Scotties Tournament of Hearts: Coach helps teach Ontario rink to play as a team

There was a time when Rachel Homan's rink from the Ottawa Curling Club was like a new-born colt trying to figure out how to use its long, spindly legs.

Homan's team was full of talent. The players just had to grow into it.

Coach Earle Morris has played a key role in helping the team harness and nurture its raw ability. His influence is one reason why Homan's Ontario rink advanced to the playoffs at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Kingston, Ont., with a 10-1 round-robin record.

Morris, who represented three provinces at the Brier when he curled, had worked with Homan since she was 13. The two sides parted company for a couple years and Andrea Ronnebeck acted as the team's coach.

Morris, who spent one season coaching Jennifer Jones of Manitoba, returned to work with Homan this season.

"When I coached them they were going from 13 to 20," Morris said. "That's a tough time for anybody.

"Now what I am seeing is a higher level of maturity. Their practise ethic is second to none. They've always been an amazing team. Now they are demonstrating it at a higher level."

Morris said the rink could throw all the shots but still had not learned how to be a team.

"We've worked hard on team dynamics, making sure we are positive out there and trusting," he said. "We really work hard at being in a good place on the ice from a mental toughness point of view and also from a team dynamic point of view."

Third Emma Miskew, 24, denies there ever was any conflict among the team, which also includes second Alison Kreviazuk, 24, and lead Lisa Weagle, 27.

"There's a lot more respect among the players," she said. "Not like there wasn't respect before. When we were younger we all got along. But maybe when you are younger you are a little more sensitive.

"Now, because we have played together for so long, we know we are all trying so hard. We're all friends."

Homan said the team has grown on and off the ice.

"It doesn't come overnight," said the 23-year-old skip. "You have to grow with it and get experience. It's been a collaborative effort where we are right now.

"We make less mistakes. Even if we do, we talk about them and learn from them."

Having Morris back as coach is a stabilizing affect.

"His presence on the ice is comforting, knowing that he really knows his stuff," said Homan. "If I'm kind of undecided about a shot, he's going to have my back.

"I'm young. I'm still learning strategy. He has so much more experience than all of us. That's a big thing."

Miskew said the team always used to be in a hurry. They are now mastering the art of patience.

"As kids we wanted to beat everybody with as many points as we could," she said. "We didn't like close games as much.

"Now we are more comfortable in close games."

Homan said Morris has tried to change the team's thought process.

"He tried to program us not to be all-or-nothing," she said. "It's taken a while. "