Jennifer Jones says that having a great day – like Olympic glory – is often a case of mind over matter. The skip of Canada’s gold medal curling team was set to present an award at the Juno Awards over the weekend in her home province of Manitoba. Here, she shares the secrets to her success.
Get out of your comfort zone (and onto the red carpet)
Going to the Junos is exciting, as well as nerve-racking. I’m definitely more comfortable throwing a draw at the Olympics than walking a red carpet. Getting dressed up, talking to the media – it’s all outside of my comfort zone, but I think that’s a good thing. I’m excited to meet Johnny Reid who is co-hosting. I feel a bit out of place at these events, but everyone is friendly and supportive. I met Jann Arden a few weeks ago. She seemed just as excited to meet me as I was to meet her, which was amazing.
Good leadership isn’t about game day
You hear this a lot, but I really think the key to effective leadership is leading by example. That means in your attitude and your actions both on and off the ice. I try to take every opportunity to make sure everyone on my team knows how important they are and how much we all need each other. Creating this dynamic during the down periods really pays off when the pressure is on. In the gold medal game in Sochi, we didn’t start off as well as we had wanted to, but then we had a moment. I gathered up the team and I just told the girls that we were going to win. Those words can be empty but I think because of the trust we had built up, I was really able to inspire confidence. My teammates say that I get this look in my eye and they know it’s all going to be good and of course on that day [when Canada won the gold medal in women’s curling], it was.
To win, accept defeat
Seventy-five per cent of curling is technical, which comes from constant practice, and the other 25 per cent is how you perform in the biggest moments. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a lot of big moments, which definitely helps in terms of getting used to the pressure. Some people think athletes shouldn’t even allow themselves to acknowledge defeat as a possibility, but for me, part of a winning strategy is knowing that at the end of the day, everything will be okay if you lose. It frees you up to do your best and to lean into the adrenalin rush rather than fear it. I remember the first time I lost a big game, I was 16 at the Canadian junior finals. I was depressed for a long time, but I realized there was no point. It doesn’t change anything. I have learned that losing can be a great motivator. We didn’t play our best at the Olympic trials in 2009, which was disappointing, but also a big motivator to get better.
Energy creates energy
I have spent a lot of time on the road over the course of my career. Often our games are early in the morning, which means people can be grumpy from having to get up. About a year ago, I made a decision that no matter how much sleep I got – 10 hours or one hour, I would wake up and tell myself that I was going to have an amazing day. Now I do it every single day. Without fail. My team laughs at me because I am super joyful and energized in the morning, even if it’s 5:30 a.m. I really believe that what you tell yourself makes a difference. On the morning of the Olympic finals I woke up with a cold, which is obviously the last thing you want, but I refused to let it suck my energy. I didn’t even tell my teammates because I knew that there was nothing they could do. I just told myself that all I had to do was make it through the game. Afterward I could crawl into bed and take medicine. Sometimes, when my daughter is up teething, I’ll get only a couple of hours sleep, but again, I just tell myself: “You’re feeling great, you’re full of energy!” It works.
Set priorities and stick to it
Last year I had knee surgery and I gave birth to my daughter, all while I was supposed to be preparing for the Olympics. I have always been pretty good at balancing the various areas of my life, but this was a lot. It was an adjustment and I realized early on that the only way I was going to get through it was by really dedicating myself to staying focused, which also meant eliminating distractions. I love to cook big family meals and spend time with my friends, but I really had to look at my life in terms of top priorities. I knew I had to be a good mother to my new daughter, I had to concentrate on physio and I had to spend time on the ice practising with my team. That was it. Everything else I said no to, which wasn’t easy, but it got me to where I wanted to be.
This interview has been condensed and edited.