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West Shore curling coach keeps B.C. champs on track
Jody Epp has a mind for the technical and behind-the-scenes aspects of curling.
That was part of the reason he was asked to coach the John Morris rink for this season and next as they work toward representing Canada at the 2018 Olympics.
Having helped guide the Morris rink to a B.C. championship win last weekend in Abbotsford and earn a berth in the 2017 Tim Horton’s Brier, Epp, a Metchosin resident, reflected on what it’s like to be a full-fledged member of a B.C. champion this time around.
“I’ve been working with the team all year as the coach full time, so going into the (provincials) I knew I was with these guys and nobody else,” he said. Epp was picked up as a fifth player for the Brier in 2014 with this Vernon and Kelowna-based foursome, but this time, he said, “I got to share in the whole process.”
Morris and company, with former skip Jim Cotter throwing third rocks this year, Tyrel Griffith at second and Rick Sawatsky playing lead, won a 6-3 final Sunday against the rink of Dean Joanisse, who represented B.C. at the Brier in 2007 when based at the Victoria Curling Club.
The champions will be in St. John’s, N.L. for the Brier from March 4 to 12.
Living on the West Shore, with the team located in the Okanagan, has been a challenge for Epp, but he has managed to join the group for two events and a training camp.
“The key is, they make any shot they call, it’s really just a question of whether their head gets in the way,” he said. “I work with them on the mental side of things and make sure they’re in the right state of mind when they go out onto the ice.”
While the Brier has long been recognized as Canada’s top men’s curling event, it’s a stepping stone to greater things for the Morris rink, Epp said. “They’re shooting for the 2018 Olympics, that’s openly their goal,” he said. “The idea is to build up enough (Order of Merit) points to be ranked high enough to get into the Olympic trials.”
Winning the Brier gives a team an automatic berth into the trials, he noted. With that at stake, he plans plenty of preparation with the curlers. They’ll be stopping in Ottawa for a few days before arriving in St. John’s, to do some training and mentally prepare for the week-long event, Epp said.
He will also scout the other teams and their tendencies, keep track of how certain sheets of ice are playing, and even study the patterns of each pair of rocks used, based on the statistics.
The players look after their own fitness routine, he said, “but if they go through a time when they need to be re-motivated or re-inspired,” that’s where he comes in. “If they lose a key game, it’s about how do they rebound, how do they reset themselves so they can go into the next event and play at the top of their game?”
The Morris rink is a certainty to qualify for the Olympic pre-trials event, Epp said, but they’d much prefer to gain a free pass with a Brier win.
Epp points out that before the 2014 Olympics, rinks skipped by Morris and Ontario’s Brad Jacobs came through the pre-trials qualifier event and wound up playing in the Olympic trials final, which Jacobs won to become the Olympic representative.