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Mary Mattatall and Brian Rafuse have both enjoyed long, illustrious curling careers.
But instead of looking in the rearview mirror, two of the Nova Scotia Curling Hall of Fame's newest members have committed to the next generation of curlers.
Both Mattatall and Rafuse are using their vast knowledge of the game to help the younger set.
They got into coaching for different reasons. For Mattatall it was a way to pay back to a game that she loves dearly while Rafuse wanted to stay involved with the sport after retiring as a player.
“When a sport has been that good to you, you have to give back. You can’t be a taker all the time and the next generation needs help,” said Mattatall, who turned 60 this year. “I can remember trying to find a coach and the only person who would coach us was my mother, who had a little experience.
“I went into the adult (game) at 19 and struggling through my entire career with trying to learn it on my own and trying to get intel from wherever I could. I’m still a student of the game. I look for every angle I can. I’ve always searched for ways to improve my game. My motivation (for coaching) is to not have the next generation spend 40 years trying to figure it out on their own.”
When Rafuse decided to step away from playing several years ago, coaching seemed like the perfect avenue to quench his competitive thirst.
“I knew I wanted to hang around the game,” said Rafuse, a 65-year-old Bridgewater native. “I’m an icemaker at Lakeshore so I’ve watched a whole lot of teams go through especially junior teams.
“We had a junior team that was looking for a coach and I worked with them. When you are at the tail end of your career, you’re working harder to get the same results. When you’re coaching kids you’re going to see improvement pretty well daily, so it’s refreshing. Instead of holding on (to a playing career), you get to see something develop.”
Their hard work has paid off in national medals for Nova Scotia.
Rafuse helped Lakeshore’s Isabelle Ladouceur to a national under-18 championship in 2018 while Mattatall’s under-21 Taylour Stevens foursome took home bronze last year.
Mattatall, who has been a member of eight Nova Scotia Scotties winning teams, knows a thing or two about being successful. She likes what sees from the Stevens team.
“We have a really fantastic team and we had a great showing last year at Canadians. They are among the next generation of elite curlers.”
Rafuse said he tries to keep things simple for his athletes and hopes they can take one positive away from practice each day.
He recalls seeing a young Ladouceur on the Lakeshore ice and how it didn’t take long for her team to find success.
“At 13 I had no idea that she was going to be that good. At 14 I knew she was going to be that good. She has instincts and a real feel for the game that you can’t coach, but it is nice to be able to work with that. It’s nice to recognize that and let her go. That’s her best skill, knowing what is going to work and what isn’t.”
This season Rafuse is more of a roving instructor through the Lakeshore club.
“I’m not officially coaching any one team, but I have five teams that I spend some time with, working on little things.”
Mattatall, Rafuse, and his team of Curt Palmer, Glenn Josephsen and Dave Slauenwhite, joined Marg Cutcliffe as the 2020 Hall of Fame inductee class.
“It’s quite an honour for all of us,” said Rafuse of the Bridgewater foursome. “We played together for 30 years. We’re from a small town, Bridgewater, and the city teams tended to reshuffle the players a lot, but we were content with what we were doing. We kept it together for decades.”
Rafuse and Mattatall also share the rare distinction of winning a Scotties or Tankard and a senior championship in the same year.
Mattatall accomplished the feat in 2017 with Cutcliffe, Jill Alcoe-Holland and Andrea Saulnier while Rafuse turned the trick in 2008.
To this day, the Dartmouth native, who has also won a pair of Canadian mixed titles, considers the double as one of the main highlights of her career. She says it's right up their with qualifying for the 1997 Olympic trials.
“We just had a stellar year, everything just went well. We went into the Scotties for practice for the seniors and we got on a roll,” recalls Mattatall. “We went through with one loss so it wasn’t like we lucked our way in.”
Rafuse considers making the Labatt Brier in 1996 as his crowning achievement.
“We had been a four-time provincial runner-up over close to 20 years, so finally getting to a Brier would be the highlight,” said Rafuse. “That was the goal, to get to a Brier. Once you get to one you want to get to a few more.”
With his playing days behind him, Rafuse is content with maintaining the ice at Lakeshore and working with some up-and-coming players.
Mattatall on the other hand still has the competitive bug and enjoys her playing with her longtime teammates.
“I love my team dearly,” said Mattatall. “The whole thing about it’s not the destination, it’s the journey. We love each other’s company.”