By Mark Squibb | June 17, 2021
After over two decades of combined curling competition, Sam, 18, and Katie, 20, Follett of Paradise have competed at many events over the years, but the pair say an invitation to compete in the one-time World Juniors Qualifier in Saskatoon this coming November is the first time their schedules have synched so perfectly.
“When I would win provincials, he would lose, or when he won the Canada Games qualifier, I lost the final, so we’ve never been able to synch it,” said Katie. “So, it’s very exciting to be chosen for the same events. Our parents are thrilled that they don’t have to leave one of us home, so it’s definitely unique,” she laughed.
It’s also likely that it’s the first time a brother and sister from the province will attend the same World Qualifier.
Katie started curling in the St. John’s Curling Club RE/MAX Centre Saturday morning family program when she was just 7. Sam started when he was 5 after watching his sister curl. “I was always a fan of doing whatever she did,” he joked.
The two moved up through the ranks throughout the years. Katie has represented the province in many national tournaments, while Sam represented the province at the Canada Games in Red Deer, Alberta in 2019.
Like many competitive athletes, curlers have faced unique challenges in light of COVID-19.
Rather than having teams compete in a series of tournaments, member associations chose two teams, one team per gender, to compete at the Junior Qualifier event.
Katie said being chosen by the association carries a special sense of pride, as it means the team’s hard work and dedication has been recognized.
Both siblings play the mate position, and both siblings share an obvious passion for the game.
Sam noted the camaraderie with fellow players is perhaps what he loves most about curling.
“The camaraderie represented in curling is incredible,” said Sam. “My best friends are the three other guys on my team. You grow with these three other guys, along with your coach as well. I have an amazing coach and three amazing guys supporting me, so it pushes you to stay in the sport – because you’re not just playing for yourself, you’re playing for those three other guys that are with it. I was involved in other individual sports, but it never brought the same kind of emotion to a win, because you’re not only winning for yourself, but you’re winning for the three other guys on your team, who are working just as hard as you are to get to the same accomplishment.”
Katie added the sport is challenging not just physically, but mentally.
“The sport in general is really unique,” she said. “It wouldn’t be uncommon for my teammates and I to look at one another and say, ‘We play such a weird sport.’ You can try as hard as you like, you can have the best technique, you can have the best strategy, but you can still lose a game. It’s different every time. It’s different every single time you get on the ice. Every ice surface is different, rocks are different, paths are different. It’s not only an athletic sport, but it’s also really challenging mentally. You have too always be in it.”
Both siblings now also coach at the same curling club they got their start in so many years ago, and encourage anybody who is interested to give the sport a try.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to make friends, to develop your motor skills, to develop confidence, to be able to call your own game, to throw your own weight, because you’ll never see two slides that are identical,” said Sam. “It’s the most individualistic team sport that you’ll ever see. So, it’s an opportunity for anyone who wants to try something different.”
The pair also threw a bouquet to their parents, coaching staff, and sponsors, who are helping cover the cost of the tournament, which is coming out of players’ pockets.
On the male team representing the province are Nathan Young, Sam Follett, Nathan Locke, and Ben Stringer, coached by Jeff Thomas. On the female team are Mackenzie Mitchell, Katie Follett, Sarah Chaytor, and Kate Paterson, coached by Mark Noseworthy.
Teams which qualify in November will move ahead to the 2022 World Junior Championships in February.