The curlers always shine in the spotlight of every Season of Champions event, but all competitive teams will attribute a fair share of their success to the dedication of their coach.
When the 2012 Capital One Canada Cup hits the ice, November 28 to December 2 at Mosaic Place, the coaches will be critical members of the 14 top teams in the country competing in Moose Jaw.
Coincidentally, the city boasts two of the most highly respected coaches in the game. Merv Fonger and Roger Anholt were fellow teachers at the community’s Peacock High School, shared a passion for the roaring game and were dedicated to its development among the younger generation.
Fonger guided the Amber Holland and Cindy Street teams to the Canadian Junior Curling Championships and ultimately the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. The crowning achievement came in 2011 when Holland won the Scotties and a silver medal at the Capital One World Women’s Curling Championship.
Anholt skipped the Saskatchewan team at the 1976 Brier in Regina as well as the 1972 representatives in the Canadian Mixed Curling Championship before taking on the role of mentor. He coached the province’s junior men’s teams at the national championships in 1996, 1999 and 2000 and the Saskatchewan crew skipped by Saskatoon’s Tracy Streifel at the Scott Tournament of Hearts.
Joel Jordison, one of Anholt’s more successful students, describes him as “a good friend and the main influence in my curling career.” It was Anholt who encouraged him to get involved in the game as a youngster and served as his coach throughout high school and beyond.
“He’s had a pretty good run of success at the provincial and national junior championships,” notes Jordison, “working with players like myself, Pat Simmons and Jason Ackerman.”
In 1996, he led the team to a Canadian junior curling championship with Ackerman at third. Anholt also contributed his knowledge of the game to the Jordison foursome that represented Saskatchewan at the 2009 Tim Hortons Brier.
For the upcoming season, Jordison is reuniting with 2010 Canadian mixed champion Ackerman and, fittingly, they’ve asked Anholt to coach. “It’s the first time Jason and I have been together since 1996… and right from the start, we agreed to ask Roger to help us out.”
Anholt confirms that he will serve in an advisory role for the new team. “I don’t know that I’ll be there as a full-time coach but I’ll certainly spend some time with them and hopefully travel to a few competitions.”
He describes his coaching experiences as rewarding in many aspects. “Certainly from a competitive aspect there are rewards in how well your teams do, and we did have some success. But, I was also able to teach the young guys like Pat Simmons, Joel Jordison, Jason Ackerman and Brock Montgomery in the classroom as well as on the ice… and it was just great to watch their development in both environments.”
The Canada Cup presents an exciting opportunity for Saskatchewan’s passionate curling fans, comments Anholt. “These are the very best curlers in the country and it’s a great chance for the fans to see them in our brand new building. Just the whole atmosphere of the competition is something to take in. And, as fierce as the competition can get on the ice, there’s a fellowship among the athletes that I don’t think exists in most other sports.”
When competition gets underway this November, he’ll be doing his part in a volunteer capacity to ensure its success. “I’ll be there as a driver for the athletes and officials… and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Fonger first became involved at the coaching level when he and Anholt taught together at Peacock High School. “One of the requirements of the position was involvement in an extra-curricular activity… rather than sell tickets for the drama club or something like that, we decided to start a curling program. We were both competitive curlers so it made sense. He took the boys and I took the girls and we both had a great deal of success. At one point it was one of the most successful programs in the country.”
One of the greatest rewards of coaching, along with the achievements of their teams, is the fact that so many of those players have stayed with the game. “Whether it’s at the provincial or national level, or just as a club curler, I walk into the curling club and see so many of the players I coached still at it.”
The Capital One Canada Cup will be important in terms of generating interest in the sport within the community, notes Fonger. “A lot of the people who have volunteered aren’t even curlers but they’ve seen the TSN broadcasts and marketing and want to get involved in a championship event.”
Asked if he can be counted among the volunteers, he says he’ll definitely be at work. “They’ll find something for me to do… not sure what it is yet but I’ll be involved. I was hoping to be there as a coach – I’ve been in it the past three years (Amber Holland) but it wasn’t meant to be.”
“You Gotta Be There” in Saskatchewan’s “Coach’s Corner” for the 2012 Capital One Canada Cup. The best seats in the house are on sale right now – get yours today just by clicking here.