On Monday, a group of teens in Ile a la Crosse got curling lessons from one of the best in the game.
Stefanie Lawton, who has won four Saskatchewan curling titles, took a trip to the north-western community as part of her sponsorship agreement with Cameco, which is supporting her team when they head out on the World Curling tour.
Lawton and her on-ice lead – who happens to be her sister Marliese Kasner – taught some of the basics to Grade 9 students, which included Joseph Desjarlais. She says having the high-profile visit is a good motivator.
“Get them inspired so that they think ‘I could be this good someday,’” Desjarlais said. “Because she grew up in a small town like us, she has kinda the same opportunities as us.”
The small-town connection wasn’t lost on Lawton, who has never toured a small northern community like Ile a la Crosse.
“It just opens my eyes that there’s so much up here and so many great things, and the kids are so awesome. It’s a really good feeling to be a part of this and see that maybe we’ve made a difference in a few of the kids’ lives as well,” Lawton said.
Both Desjarlais and his classmate Erica Arcand have been curling for a few years, thanks in part to the passion of their physical education teacher Elaine Favel.
“She makes it way more fun. She pushes us to do the best we can. She doesn’t take no for an answer,” Desjarlais said.
The sport’s been a great social outlet for them, and Desjarlais said he likes the strategy part of things too.
“For me it was the thinking part of the game, thinking ‘where can I put the next rock?’” he said.
They admit that curling is more popular with the older generation in Ile a la Crosse, but said family helped them get interested.
“My papa even has a move, it’s called a ‘pack rat special.’ Instead of sliding he picks up the rock and throws it down the ice,” Desjarlais said with a laugh.
In addition to hitting the ice with a Grade 9 class in the afternoon, Stefanie gave a speech at Ile a la Crosse’s Rossignol High School. Lawton spoke to about 150 teens about confidence, the importance of education, following your own path, and learning from your mistakes.
Principal Vince Ahenekew says having high-caliber athletes visit is a big morale boost.
“It gives the kids something they can look up to right away, somebody that’s still alive and still kicking nd still playing the sport. Plus I think it gives them motivation and something to look forward to and hearing their story and the things they went through, that’s basically what the things are going through themselves,” he said.
“You can see the excitement in their eyes, they’re kind of astonished looking at people walking into their classrooms.”
After supper, Lawton and Kasner played a friendly game against Ile a la Crosse’s mayor Duane Favel and some other locals.
The community’s enthusiasm was still strong at day’s end, with Duane and a few others looking to get Lawton and Kasner involved with the National Aboriginal Curling League Championship coming up soon in Saskatoon.