Balance key for Botterill

NEIL MACKINNON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

KENORA Ont. -- When Jennifer Botterill talks about balance, any reference to skating, even in passing, is notably absent.

Stability does have a huge role to play in the 27-year-old forward's repertoire of skills, but it has taken on a zen-like status.

It's a philosophy the Winnipeg-born national women's hockey star has acquired and reinforced at every stage of her life and she says it can enable anyone to propel themselves to that next level of enlightenment by positively balancing their mind and body.

A high level of achievement is just a natural residual of the balancing act.

"You can be a very skilled player, but if you can't pull it together with the mental aspects, you're not going to be that successful," she says. "It's all in your head.

'Deal with pressure'

"Being positive and not letting things get to you and learning how to deal with pressure is all part of that mental game athletes must play and I think it's very important."

It's a philosophy which has helped make Botterill a nine-year veteran of the national team and a three-time Olympic medallist and one she hopes will carry her through to the next round of tryouts after completion of the Fall Festival in Kenora this week.

Pressure, she says, comes with wearing the Maple Leaf-emblazoned jersey. Every time she pulls the crimson sweater over her head, flitters of pride jolt down her spine and the expectations of the nation flood forth.

But not in a bad way.

"It's not like a pressure that's weighing us down," Botterill says. "We look at it as everyone wants us to do well. Canadians love hockey and we look at it as this big reservoir of support from people who want us to excel."

And that's the kind of helping-hand Botterill expects when the IIHF Women's World Championships hit her hometown -- Winnipeg -- and Selkirk, April 3-10.

"Any time there's an event in Canada, it's a big deal," Botterill said.

"We've got the Four Nations in Kitchener and the World Championships in Winnipeg. Any time they've had events in Winnipeg, it's like they're really supported. They get good crowds and I think everyone's really excited about it.

"Not like you need added incentive, but it just makes it more fun when you've got the whole crowd behind you."

Far from pretentious, Botterill is quick to point out that it takes time and a conscious, concerted effort to develop a personal psychological strategy.

It takes time to positively harness all those expectations and pressures.

Everyone is different, she says.

And everyone comes to terms with it in their own ways, in their own time.

"I was just very fortunate," she says of her sports psychologist father, Cal, and two-time Olympian mother, Doreen, who nurtured their daughter's cerebral sense of sports since Day 1.


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