Prep school

ANGELA MacISAAC -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

In the immortal words of Aerosmith, life's a journey, not a destination.

The destination for 20 curling teams in Canada is the Olympic trials in Halifax Dec. 3-11.

The journey to qualify was already long enough but now there's an off-season to endure.

Endure summer? Hardly. But despite the sunshine and outdoor activities, curling won't be far from the mind. At least Bill Tschirhart hopes so.

Tschirhart is the Canadian Curling Association's national development coach, working out of the National Training Centre in Calgary.

The teams that have qualified, including Calgary's Shannon Kleibrink and John Morris, have off-season preparation to do, Tschirhart said.

"They will be working very hard through the summer --if they're smart," he said. "They have to make sure that when they hit the ice in September to really hone their skills they're on a nutritionally sound program and they'll be physically ready to be the best they can be."

Team dynamics are also a homework project, he said, but by the new season, those issues should be behind each squad. The key, Tschirhart added, is why they qualified for trials.

"Curling teams generally don't do that enough," he said. "They don't identify the factors for their success and concentrate on that when things get a little difficult."

That's especially important for one that didn't do well down the stretch, with Morris as an example.

The 26-year-old skip came off a high-flying 2003-04 season, winning the Grand Slam's PharmAssist Players Championship. But Morris, third Kevin Koe, second Mark Kennedy and lead Paul Moffatt failed to climb the money list this season, qualify for the Brier or make the playoff round in many events.

Tschirhart said not to be deceived by such results.

"It really is all about peaking," he said. "There was a time when I didn't put much stock in that but certainly in our sport, you do have to play well when the chips are down and everything's on the line.

"And there's nothing more on the line than the curling trials."

But on the flipside, there's Kleibrink, third Amy Nixon, second Glenys Bakker and lead Christine Keshen who wrapped up the season by winning the women's Canada Cup last month. Can they maintain that into next season? Tschirhart doesn't see any reason why not.

"They'll have to build on that through the course of the summer, make sure they put everything in perspective," he said. "Sometimes you can get on a roll a little too early. I'm not suggesting that's the case here but a lot of the times, you can't choreograph that. You just play as well as you can."

And what becomes of the teams that didn't make it to the Olympic trials? Getting back on the ice might be tough but, Tschirhart said, they have to remember why they love the game.

"We always say it is the game and the journey, not the destination," he said.

"There will be teams now who will start to build for the next Olympiad. Of course, there's a real carrot there to wear the Maple Leaf in Vancouver in 2010."

And of course, all of the men's teams at trials -- from Morris to Edmonton's KevinMartin and Halifax's Mark Dacey -- will need their tanks on full.

Because they'll be facing the Ferbey Four, currently fighting for their third world championship in Victoria.

"If you're going to go to Turin, you have to go through Randy Ferbey," Tschirhart said. "There's no question about it.

"I'm not saying he'll win it but that's the quality of team you have to beat. You have to elevate your team to that level."

And that opinion doesn't change, knowing Ferbey already has lost to Germany and the U.S.


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