Catching up with Coach Phill

By Suzanna Viau | April 22, 2019, 4:20 p.m. (ET)

This is part six in a web series catching up with members of the 2018 Olympic Men's Curling Team that won gold. Last, but not least, we have the coach of Team Shuster, Phill Drobnick. Coach Phill has a number of accomplishments as a player and coach at the national, world, and Olympic level. This Minnesota native has been a key to the success of Team Shuster over the last four years. Let's catch up with Coach Phill, who is now Director of Coaching and the Men's National Program for USA Curling.


What advice would you give to your junior curling self?


To follow your dreams, to focus on what you want to achieve. Continue to put all the hard work in even if you realize you might be missing out on things. Because the harder you work, and the more time and effort you put into it, the more likely you are to achieve what you want to achieve.


Today a lot of people talk about a “shortage” of great curling coaches, what was your journey into coaching, and what do you think aspiring coaches should do to get started?


I got started into coaching that back in 2006 when my cousin joined a junior team with Chris Plys that needed a coach. Their focus was on wanting someone younger that could maybe understand them better. We had a lot of success, and won three national championships and then went on to win a World gold and a World bronze. During that time period, I realized how much I enjoy working with others and helping others to achieve their goals. In my first four years I learned how to deal with personalities and to better understand the coaching roles and how important they are in our game. I think over the last 10 years, I really was able to focus in on what characteristics are best for coaching, and what makes a great curling coach and what makes a great coach in general. That's been something that I've really been able to hone in on and focus on and try to assist others with when they've been wanting to get into coaching.


If you could time travel when would you go and why?


If I were to go back to any time frame, I would love to go back and relive the 60s between the the music scenes that we're going with the Beatles coming. And then with the political scene that we had with JFK, and the Nixon administration, Vietnam, I think that would be a great time to go back to.


What is the most beautiful place you’ve gotten to visit while travelling for curling?


The White House is an amazing historical place. I’ve been able to go there twice through Olympic experiences and that is an amazing place to visit in terms of history. Otherwise, I think Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities because it’s right on the water and the city itself is so clean.


What movie do you love, but most people think it’s a bad movie?


I don’t know if most people think it’s a bad movie, but I love Tin Cup. I could watch it a million times over and over. We've had a couple of one liners that we've used on the bench in particular with John's team. Joe Polo and I, when we know that John's gonna go really aggressive, and he's going to go all in in that particular end, and we'll look at each other and we'll say, “Hit the three wood, Roy.”


What is the nicest shot that you have ever been a part of (other than the 5 in the 8th shot at the Olympics)?


One of the most important ones was in the 10th end of the junior national championship game, we had an opportunity to score a three and and win in regulation. Our rock was a little heavy coming down the sheet and as a team we recognized that and swept it past our shot stone and ended up not leaving them a double that would have ended the game. It was memorable because it allowed us to make it to the extra end, and we ended up winning the junior national championship.


What is one thing you wish people knew about curling, or wish they understood?


I wish that people understood more on how big of an impact coaching can have in sports. We see teams that continue to win on the world stage that have a strong support system, from sports psychology, to sports medicine, to fitness, and team coaching so I think that a lot of people don't realize what happens behind the scenes. In my opinion, that coach-athlete relationship is one of the number one things that can help a team to be successful, and a lot of people don't quite see that because they don't get to see the pre- and post-game meetings and things that coaches are doing.


Suzanna Viau is a junior curler from Wisconsin. Originally from Stevens Point, Wis., but now curling out of St. Paul as a student at the University of Minnesota. She is a U18 National Championships bronze medalist and two-time Wisconsin State High School Champion. Keep an eye out for the next installment featuring Tyler George.


Coach Phill Drobnick (far left) with the 2018 Olympic Curling Team. (photo by Rich Harmer)