A passionate, starry-eyed, young Jennifer Botterill sat attentively in a gymnasium, hanging on to every enthralling word that came out of Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Mark Tewksbury’s mouth.
The Winnipeg, Man., local was only in Grade 8 when he spoke to her soccer team during a tournament, but the words of wisdom he shared that day have stayed with her ever since. Botterill herself is now an Olympic gold medallist, having won the honour three different times while playing with Canada’s National Women’s Team, on top of winning the IIHF women’s world championship with Team Canada five times over the course of her hockey career.
“It’s a different sport, but for me it was an Olympic athlete who I really looked up to,” she said. “I remember his messaging so clearly.”
Tewksbury’s messages helped motivate her to be the very best she can be both on and off the ice, and now not only is she a professional speaker herself, but Botterill hopes she can have a similar impact on the young players competing at the upcoming 2012 National Women’s Under-18 Championship in Dawson Creek, B.C.
“For many of us athletes, the thing we always say that is most special about being a part of the national team, is the chance to share your experiences,” Botterill said. “So for me, to have the opportunity to speak at various events, but specifically ones like the under-18 nationals, is a chance to hopefully help and inspire some of the young athletes.”
Botterill will address all eight teams at this year’s National Women’s Under-18 Championship during the pre-tournament banquet Tuesday, Nov. 6, and promises to bring some of her many sparkling medals along with her to help inspire the talented young players to always go for gold – in everything they do.
“I just might have a few treats up my sleeve,” she said with a chuckle. “Yes, of course I will be bringing the medals to share with the girls.”
More importantly, however, are the motivational messages she plans to share with her Dawson Creek audience, which she can of course to relate to as a highly accomplished female hockey player herself.
“I’m a big believer in belief, “ said Botterill, who participated in CTV’s “Believe” campaign leading up to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C., where she won her final gold medal with Canada before retiring from the national team. “So that’s going to be one of my strongest points; for them to have the self-confidence and the belief that they can do well.”
“And also a positive attitude,” she added. “A positive attitude can take people a long way, and for me when I was playing, I always wanted to be the best teammate that I could be, and that’s something that I’ll try to convey to them as well. In any situation, if you look back, one of the most important comments or compliments you could get would be from your teammates.”
“For these athletes, if they can go out and be their best, but try to bring out the best in people around them too, that really creates successful teams,” Botterill said. “So belief, confidence, a positive attitude and being a great teammate would be high on the priority list.”
Also important for players at this year’s National Women’s Under-18 Championship is to truly enjoy the experience of being a part of such an elite event, Botterill said, emphasizing passion helps lead to success no matter what your goals and objectives.
“A lot of young players have high expectations and that’s good because that will drive them, but you also really want them to enjoy it,” Botterill said. “That’s some good advice that I got, whether it was the Olympics or world championships or NCAA finals, whatever it was, to make sure I still enjoyed the moment. “
“I think that’s how athletes perform at their best … you’re still driven, but there’s also an element of playing with ease, when you can be focused, but also still enjoy it,” she said.
Botterill hopes sharing lessons she’s learned along the way with the players representing Alberta, Atlantic, British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Ontario Blue and Ontario Red at this year’s National Women’s Under-18 Championship will stick with them for years to come, just as Tewksbury’s words have stayed with her.
“For me, hearing an Olympic athlete speak really inspired me, and that’s something you hope you can share with other people,” Botterill said. “If I can tell a few stories and hopefully convey some of the most important messages that I learned through my experiences, (and) if it shifts their way of thinking or encourages them in a small way, or they find a little bit of inspiration from that, that’s something that’s pretty rewarding .”
“It’s all about improvement, and people being the best they can possibly be and trying to help them on that journey,” she said. “it’s just nice to try to help people any way I can.”
For more information on Jennifer Botterill, including how to book her for a speaking event, please visit www.JenniferBotterill.com.