Edited by George Karrys - The Curling News
In a time when the growth of our sport is at the forefront, we have confirmed news that defending national champion skip, Chris Sobkowicz of Manitoba will be taking the rest of this year off to reflect on his curling future. This certainly sounds ominious.
Since Chris’s release from the national program as alternate for Team Canada it was speculated as to how this may or may not affect his other curling endeavors. It was confirmed this morning, from Chris’s long time third Dennis Thiessen, that Chris will be taking some time to reflect and re-energize.
Dennis stated that “Chris will not be joining us at nationals this year… Chris and I are good friends and this has nothing to do with us. We are not fighting or anything like that. He just needs some time to reflect…”
As we look at the future of wheelchair curling in Canada, we have to expect that individuals will, on occasion, need time to evaluate and reflect on what has been their passion for so many years. We can only wonder if – much like Russ Howard did when he provoked issues surrounding logo cresting on his Brier uniform jacket – this is a type of silent protest that may or may not erupt into something more public, such as when Ed “The Wrench” Werenich aired his views on CCA decision-making.
Wheelchair curling is developing in a near-perfect matching parallel to AB curling, including the outcomes which often occur to players as they come and go from the Team Canada process. As we’ve noted, we see a current pattern where wheelchair curlers have grouped themselves into cliques of friends, and often don’t change it up to keep things fresh. We have seen this across the country, and it’s often driven by the lack of wheelchair curlers in a town or province.
However small the amount of Chris’ time off might actually become, this may be just what Team Manitoba needs to develop their other players to a higher level. Mixing up the who and what with regard to position can make a world of difference. We’ve seen this in the AB game, so why not in the wheelchair game? We’ve seen Wayne Middaugh reinvent himself a number of times over the last few years and in several different roles along the away. A natural skip, Middaugh has played everything from lead to third in his reinvention – even alternate (for Glenn Howard at Olympic trials).
As stated in other articles on this blog, some of Canada’s best wheelchair curling talents are sitting idle at present, based on either this clique factor or a wariness (perhaps fear?) mentality that change is “bad.” We MUST adjust our thinking for the betterment of development in our sport. Look past the past, and into the future of what we are fighting – and curling – for. We often hear that most wheelchair curlers want the winner of nationals to be the Canadian representative at worlds or Paralympics, but folks seem unwilling to tap the experience that is available to them to grow to that level. Why are players like Jim Armstrong and others sitting idle? Why are Neighbour and Gaudet, even Austgarden, all playing together when their individual talents and experience could be utilized to grow several teams, and increase the level of play in the overall talent pool?
Grow your area, and grow change in your way of thinking. National and even provincial championships are something every team is looking to compete in but how do you get there if you do the same thing with the same people every time you try? The old adage “If you want something you have never had before, you have to be willing to do something you have never done before in order to get it” should be at the heart of every wheelchair curler in Canada. These events are not merely some nice token of your hard work; they are the outcome of the pride you have in that work.
The CCA has begun to recognize the need for talent development in new players and this can only be done though access to assets. The experiences of players who have been there and done that; the fact that Chris Sobkowicz is taking time to reflect on his dedication to the national program can only assist in his future development as one of Canada’s top players.
Look for Chris to return, and possibly like Wayne Middaugh – stronger than ever.