SPRINGDALE, NL — Wins and losses aren’t everything in sports, and there is no better example of that than the Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games.
The opportunity to participate in the provincial competition, now underway in Deer Lake, is a special experience. Not every athlete gets the chance, so when life-long friends Jessica Jacobs and Mikayla Tuck of Springdale had the chance to go to their first winter games they took it — rock, broom and slider.
The two Grade 12 students at Indian River High have grown up together in Springdale and are well known as accomplished athletes. The pair would not be far down the list of those likely to represent the town and region at the games, but to do so in the sport of curling was unexpected.
They are part of a contingent of young curlers introduced to the sport over the years, starting by throwing the occasional stone at the Springdale Curling Club in Grade 7. Youth in the town are introduced to the sport in physical education class, and the Icecap Youth Centre offers an after-school program throughout the season.
Tuck and Jacobs gave curling a try and enjoyed it enough to continue the sport occasionally.
Deidre Clarke, executive director of the Icecap Centre, saw an opening in the central Newfoundland team for female curling representatives, and sought out some local girls in Springdale to form a team. She, along with Fay Rideout, coached the team.
Jacobs and Tuck were joined by Jessica’s sister Lilly Jacobs and Abbie Rowsell. As the lone entry from central, they did not have to compete to qualify for the winter games — good for their chances of getting there obviously, but not so much for their experience level prior to the competition.
The first rock they threw against the host team from Deer Lake Sunday at the Corner Brook Curling Club was their first action in a competitive game. They would go on to lose that match 14-3. Next up was a game against Labrador, and they didn’t fare much better in that one, losing 12-3.
Talking to the two friends, who are excited about the opportunity to share this experience together, you’d never know they weren’t competitive in their first two matches.
“We are having such a great time,” Jacobs said.
Trying new things
At 17 and 18 years old, the girls are too old for most winter games events. Curling was one of the few opportunities to realize a dream of competing at the games. About two months ago, the team came together to really start training.
“My first thought was I always like to try new things and it is a great opportunity to learn a new sport, meet some new people and just have some fun,” Tuck said.
The team has tremendous support from family and friends, as well as community sponsors. Their coaches helped them learn the game quickly and prepare them as best they could for the competition.
They also take a lot of pride in representing Springdale at the games.
Through Day 1, the girls took the learning experience on the ice in stride, proud they secured points in four of the ends played in the first two games. But it was meeting new people, sharing the experience with the team, watching some of the other sports and enjoying the evening entertainment that measured up to their expectations.
They remember the early years of playing soccer and hockey and the times they did not do so well as they learned the skills necessary to later excel – a similar comparison to this experience.
“We are OK with the situation,” Jacobs said. “We are having fun and having a laugh, that is important.”
They acknowledge there is still a competitive drive to do well.
“Everybody has to start somewhere,” Tuck said. “It is what it is. It’s been a big learning experience.
“When you are in the game, the adrenaline is there, so it is definitely a fire in your tummy. I think that comes natural for us four because we have always had that competitive vibe to us.”
Despite the rough start, that competitive fire paid off in a rematch against Labrador with a berth to the bronze medal match on the line. The curlers from Springdale pulled out a narrow 9-8 victory in an extra end and were scheduled to play St. John’s North in the bronze-medal game Tuesday morning.
Regardless of the outcome, the curling team representing central Newfoundland planned to take the positives from the whole experience and soak up every minute they could.
“It is really special,” Jacobs said. “When we put this team together, everybody knew each other, so we didn’t have to bond or anything. It is really special to come here with them, especially being in Grade 12 and this being one of our last few times together.”