Jennifer Jones had a so-so season. Sure, she won the Scotties, but she and her team just didn’t get it done at the World Championships. Winning that bronze medal took a lot of guts, but that was never the ultimate goal. And let’s not even talk about the Olympic Trials, which were a (pick one or all):
3. unfortunate example of a team not getting its act together at the right time.
In a sport with a short season and only a few high-profile events – with small but growing financial rewards – a curling team needs to be practical and forward-thinking. So teams change their personnel all the time. Ask Brad Gushue and Kevin Martin, both Olympic gold medalists.
It’s really not that different from staffing in any other organization. You go with the “players” who will meet the organization’s goals, who can be counted on today, tomorrow – and next year – to deliver the talent, energy and strengths required.
We can look at Jennifer’s decision to drop Cathy Overton-Clapham from the roster as a nasty way to treat a valued, contributing teammate and friend, or we can see it for what it is: a management decision with a goal in mind. Jones wants to go with a team that will get her to the 2014 Olympics, and in her opinion, that means taking steps “to ensure we will have a complete set of skills and strengths come 2014.”
Yes, it hurts Overton-Clapham. She was given the unexpected news at a team meeting and that’s shocking. But in the business world, downsized employees are asked to hand over their keys and are then escorted off the premises. Now that can be shocking.
Perhaps more devastating for Cathy O is the realization that this late in the season, it will be hard for her to pull a viable team together for next year. Not only that, but despite her own great performance this season, she now misses out on returning to the Scotties as Team Canada and competing with the Jones team at the Canada Cup and Continental Cup. In business there’s a severance package, but not for curlers, unless you count the Scotties’ diamonds and seeing your name in the official records of the sport. That probably doesn’t provide much consolation to Cathy right now.
In the end, we can look at this move as a harsh reaction to a disappointing season. Or we can see it as the painful but necessary decision-making that’s required to help an organization meet its long term goals. And in sport as in business, I’m guessing that no one involved particularly enjoys the process.