Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Actually, we made that assertion about a month ago and really started to put things together for our Olympic push!
After struggling through most of our early WCT season, we started to make some progress starting at the first Grand Slam in Ontario. This was a tough event and we played a number of teams that we were likely to see in Vancouver. Our record was 2-4, but we were just a couple of shots away from being 4-2. After that event we met as a team with our coaching staff and came up with a clear plan of what needed to improve in the time remaining before the Games.
From there we played in WCT events in Brooks-Alberta, Duluth-MN, and Brantford-Ontario. In each successive event we seemed to get closer and closer to playing at a top level. In fact, we started to beat some teams that many might say that we had no shot against. But we again failed to qualify for the final 8 in any of them. Missing out by just one game in most cases! Doing our best to stay positive, we moved on with the ultimate prize still in mind.
Finally a breakthrough! It was at one of our favorite events in the U.S. .... the Curl Mesabi Classic in Eveleth-MN. After a disappointing loss in our first game, we rallied and rattled off 6 wins in a row to win the Event! Our last three games were our best of the season and we feel like we're really starting to click again!
Coming off of our most successful outing of the year we headed to Green Bay for our last camp before "The Big Show". This camp involved a ton of media appearances and a trip to an elementary school to speak to some kids! What an experience! We also met with coaching staff to start finalizing plans and schedules for Vancouver. Pete Fenson's team also made the trip and agreed to scrimmage us for three games. We again had a rough start in the first game, but came back to win the next two...giving us bragging rights for the weekend! Thanks to Pete and his team for making the trip! It was a great camp and sets us up well for the last two events of our season.......both are Grand Slam WCT events in Canada, which is the level of competition we need to be seeing heading into the Games.
First up is "The National" in Guelph, ON and second is the "The BDO Open" in Winnipeg, MB. Both look to be great events and we're looking forward to surprising a few people as we head into our final stages of preparation.
I should also mention the crazy fun of being involved with many, many, media events and appearances over the last few months! At some point all of us have had newspaper or TV interviews with local and national media. Some of us have also been involved in appearances on National TV shows. It's hard to imagine it being much more fun than this, but we are all sure that in 45 days it will be!
More to come from the road....until then.....good curling!!!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Last weekend was our last summer camp in Green Bay.
From our first camp in May until now, we've made steady improvements. Lots of ice time and physical training sessions have made a huge difference!
We spent our last weekend tying up a few details and trying to celebrate our accomplishments with a trip to the Green Bay Packers "Family Night" game at Lambeau Field. However, Mother Nature had other plans. We were in our seats (6th row on the 50 yard line!) for about 20 minutes before the lightning storm sent us all scurrying into the concourse! As it turned out, they ended up canceling the event. We did get to watch the fireworks from the hotel though! Not all was lost!
We also got a chance to work with a professional photographer, which was very nice. We should end up with plenty of stock photos to use for the rest of the Olympic run!
As many of you already know, we also launched a new team website: www.teamusacurling2010.com
We're very happy with the site and are looking forward to adding information and functionality there as the season goes on. Included in this will likely be a team store where fans can help support the team and our families by purchasing team pins, apparel and novelty items. Check back there frequently for updates.
Our next step is to finalize our training with a trip to Lucerne, Switzerland where we'll get more ice time and scrimmage against some top European competition. I am personally looking forward to the trip because it will be my first venture overseas!
Things will start getting very interesting in September. The Start of the new WCT season will be upon us and we'll be spending 19 days on the road for competition. First off to the Shorty Jenkins Classic in Ontario, then Oslo, Norway for the Oslo Cup, then back to Lucerne where we'll train for a few days and then head to Basel, Switzerland for another event! Whew!
Well, that's about all for now. As things get moving with our schedule, I'll try to keep the blogs coming.
Thanks to everyone! Only 184 days to Opening Ceremonies!!!
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
We ended up with a 5th place finish at Worlds. After the round robin had concluded our record was 7-4, which was good enough to put us in a 4 way tie for third place. We then faced Norway in a tie-breaker while Switzerland and Germany faced off in the other match to fill out the final four. (Scotland and Canada had already advanced to the number one and number two seeds in the playoffs.)
Unfortunately we just didn’t play very well in the tie-breaker. As it was for most of the week, the ice was quite tricky to read and we didn’t adjust to it very well. On top of that, Norway brought their A-Game to the ice that day and took advantage of every mistake we made. Needless to say, the match ended early and our dream season had come to an end.
As disappointing as it was to be done, we were able to come away from the experience with a number of positives. First and foremost, we didn’t ever play our best game that week and were still in position to make the final four. We feel that bodes well for us and what might be possible in the future. Secondly, we exceeded the expectations of many who felt that we’d finish at the bottom of the standings. I think we opened a few eyes. Lastly, we came away with a good list of things we can improve on....we really learned quite a bit.
So the next step will be to take that list and apply it in our training camps, which start at the end of May. We’ll be spending 2 to 3 long weekends a month at camp and have a great team of coaches to work with. I am really looking forward to the concentrated effort and year round access to the ice that we’ll have this year. Not to mention getting in great physical shape.
In addition to the camps, we’re busy setting up appearances and working on sponsorship efforts. These efforts will help to offset some lost income that the team members will stand to incur over the next year. There is also an effort to help family and friends raise funds to defray expenses for the trip to Vancouver. As it turns out, the Olympics can be a spendy proposition!
We’re also working at finalizing our competition schedule for next Fall and Winter. As I have mentioned previously, it is likely that we’ll be competing in a number of events overseas and in Canada. These events will provide us with the level of competition that we will need to prepare for our time in Vancouver.
So I think I can speak for the whole team when I say that we’re very anxious to get to work! Nobody wants to be on that podium more that we do!
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
I have to tell you all that if you've never been to Victoria island in BC, make plans to get there soon! What a beautiful place. Rolling hills and small mountains covered in green and lush forests. Unfortunately, nobody remembered their cameras so I have only this one cell phone pic that is not very good but it is the view out the back of our hotel.
Oh yeah. We did do some curling out there as well!
The event lived up to expectations. So many very good teams! It was a real blast to be playing against guys that we've been watching for so many years! We played pretty well for the most part, but did run across a few things that need cleaning up. Our round robin record was 3-1, which was good enough to get us into the quarter finals! Qualifying in an event at this level is a great thing leading up to the Worlds! We ended up losing the quarter final game to Wayne Middaugh who went on to win the event. We're very pleased with the results and are looking forward to our chances at Worlds next week.
So we leave for Moncton, NB tomorrow afternoon.
On Thursday we'll get some private ice time at a local club. Then on Friday we'll have a team meeting, team practice at the arena and the opening banquet. Opening ceremonies and our first game will be Saturday. You should be able to find out about Webcast coverage and scoring at the usual places:
as well as:
Wish us luck and enjoy!
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
It seems like this might be a better way to keep you all informed. I'll send the link to this blog any time I post an update and you can always come back here to find links to our events and other information.
Now to get you up to speed.
Our first camp in Green Bay went very well. This camp was designed as a World Team Prep and Olympic introduction. Our team and Debbie McCormick's team (the women's Team USA) spent time in meetings with our new "Team Around The Team" or TATT. This Team includes:
Mark Swandby - USCA Men's Team Leader (logistics and planning)
Scott Higgins - USCA Coaching Development Director
Ed Lukowich - USCA Athletic Development Director (strategy and tactics)
John Coumbe-Lilley - USCA Sports Psychologist (psychology and communication)
Roger Schmidt - USCA Technical Coach (delivery and team systems)
John Crawley - USOC National Team Technical Support Coordinator
This highly qualified team of coaches spoke about our upcoming year and the challenges that we will face. The general tone of the discussion was that the TATT is meant to be a resource and partner for both teams as we go through the year.
One of the inspirational themes of the weekend was "Fight for the Podium!". We watched a great video of the behind-the-scenes story of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" hockey team, which was quite a bit different than the Hollywood version. There were some very interesting parallels from that story that we could draw from today.
We had two on-ice sessions running some drills and working on team systems. We also had some video tape work done on our deliveries. Time well spent.
The highlight of the weekend was our dinner Saturday night at Bret Favre's Steakhouse where both teams and the TATT were joined by Mark Murphy, current President of the Green Bay Packers. We enjoyed a wonderful meal and Mr. Murphy shared some of the Packer's vision for "winning organizations" as well as some stories of his playing career with the Washington Redskins under Joe Gibbs.
All-in-all a very good start to our quest for Gold! Trust me, we ARE NOT just satisfied to be going.
The most important component of the weekend was, without a doubt, our first look at a revised training schedule for the next year. The goal of the schedule is to make sure that we are the best prepared curling team in Vancouver! Essentially, once we return from the World Championships in Moncton, we'll have a short time off and then we'll be on a two weekends-on and one weekend-off schedule right through August! Most of that time will be spent in Green Bay. However, there looks to be a couple of trips to other training centers on the Schedule as well......San Diego and Colorado Springs are both possibilities.
In August our competition schedule will begin in earnest. It looks like we'll be spending some time overseas. I am not at liberty to say where just yet but I can say that Europe and the Pacific Rim are in the mix! As you might expect, we'll also be spending a fair amount of time in Canada again. However, the level of competition will be considerably higher on average than we saw this year. As of now, we're scheduled to play in all four Grand Slam of Curling events. The Grand Slam is a series of four WCT events that host the best in the world to play for some serious cash! All are usually televised in Canada. Very exciting stuff!
Some other things of note:
5th man - after much deliberation and discussion, we decided on a new 5th man to join us on this journey......Chris Plys. As you might remember, we had a few battles against Chris this year. Because Chris is from Duluth and has played with John, Ike and Smitty before and the fact that he is a great curler with a Jr. World Championship (2008) and a Jr. World Bronze (2009) to his name, he became the logical choice. We're very excited to have Chris join the team!
Olympic Coach - this is a longer story, but the short version is that Olympic Coaches need to be qualifed to make the trip. Unfortunately, Brian Simonson doesn't yet have the qualifications. so Brian will make the trip to Worlds with us, but he will be transitioning his duties over to our new coach, Phil Drobnick. Phil is a longtime friend and curler from the Iron Range and surprise, surprise, he was Chris Plys' coach! Kind of makes sense, huh? Phil will bring a wealth of World experience with him from his last few years with Chris' team.
Okay, almost done. So we're off and running as Team USA! We head out tomorrow for Victoria, British Columbia for the last WCT event of the year. The Bear Mountain Arena Curling Classic! Many of the teams that we'll see in Moncton will be at this event, so it will be a good test for us. Online scoring should be available and I have posted the link to the right.
Thank you all so much for the support. More to come.....
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Along with all of that activity has been the beginnings of planning our next year, which looks to very busy indeed. Eventually, I’ll be moving this update to a blog which will chronicle our year. The blog will be available via our team website which is already under construction. But for now, I will give you a brief sketch of the next month or so:
March 13-15 – World Team Prep Camp – Green Bay, WI
March 25-29 – Bear Mountain Cash Spiel – Victoria, BC
April 1-13 – Ford Men’s World Curling Championships – Moncton, NB
April 18-19 – World Debrief and Analyze – Duluth, MN
May 2-3 – Olympic Orientation – Colorado Springs, CO???
After that the penciled in dates make it look like we’ll be busy at least two weekends per month right up to the Olympic Games themselves next February!
Family, friends and co-workers have already set plans in motion to come watch us in Vancouver. Tickets have not yet gone on sale, but all the information you need can be found at www.vancouver2010.com. Looks like the best way to go will be to rent some housing either in Vancouver or Seattle.
You’ll probably get sick of hearing me thank you all but the response has been nothing short of incredible!
So Thank You again everyone!
More to come . . .
Sunday, March 1, 2009
We'll it now has much more meaning than that!
YES, YES, YES!!! We did it!
Team Shuster is the 2009 US National Champion and 2010 Men's Olympic Team! WE ARE GOING TO VANCOUVER!!!! WOOOOOOHOOOOO!
Even as I write this it still hasn't quite hit me yet. Lots of great e-mails, phone calls, and facebook messages. Lots of happy tears and a whole bunch of planning to do.
I wanted to write this right away today to let all of you know how special your support has been to me and the team. I am truly blessed with a wonderful family and great friends and coworkers who have stood by me in this dream through the tough times and the good times. I realize that I am very fortunate to be able to live my dream and understand that it is not nearly possible without the sacrifices and support of others. YOU ARE ALL PART OF THIS BIG THING. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU.
I also want to give special thanks to my devoted wife Carrie. She has really made life pretty easy for me and has never asked me to give up on this when there are many times that she had every reason to. Thank you for sticking it out with me honey. I love you.
So what now? LOTS! There are new goals and new dreams to fulfill. In the immediate plan is our trip to the World Championships in Moncton, NB.
I'll keep you all up to date on our progress. Thanks again for everything!
TEAM USA!!!!! :)
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Well,, we’re almost there! Tomorrow we leave for Denver to begin the last leg of our journey to Vancouver!
The last two weeks have been filled with much planning and organizing for our ten day trip. Hotel rooms, rental cars, new equipment and uniforms and the addition of a coach were at the top of the list. On that note I should mention that our new coach is Brian Simonson of Chisholm, MN. Brian has been around curling for many years and is a close friend to the Shuster family and is familiar with all of the guys on our team. Brian even spent a few years playing with and against my brothers Michael and Tim so I have had a chance to get to know him as well. Brian is also part of a team that recently won the U.S. Senior Nationals. For Brian this will be third time and will be representing the U.S. at senior worlds. We’re very excited to have him join us in Colorado and bring his knowledge and objective viewpoint to the team.
My wife Carrie has been busy setting up her plans with family who are tentatively planning trips out to watch. She will also be working with the USCA as a media liaison during the week so she will be able to keep busy! (She can’t bear to watch sometimes J) A note to those of you who would like more frequent updates while were in Denver: Carrie has her own e-mail list that she sends to with day to day updates from a fan’s perspective. If you are just dying to get all of the “dirt of the day” from Denver, just send a note to Benton@augsburg.edu to have her add you to her list.
Mixed in with the planning have been many phone and e-mail conversations with my teammates. We all have spent some time on individual practice to keep in tune. But again, we’re well beyond “tweaking” time. Now it’s just time to go play!
Overall, the team seems to be in that workman like mode that we’ve been in for the last month or so. We really just want to get started.
For your convenience I have attached the detailed draw schedule so you can figure out when we play and who.
There has been a little buzz in the media about the trials in general and I would expect that to continue and probably pick up as next week starts to unfold. Here are a couple of nice pieces from this week.
(nice video piece from Duluth) http://www.wdio.com/article/stories/S795185.shtml?cat=10348
As far as live coverage goes, you will have the usual line scoring and standings updates at: http://www.usacurl.org/curlingrocks/
In addition there will be information on that site about an “Audiocast” over the web. There will likely be one for every set of games. It usually requires Winamp, but I’m not sure this year. They should have detailed instructions available on the site.
And of course, the big announcement was that NBC will be airing 12 hours of LIVE coverage from Denver on their 24 hour sports station NBC Universal! You will also be able to pick these games up on www.UniversalSports.com.
And for the 100th time, we all thank you and our sponsors for every bit of support you have given us. You really have no idea what it means! Keep it coming!
Thanks again. Wish us luck.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
In addition to the competition there were USOC Trainers, Coaches and Officials present which allowed us to get some insight on the direction that the USOC wants to see curling move. It also afforded us some time with the trainers to work on advanced exercises and stretching techniques to help us stay fit over the 10 day event in Denver. We also did a series of “Functional Movement” tests that we will repeat over time. These test balance, agility, and mobility and are used in many other sports to set a baseline for fitness. For instance, in Pro-Football a minimum score on these tests is a 17 for the NFL to even consider a person for playing. Our individual high was 16 and the low was 14 so we have some work to do in these areas. All very interesting stuff that I never thought I’d be talking about in the same breath with curling! J
BIG NEWS! The long awaited announcement about Broadcast coverage from Denver! NBC will be airing 12 hours of LIVE coverage from Denver on their 24 hour sports station NBC Universal! Of course NBC Universal is only found on cable in limited markets, but do not fear….you will also be able to pick these games up on www.UniversalSports.com. The 12 hours will only be the Semi-Finals and Finals but at least it’s something! For more information look here: http://www.usacurl.org/curlingrocks//index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=601&Itemid=1
Otherwise travel plans have all been settled and we’re just about ready for our trip. Just trying to get our finances in order and we’ll be set.
I’ll check in one more time next week before we go.
Thanks as always for all of the well wishes and support!
Monday, February 2, 2009
All I can say is wow! We’re moving on to Denver!
What a week! All of the work we put in this year finally came together. We’re “peaking” at the right time.
We really went about things one game at a time and found a good rhythm. We ended up with an 8-1 record, which is quite an accomplishment considering how tough the field was at this event. And actually our one loss came to the Disher team in a game that didn’t really have any significance due to the fact that we had both qualified by that time. We ended up playing just 6 ends in that game for fun.
Our most dramatic win came late in the week against team Fenson (John Shuster’s old team and the reigning Olympic Team). We were 6-0 at the time and knew that by winning this game we’d likely be assured of advancing. The game was very well played on both sides and we were all tied up going into the last end where we had the advantage of last stone. When we got to that last stone, team Fenson was counting one point near the center of the rings and it was behind cover so we could not remove it. So we had to put one in there closer to the center for the win. John let the rock go and Jeff and I began sweeping immediately. We swept the entire length of the ice with John and Jason screaming at the top of their lungs. The rock came into the rings and with the last few strokes of our brooms the rock stopped right next to the Fenson stone. It was close, but we weren’t absolutely sure we’d made it so the officials had to measure to see who was closest (a common occurrence in curling but very dramatic on the last shot of a game). Our stone ended up ¼ inch closer than theirs! A game of inches!
That win assured us of advancing to the Trials! Whew!
So we now begin getting ready for the final stage on the road to the Olympics in Vancouver! Yes, this is now a very real possibility! The final trials are a similar event with a 10 team round robin, only this time there is a playoff between the top 4 teams at the end of the week. It is called the “Page Playoff” system. For more information on how this works, please see this Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Page_playoff_system
The first item on the agenda is a pre-trials training camp in Green Bay this weekend which is being hosted by the USCA and USOC. A very exclusive event for 4 Men’s and 4 Women’s teams that have qualified for Denver.
Also on the agenda are the usual plans for new uniforms, Flights, Hotel, Rental Cars, etc. for the team, family members and friends for the 10 day trip to Denver. Lots to do!
Anyone interested in attending the event can find all of the necessary information at the Denver Sports Commission’s website:
And / Or the usual USCA Website:
A very special thanks to our families, friends, and sponsors. This really would not be possible without all of the support we’ve gotten this year. You are all part of this team!
Of course I’ll keep you updated on all of the happenings in the next few weeks as we train, plan, and raise funds for the trip.
ON TO THE TRIALS! WOO HOO!
Monday, January 26, 2009
Time for an update. For those of you recently added to this e-mail list, please feel free to catch up by reading the thread below.
Well we’re off to Bismarck tomorrow! We’ve all been hard at work at our respective jobs trying to get ahead or caught up as the case may be.
Of course we’ve all spent plenty of practice time on the ice as well. At this point in the season practice is more about maintenance than anything else. No major fixes or tweaks at this point. However, as part of my ongoing quest to relieve the minor back pain I experience from time to time, I did move to a new pair of curling shoes (yes, we have special shoes!). This seems to have helped a great deal. I am looking forward to not feeling quite as old! J
So now it’s time to “Leave it all on the ice” as they say. As I mentioned earlier, we need to finish in the top 4 of this field to advance to Denver. One game and one stone at a time, right?
I don’t have a specific schedule to tell you who we play and when, but I do know that the first game will be at 10:00 AM Central Time on Wednesday.
As usual there will be live scoring and standings posted on the USCA website at http://www.curlingrocks.net/. Once there, click on the “Championships” link at the top of the page. There should be something regarding scoring from the “Challenge Round” on the right side of the page.
Thanks again and wish us luck!
Monday, January 12, 2009
We had a very good weekend but did come up one win short of going directly to Denver. We lost the qualifying game to the Chris Plys rink. Chris’s team is the reigning Jr. Men’s World Champion and are very good. They are from Duluth and Chris and John Shuster have played together as well so we were playing against familiar faces. In fact, that team seems to have our number this year as it was our third loss to them. Honestly, we just didn’t play very well that last game. Really too bad. So very close!
As you can imagine this one stings a bit so it will take a few days for us to rebound. But rebound we will! After all, we are advancing to the Challenge Round in Bismarck, ND in a couple of weeks. There are 29 other teams that are not advancing at all.
As I mentioned earlier the Challenge Round will feature 10 teams that, like us, just missed advancing from their sites. The interesting thing is that the list of teams for this event feature 5 of the top 6 teams in the country right now.
The Challenge Round teams:
P. Fenson – Multiple National Champ and Olympic Bronze Medalist
Disher – National Champ and 3 Time Runner-Up
Brown – Multiple National Champ (current)
Larway – Multiple National Champ
So as you can see this will be a “meat grinder” all very tough games. This will be a 10 team round robin (9 games) so we’ll have to play extremely well to make the top 4 to advance to Denver. More work to do!
Thanks again for the continued support. As we get closer to Bismarck, I’ll send you the information you’ll need to follow the action.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
The #2 teams from each pool play for the remaining spot to the Challenge round. The loser of this game is out (*** see the note below)
So as you can see there is a tie in both pools for 1st and 2nd.
So tomorrow morning at 9:00 am we will play a tie-breaker game against Brown and Plys and Lilla will do the same.
The winners will be the #1 teams from their pool and the losers will be th #2 teams. So we need to win two games tomorrow to go to Denver. If we go 1 and 1 we go to the Challenge round and 0-2 and we're out....kinda'.
*** Note: So you rember how all year I was saying that eventhough we didn't win a spiel that we earned important WCT points? Here's where they come in. Only 8 teams from the 4 sites qualify by win loss record for the Challenge round. So there are two additional spots available to the top two WCT points teams that have not already advanced to Denver. I know it's a bit complicated but suffice to say that we have a good chance of making it to the Challenge Round if things went horribly bad tomorrow (which it won't).
So for now we're resting at the room and will get some food.
Thanks to everyone for checking in! We really appreciate it. We'll go out and win both of those games tomorrow!
Have a good night and set your alarms for 9:00 AM!!!!
Hope this makes sense!
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
You can get the online scoring and watch our win/loss record here:
Remember that we need to finish in the top 3 to advance:
#1 goes directly to the Final trials in Denver
#2 and #3 go to the Challenge Round in Bismarck
Thanks again. Wish us luck.