Kaylee Davis got some quality time with his new friends and mentors, Team Tardi, during the junior national championships in his hometown of Prince Albert, Sask. last week. (Paul Tardi/Special to Black Press)

Saddling up along-side the ‘big boys’ – Langley curling champs offer mentorship

An 11-year-old aspiring curler got to spend time shadowing Team BC at the junior nationals.

Sadly, Kayle Davis couldn’t be at the national championships Sunday to watch his team, his friends, his new mentors take the gold.

But the 11-year-old Prince Albert boy will never forget his time with Tyler Tardi – and the rest of Team BC – during the junior nationals this past week in his hometown.

In fact, the youngster’s encounter with Team Tardi has left him so stoked, that Kayle’s proclaimed to his mother his intent to one day follow in their footsteps and compete in the junior nationals.

“He loves curling and this just made his interest in the sport increase even more,” said Susan Davis, Kayle’s mother.

The Grade 6er was part of a new Future Stars program, which saw 28 aspiring young curlers matched with teams during the nationals.

The intention, explained Anita Tardi – manager of Team BC’s – is to “inspire young local curlers to either start or keep curling.”

“Our flag bearer was Kayle and he was so excited to meet the team,” Anita said.

In this case, Kayle was matched with Tardi and his team. And while the youngster admittedly knew nothing about the Langley-based curlers until he learned of his match, an online search of Team Tardi quickly got this Future Star up to speed.

Kayle is in his second year of beginner league at the Prince Albert Golf and Curling Club, and this was his first time attending a “real” curling competition.

Turns out that Kayle spent several hours throughout the week with the team, his highlights serving as flag bearer and walking out onto the ice with Team BC during the opening ceremonies, then joining the team on the ice during warm ups and ahead of one of their earlier games.

Side note: Team BC only lost one of its nine games during the New Holland Canadian Juniors.

Kayle described his encounter as an awesome, unforgettable experience.

“Kayle thought they were so nice and he felt they really included him,” Mom said.

If there’s one lesson the young boy learned, it was how to make his own curling shoes with sliders.

“And he enjoyed when the team was all trying to do tricks with their brooms and balancing them in their feet,” Susan recounted.

Has hanging out with Team BC – which became the first-ever three-time junior champs – changed the way Kayle looks at curling?

“Kayle has loved curling since he was just a toddler and I think this just made it that more real for him,” Mom said.

“Kayle liked them all he enjoyed how they all really spent time with him and included him, and also coach Paul Tardi really explained things to him,” she elaborated.

In addition to the intangibles of time and friendship shared between the younger and older boys, there were a number of gifts exchanged.

The youngster walked away with a pile of tournament-sponsored swag, plus a signed curling broom, a backpack full of pins, a BC flag, a toque, a Tardi curling shirt and ice pad, plus other miscellaneous souvenirs.

If the success of the Future Stars can be measured by the exchange between Team Tardi and Kayle, this unofficial program can be expected to continue said organizers Patricia Bibby, a member of the host committee.

“I had no idea how big of a success it would be for competitors and stars. It was very well received and there were lots of positive comments.”

While Kayle couldn’t be there to watch the final game, he did insist his family tape the broadcast, and he watched it later that same day.

SEE RELATED STORY: Young Lower Mainland curlers bring home third national gold

He watched as his new friends came back from behind in the last quarter of the game against J.T. Ryan’s Manitoba team to earn the championship title by a score of 7-5.

The team will now represent Canada at the 2019 World Junior Curling Championships in Liverpool, N.S. from Feb. 16 to 23.

Team Tardi is currently in Quesnel this week playing in the provincial men’s championships.

RELATED STORY: Curling brothers face off for provincial title

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