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CCRI instructor, massage therapist
supporting Olympic athletes in Sochi
Feb. 7, 2014
Lou Ann Botsford, an adjunct instructor in the Therapeutic Massage program at the Community College of Rhode Island, is a firm believer that if you wait until you’re truly ready to do something, you’ll never do it.
There is no perfect time to take a leap of faith; she found out as much when she decided to compete in her first triathlon only two months after beginning her swim training. It would have been tempting to keep putting off the challenge until she had more training, of course, but that isn’t the way that she lives her life. For Botsford, life is something to be fully explored, new trails to be blazed and fears to be conquered. Her philosophy has kept her going even when she wasn’t sure where she was headed, and it’s taken her to some amazing places.
The next stop on that path is more than 5,000 miles away from her massage therapy practice in Warwick. She took a plane across the Atlantic Ocean to Munich, Germany, where boarded another to take her to Moscow for the night. The morning’s light brought Botsford with it to Sochi, on the banks of the Black Sea, for the 2014 Winter Olympics, where she is supporting the U.S. men’s ski jumping team as a massage therapist.
“I felt totally amazed and on top of the world,” she said of receiving the most recent life-changing call to add to her impressive collection of stories, connections and adventures.
Botsford, who is responsible for all of her own travel, lodging and incidental expenses, said that she felt equally amazed and honored at all of the support that has come from within – and outside of – her considerable network. Through various fundraisers put on by her friends and colleagues, as well as a collection taken up by CCRI’s faculty, staff and students, she has raised about $3,000 of the more than $3,500 she will spend on the trip.
This outpouring of generosity points to another one of the engaging, sociable Botsford’s favorite truisms: Everything and everyone is connected, and you never know in what form the seeds you sow as you nourish those connections will come back to you.
It’s easy to see why she feels this way; the often surprising, always fulfilling trajectory of her own life has taken shape through what seem like chance encounters and fateful handshakes. It wasn’t massage, but teaching that brought Botsford to the Ocean State after graduating from Penn State as a psychology major with a minor in counseling. After teaching early childhood and elementary education in some of the state’s public schools, Botsford found that she enjoyed the opportunity to better herself by teaching and connecting with others. “I was looking for something with meaning. Life is short,” she said.
In her spare time, Botsford was teaching spinning classes. During a health fair at one of the clubs where she taught, she had the chance to have a chair massage – something she’d never done before. She found it to be a great experience and chatted with the therapist more about how she’d gotten into her field. That led Botsford to going to school for massage therapy, which led her to become active with the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association, volunteering for a number of sports-related events and eventually serving as chairwoman of the board. During a networking event, she met Regina Cobb, director of the Therapeutic Massage program at the college, and eventually joined the faculty.
“It’s been a wonderful experience, an amazing adventure,” she said of her work at CCRI. “And, in turn, it makes me better here when I’m working and reinforces the credibility I have with these athletes.”
Since 2008, Botsford has practiced at North East Sports, a training and rehabilitation facility that services clients ranging from the average weekend warrior to the elite professional athletes of the NHL, NFL and MLB, to name a few. She described the environment as being equally rich for her students and her own continuing education (Botsford is an athlete herself, having competed in triathlons, as well as the MS150 bike races) as well as the athletes and clients she serves. She regularly brings her classes in for field trips to the gym, where they’ve been exposed to world record-holders, professional athletes and Olympians with storied and medal-adorned careers.
Botsford’s own Olympic connection began when she applied for the Medical Volunteer Program nearly three years ago, throwing her hat into the ring with other sports medicine professionals to work at one of the country’s three Olympic training centers. She was accepted for a rotation at the center in Colorado Springs, Colo., where she worked in tandem with two physicians for a few weeks, treating Olympic boxers, bobsledders, wrestlers, triathletes, and track and field stars.
A friendship forged with the director of physical therapy for the Alpine Clinic in Franconia, N.H., led her to an invitation to the Lake Placid Olympic training center in 2012 to work with the men’s ski jumping team and its physician. A return invitation came in 2013 and, in November, Botsford got the call she’d been dreaming of.
“Who gets to go to Russia?” she said, sounding more amazed than one might expect from a seasoned professional whose walls are adorned with autographs and photos from the upper echelons of athletics. “How many people get that opportunity? I’m also going to be so appreciative of all the good will I expect to see – people from all over the world with their hearts in the right place and ready to achieve something amazing. What’s better than that?”
For Botsford, who has made her life – and career – out of the celebration and transmission of good energy, it’s not likely that much could be better.
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