LIVERPOOL - The thrill of competition and the energy level at the national level - that’s what Queens County native Jennifer Crouse likes most about being on the ice.
At the end of the month, Crouse is set to head to Penticton, B.C. to compete for Nova Scotia in the 2018 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. The competition is scheduled to take place at the South Okanagan Events Centre Jan. 27-Feb. 4.
The lead curler will be with her teammates, skip Mary-Anne Arsenault, second Jennifer Baxter and third Christina Black. Carole MacLean is the alternate curler. MacLean also coaches with Peter Corkum.
Arsenault is a Canadian and world champion. Black is originally from Sydney, Cape Breton and is about to head to her second Tournament of Hearts. Baxter is from Halifax and will be competing in her third Tournament of Hearts.
Crouse’s curling career began with a quick stop at the Liverpool Curling Club to meet her friend Michelle Mouzar.
“We made plans to go watch a hockey game after school,” recalls Crouse.
Since Mouzar was at the club, that’s where Crouse met her friend so the two could go to the hockey game.
Crouse said curling looked fun, so she asked her mother if she could join the sport.
“That was just the beginning of a long curling career,” she said.
That was in 1993, when Crouse was about 13 years old.
One of Crouse’s curling idols is Sasha Carter, a curler from British Columbia. Now that Crouse has gotten to know Carter, Crouse says she’s “just awesome.” Crouse says her cousin Lori Eddy has also inspired her. Eddy curled at a high level and did well, which helped push Crouse to do well also.
Outside the curling world, Crouse says her parents and spouse have been extremely supportive of her career.
“My spouse plays fairly high level soccer, so he’s always been my biggest cheerleader,” she said.
It’s not just on-ice work that the team does to prepare for this kind of competition.
“We work with a sports psychologist. We have for a number of years,” said Crouse.
Beyond the mental prep, there’s a lot of practice that goes into getting ready for a big competition – and ‘a lot’ doesn’t mean every day for a few weeks. Arsenault, Crouse, Baxter and Black are at the Dartmouth Curling Club almost every day from the beginning of September until sometime in April.
“Most of my friends and family don’t see a lot of me for the winter,” she said. “That would be the whole team. We are super dedicated. We’re there all the time.”
And they work hard, said Crouse. Not only do they work together, but also Crouse says she and her teammates are good friends off the ice.
Since curling has become an Olympic sport, the competition level has shifted. The bar has been raised, which is why it takes so much dedication to get ready. The teammates spend time in the gym, on the ice and focusing on nutrition.
The team that wins in Penticton will head to the Ford World Women’s Curling Championship in North Bay, Ont., set to take place from March 17-25.
What happens next for Crouse and the rest of team will depend on how well things go in British Columbia.