Tuesday, March 31, 2009

From Coast to Coast, Eh?

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

The New Road to Vancouver!

Welcome to the Team Shuster blog.

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.....

John Benton
Team USA

Thursday, March 5, 2009

“So really, what’s next?” you ask.

What an incredible week this has been. I have been overwhelmed by e-mail, phone calls and the like! More good friends and supporters than I ever knew!

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 . . .

John Benton
Team USA

Sunday, March 1, 2009


That phrase started out as one of Ike's (Jeff Isaacsons) rare but funny sarcastic statements about our team.

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 Shust.......

TEAM USA!!!!! :)