THORNHILL, Ont. -- Compared to what she does for a living, being a first-time skip at the Ontario women’s curling championship is anything but stressful for Ashley Kallos.
The baseball bat helps, but more on that later.
The 29-year-old from Thunder Bay is an addiction counsellor who works with adolescents from across the province.
“The kids I work with are some of the toughest, most challenging clients to work with,” she said between draws at the Ontario Scotties Tournament of Hearts at the Thornhill Golf and Country Club, where she was 3-3 heading into Thursday night’s draw. “They have addiction issues, mental health issues and almost all of them have major family issues.
“A lot of the kids come from foster care, but there are a few from good families, too. The majority are the ones who have been neglected, whether it be by parents or by society, and that’s why I see this work as being so important. Teens in general get a bad rap and a lot of them need help.”
It’s a profession that can drain a person emotionally. Burnout is common.
“It has taken a lot of years of learning how to leave stuff at the office,” she said. “Obviously, I’m human and some things are going to affect me and I’m going to carry some things with me.”
Hence the need for escape valves.
“Curling is definitely one of them,” she said. “It’s fun, and the physical aspect of it is important to me for relieving stress and staying normal.”
Her other passion is music. She’s a classically trained pianist who teaches a class once a week, with Chopin among her favourite composers.
Yet there is a carryover from her work world to her curling world when it comes to dealing with negativity.
“In a way, you learn how to park things,” she said. “After (Wednesday), which was a rough day with two losses, especially how we lost two close games, we just had to leave it out there and go out and have fun.”
This is actually her third provincials, having played second for current titleholder and clubmate Krista McCarville in 2004 and for Michelle Boland in 2007, going 3-6 both times.
“When I won (the B final at the Northern Ontario finals in December) to get here, I kind of just felt a little more happy because I was the skip,” she said. “I hadn’t skipped since junior, but that gave me the feeling that skip is where I needed to be.
“I was more excited than nervous. I almost saw this as my first (Hearts) because being a skip brings with it so much more responsibility. I really felt relaxed.”
Not that she saw herself as championship material right away.
“Getting to the playoffs would be fantastic,” she said, “but I tend to be more pessimistic. I just wanted not to go 0-9. I’m just happy to come here and get the experience.”
Her rink, which has Alissa Begin at third and Jackie McCormick at second, endured a forced change when lead Carrie Vautour, an audiologist, had to go to Dubai for a conference. Oye-Sem Won stepped in.
“She’s normally a skip herself and we didn’t have a lot of time because it was just before Christmas when we finalized everything, but it’s been a very, very smooth transition,” Kallos said.
And about that bat? It’s a small metal one borrowed from their team driver, James McBride.
“We were going to a bonspiel and there was one in Jackie’s vehicle. We weren’t playing very well and Gary (coach Maunula) brought it inside as a joke and said, ’You’ve got to start playing better.’ So after (Wednesday), we asked James if he had a bat we could borrow and it so happens, he did. That bat’s not going anywhere.
“Some people have stuffed animals. We have an aluminum bat.”