Just over a week after narrowly missing out on a fifth straight British Columbia provincial championship, one of curling's best women's teams has decided to part ways.
Team Scott, skipped by Kelly Scott, will not return with its current line up, in the Fall of 2014. Scott, herself, might not return at all when the 2014-15 season begins.
"It’s heartbreaking to us," said Scott over the phone, from her home in Kelowna. "I think it’s the right decision for all of us for our stages of life, but it doesn’t make it any easier."
It's a jarring change. A familiar crew on the national scene is scattering, with uncertain curling futures.
"I think we’re just tired," said Scott. "I think our team has surpassed the life expectancy of any team. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to play together, it was more that we didn’t know what - individually - we each have in us still."
Scott says it's not merely a case of a skip leaving a team. That it was a larger feeling she and her mates had as a collective.
“It wasn’t something I initiated but it was a decision we had even before we left for provincials that this was probably the last year we could do this. We were all feeling a bit drained from what the sport requires even before going to provincials."
Three of the team's members have been together, for the most part, over the entirety of a glorious run of eight Scotties appearances, including two championships (2006 and 2007) and a world championship (2007). Second Sasha Carter was with Scott for every one of those moments. Vice Jeanna Schraeder was there for those wins, too, but did take a year off from curling before rejoining the team in 2012. Lead Sarah Wazney joined the team last season and was with them when they won bronze at the 2013 Scotties, in Kingston, Ontario. Renee Simons, who played on the team through the national and world championship seasons, was replaced by Jacquie Armstrong in 2009. Wazney, in turn, replaced her in 2012.
Scott's rink seemed poised for a fifth straight provincial championship and the skip's ninth Scotties appearance, when they met a very young team skipped by Kesa Van Osch, in the final of the British Columbia Scotties, on January 12th. However, in a huge upset, Van Osch emerged with a 5-4 win and the 2014 B.C. crown.
It was not the only disappointment for Scott and her teammates this season. Hoping for a shot an Olympic berth, the team failed to make it to The Trials, after bowing out with consecutive losses at the pre-trial event, in November. Those losses instead sent Val Sweeting and Renee Sonnenberg to The Trials.
Asked if the stunning loss to Van Osch was a catalyst for the team's decision to split up, Scott replied that it was not; that the seeds were sewn earlier this year.
"I think the writing was on the wall as this season was playing out," she said.
"You kind of take a deep breath when you commit to an Olympic cycle, she continued. "The commitment you have to put in. It was a lot with our young families and busy careers."
There lies the crux of the matter for Scott, Schraeder, Carter and Wazney. The demands that the modern world of curling can place on a person mean something's got to give in the other areas of one's life in order to meet those demands and stay competitive. Scott, for one, is going to take time to reassess the balancing act she's personally been performing. When asked if she wants to return immediately next season, she replies:
"That’s a very good question and a question I don’t have an answer to yet. At this point in time I’m feeling kind of tired of it. It may just be time to shake things up. I don’t know if that shake up means starting a new journey with building a new team or if that just means taking a few winters off to regroup and recharge."
"If I continue right away next season it’s going to have to be something that sparks me and excites me. Currently, I don’t know what that is. I do know that I don’t want to be traveling every weekend on tour and I also do know that that’s almost what’s required right now to be at the top of the game."
You might think Scott and her mates would be feeling a little differently had their season been more successful, but that's a notion she dismisses, saying "I think we could have got right to The Trials, we could have got right to the Scotties. But, I think this was probably going to be the result regardless."
Scott says she feels fortunate to have teammates and friends who care for more than just results on the ice and that it helped as the final decision was being made.
"That’s kind of where this all ended when we had this discussion, which was just that whatever each of us had to do, individually, to move forward - whether that means playing, or being home as a mom, or putting all this time into your career or if that means starting a new team - we all support one another on what each of us need going forward."
Forward, for Scott, is a mystery right now. Looking back at the experience she's had with the sport of curling and the teammates it brought her, she has no such ambiguity.
"It was very, very special and probably made us into the people we are today," she said. "I think it taught us so much about teamwork and friendship. It was all good when you look back."
As for the future, immediate or otherwise, Scott is letting the universe unfold as it will. But she does know that however long the pause in her curling life - be it just a few months or even a few years - she will return.
"I’m not ready to hang my shoes up and never curl again. I love the sport and I love the camaraderie of teammates too much to not play."