A PRACTICE OF PERSPECTIVE
Curling Day in Canada influencer: Kevin Koe
Curling is a game that requires skill, discipline, patience, speed, power, and perspective so when someone asks Kevin Koe how he got to where he is today – his answer is a true testament to the mindset that he has developed and honed throughout his four decades of experience on the ice.
A long, long, long time ago…well, it wasn’t quite that long, but as Koe tells it, his start in the game in Inuvik, NWT around grade 4 or 5 feels like an actual lifetime ago.
“It was just natural ice, nothing too serious but I really enjoyed it. Soon thereafter, we moved to Yellowknife and I started to play a bit more. I even helped the ice maker make ice […] I liked it right from the start. You can play by yourself or as a team. I could throw rocks whenever I wanted and I could tinker around whenever I liked.”
It was the element of strategy that kept Koe coming back day in and day out, and by 1994 he won his first territorial junior men’s curling championships which earned him the right to skip the Northwest Territories/Yukon team at the 1994 Canadian Junior Curling Championships. That was the start of big things to come, but Kevin “King of the North” Koe admits it wasn’t always easy to stay the course.
“Because of the remoteness of where I learned, there were not a lot of curlers back then and access to competition. It was tough to find teams to let alone play with, never mind against, and truthfully, it could get boring at times. The big eye-opener for me was the first junior Canadians, I had no idea where we stood in skill level because we hadn’t played anyone. Once I got a taste of it, it was very exciting!”
Today, as a two-time World champion and four-time Canadian Champion, excitement and victory are experiences Kevin Koe knows all too well, but so too does he know the sting of their counterparts: defeat and loss.
In 2018 Koe was the skip for the Canadian men’s team at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, the team finished fourth. For a nation that prides itself on being the best curling nation in the world, neither Canada’s men’s nor women’s curling teams won medals in 2018. This was the first time either team missed the podium in five Olympics; it sent a shockwave through Canada’s curling community.
However, Koe didn’t reflect on that moment in that fashion.
“I’ve made peace with the fact that if you’re going to play at this level you’re going to lose some games,” explained Koe from his home in Calgary.
“Hopefully, you win your fair share of them. Hopefully, you take something from the loss. I don’t ever look back and say ‘what if?’. The losses give you perspective in sport and life. When I was younger it was life or death but now, I have perspective and can take something from it. After all, there is more to life than curling.”
Koe made special note of how fortunate he has been to have had, and continues to play with, some truly incredible teammates. He strongly believes that success is tied to the team dynamic, and in a sport where you get to choose your team – he advises to always choose with care.
“I’ve been fortunate to play with so many people that I consider friends, to this day. Yes, every team has ups and downs but you have to be able to figure that out and manage it. Talking about what went wrong, what went well, what could we have done better – that’s how we always get through.”
What advice does a veteran player like Kevin Koe have for young curlers who are serious about the game?
“Enjoy the game and don’t get caught up in the results; have fun! Sometimes you forget why you put all this time in, but fun is the key. Hopefully, you win more than you lose and take it all in stride. Things are not always going to go your way but stay even-keeled and bring that positive attitude into your whole life.”