is the next phase of that development. They would like to see greater elite-level training opportunities for teams to grow their games and get over the hurdle of feeling they can’t “level up” to the competition on the WCT circuit. Additionally, getting more clubs in the US hosting WCT events (currently, the only one not in Minnesota is the Ed Werenich Golden Wrench Classic in Phoenix) would help give access to US teams to test themselves against each other and against high-level curlers from Canada and abroad (The ladies’ first match is against 2009 World Champion Bingyu Wang; the event also includes the top women’s rinks in British Columbia and former Scotties representatives). Follow their adventures this weekend (November 25-28) on the WCT site. First draw for them is 11am PT on Friday.

And now, the rankings:

Men

  1. Heath McCormick – 3-3 at the DEKALB Superspiel, failed to make playoffs.
  2. Craig Brown – Idle.
  3. Todd Birr – 3-3 at the DEKALB Superspiel, failed to make playoffs.
  4. Brady Clark – Idle.
  5. John Shuster – Idle.

Women

  1. Jamie Sinclair – Semifinalist at the DEKALB Superspiel (B-qualifier); 6-2 for the weekend. (PW:2)
  2. Jessica Schultz – 2-3 at the DEKALB Superspiel, failed to make playoffs. (PW:1)
  3. Nina Roth – Idle.
  4. Cory Christensen – Idle.
  5. Cassie Potter – 0-3 at the DEKALB Superspiel, failed to make playoffs.
  6. Cristin Clark – Idle.

 

As mentioned in the opening, almost all US Curling attention will be focused on Duluth for the second major showdown of US rinks this season (the St. Paul Cash Spiel being the first), with Moore and Stephenson’s team (skipped this week by Jenn Nguyen from Denver) in Abbotsford. Before we go, congratulations Team Darryl Horsman as they picked up their first-ever World Curling Tour victory last weekend at the DEKALB Superspiel.

18 Inches of Anguish

My name is Scott, and I have a mental health problem. Finally admitting that to myself and others is a bit scary, yet relieving. I’ve never looked down on others who have struggled with things like depression, anxiety, substance abuse caused by underlying issues, or the like, but I have been less-than-patient with them due in no small part to my own unclassified struggles. I never thought I had a problem, that what I recognize now as symptoms were how I was wired. When taken as a whole and translated over the span of my life, they chart up to a condition that, on my good days no one would ever suspect something is wrong but on my bad days makes me a person you don’t want to be around.

My Type-A mindset and ultra-competitive streak can be traced back to childhood. I hit academic benchmarks slightly ahead of others (though not as quickly as high achievers are hitting them nowadays), I was always into sports (though more on the mental side than the physical), I was high-strung and structured, I didn’t get into trouble, and I was looked up to for my smarts. Combined that with what I felt were certain birthrights (fed to me in part by others, but to which I bought in completely), it started the process by which I viewed myself as “superior” to others (based on just those areas where the evidence backed me up) and began what would be a bloodless (or at times bloodthirsty) quest for power and control. It made making friendships with peers difficult because everyone was a competitor, but I was able to seek out friendships with those I felt were clearly above me (to be utilized to help me move up to their level) or those clearly below me (with whom I didn’t have to compete/compare resumes). I wanted to date, but would never put myself out there for fear of failure/not being liked, which I think is chicken-or-egg with my natural shyness/reservedness/borderline introversion.

In adulthood, that mindset would play itself out in a variety of ways. I didn’t care a lot about money, but having it and keeping it gave me security and a tangible scoreboard of my own value to the world. Gaining or seizing power/influence/control would allow me to put in place “the right way” of doing things, but if others couldn’t live up to that standard I felt no use for them and would “do it myself”. It led to inappropriate behaviors (mostly ones played out in my mind, since I am also conflict-avoidant and rules-adhering) and caused problems in relationships with those closest to me. Events in early adulthood came together to propel me deeper into my condition and would see aspects of it manifest themselves. It caused a long-time rift with my sister (which has never been completely resolved), it strained my relationship with my wife (which years later led to me leaving her for a time), and ultimately would lead to my current state of affairs. I attempted to get counseling years ago, but in the end either I was too stuck in my mindset for it to work or the therapist wasn’t showing me how she was attempting to address my condition (don’t know which one is necessarily true, but both are plausible).

This past week in the Partial Hospital Program (all-day programming, but home in the evenings) has helped me in a number of ways. It has extricated me from the environment which triggered my anxiety attacks/mental breakdowns while giving me a supportive place to express what I’m feeling/thinking and to begin learning coping techniques and come to terms with the condition I feel I have always had but couldn’t label as one (I had tried with previous therapists, as mentioned previously). Whether I get an official diagnosis of what I think I have or just a general one that is less-defined/stigmatizing, I have gained access to resources to begin dealing with it so I can move closer to better mental health and living with it (much as one would with high blood pressure or diabetes or a chronic illness). I hope also that this will be the kick-start to improving other areas of my life for my own betterment (though what “for my own betterment” is vs. other motives has never been clear-cut because of my mindset). I go back tomorrow and should be discharged to outpatient care sometime this week. Keep me in your thoughts, reach out if you want, and thank you for listening.

US Curling Power Rankings – November 15, 2016

Five US-based teams participated in the Grand Slam of Curling Tour Challenge this past weekend in Cranbrook, BC (John Shuster in the Tier I event, with Craig Brown, Brady Clark, Nina Roth, and Cory Christensen in Tier II). All five made it through pool play into either tiebreakers (Shuster and Christensen) or the quarterfinals. With none of the teams advancing past the semifinals in their event, there was a little shifting in the rankings, but not much.

Men

  1. Heath McCormick – Idle.
  2. Craig Brown – 4-2 in Tier II, semifinalist.
  3. Todd Birr – Idle.
  4. Brady Clark – 2-3 in Tier II, made playoffs.
  5. John Shuster – 2-2 in Tier I pool play, lost tiebreaker. (PW:6)
  6. Brandon Corbett – Idle. (PW: 5)

Women

  1. Jessica Schultz – Idle.
  2. Jamie Sinclair – Idle.
  3. Nina Roth – 4-1 in Tier II, made playoffs. (PW: 4)
  4. Cory Christensen – 2-2 in Tier II pool play, lost tiebreaker. (PW: 3)
  5. Cassie Potter – Idle.
  6. Cristin Clark – Idle.

 

This week’s action will be at the DEKALB Superspiel in Morris, MB, where five US men’s teams (including McCormick and Birr) Fensonand three US Women’s teams (Schultz, Sinclair, and Potter) are in the fields.