(STEVENS POINT, Wis.) - After leading the U.S. to the first world junior men's gold medal since 1984, Phill Drobnick of Duluth, Minn., has been named 2008 USA Curling Coach of the Year.
"It's quite an honor to be named Coach of the Year joining the likes of Bob Fenson and Scott Baird who are people I grew up admiring and watching," Drobnick said.
Drobnick, 27, led the Chris Plys team to the championship title in March in Ostersund, Sweden. "Our first goal was getting back to (junior) nationals and from there, we knew we'd have some real tough competition. There are a lot of good, young teams in the U.S. We knew going into the year we had a good chance of being on the medal stand at worlds. We met our goals ... and surpassed them," Drobnick said. "Long-term, we'd love to make it back and defend our gold, but it's not going to be easy." Drobnick has had curling success of his own that he can hand down to the team after representing the U.S. at the 2000 World Junior Championships, where his team finished sixth.
The organizing of schedules and fund-raisers in the off-season and team practices and competitions during the curling season makes the coaching job a year-round commitment, said Drobnick, who works full-time as a probation officer with St. Louis (Minn.) County. "I couldn't count the hours, but it's an enjoyable thing. They are a great group of guys to work with, and I credit them for this award because they've been so easy to work with."
Mike Solem, 46, Cohasset, Minn., has been named the 2008 USA Curling Developmental Coach of the Year. Solem coached the Miranda Solem rink to a bronze-medal finish at the 2008 USA Curling Junior National Championship in the team's first appearance at the event.
"This honor is very special and appreciated considering there are numerous coaches that have not been recognized or thanked enough who have also dedicated countless hours to developing curlers," Solem said. "There are a lot of support people behind every competitive curler, and I am very grateful to them for their support."
Solem, who works in sales and marketing for Nelson Wood Shims in Cohassset, Minn., got his curling start in 1980 from his grandfather and uncle. He coaches daughters Miranda, 16, and Chelsea, 14, along with Grace Gabower (Milton, Wis.) and Julie Lilla (Centerville, Wis.). Solem's best moment coaching the team so far was watching them step on the medal stand at Junior Nationals this season. "This team worked extremely hard for 11 months, demonstrated a lot of character and had a history of finishing strong but now we are up to our toughest challenge...Nationals. That week was very long and physically and mentally draining, and we had a very young team with their first trip to Nationals. What did they do on their last day just prior to their biggest game of their short curling careers? They just let loose with excitement, went shopping and had fun in everything they did together as a team and later that day won a bronze medal. I would like to have bottled that day. I still get tears and goose bumps thinking about it."
The Coach of the Year and Development Coach of the Year awards are determined by the USCA Coaching Committee. Winners of these awards are nominated for the United States Olympic Committee's annual coaching awards as well.
USA Curling is sponsored by AIT Worldwide Logistics, AmerAust Technologies and Nike.
Minnesota's Drobnick, Solem named top USA Curling coaches for 2008