Weight of a province: Does hometown pressure help or hinder Team Gushue?

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Weight of a province: Does hometown pressure help or hinder Team Gushue?

As the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier moves into playoff weekend, all eyes are on Brad Gushue and the home team — but is carrying the hopes of an entire province too big a burden?

According to Memorial University sports psychology professor, Erin McGowan, the pressure can be both a benefit and a challenge.

Influence of the crowd

After two early setbacks, Team Newfoundland and Labrador has been thrilling local curling fans at this year's Brier for several days.

The club — made up of skip Brad Gushue, second Brett Gallant, third Mark Nichols and lead Geoff Walker — have won six games in a row, and the hometown crowd is fired up as a result. 

McGowan said having the fans cheer so loudly is to be expected for any home team, and it's likely that Gushue and his teammates are looking at it as an advantage and are trying to feed off the energy.

McGowan said at this point in the Brier, it seems like Team NL has learned how to manage the pressure and are channeling it into playing solid curling.

"As they become more accustomed to the ice and being in front of a home crowd they've settled down, which is important."

Avoiding the distractions

Representing your home province can be stressful, but McGowan said such a seasoned group as Team Gushue is used to playing around noise and distractions, whether it's the supportive kind — or fans who want to see you lose.

While it may seem obvious, her advice to the team would be to just keep doing what they've been doing for the last few days.

"I would particularly encourage them to focus on the here and now, and what they have to do to be successful. Not to focus on their past mistakes or think too far in advance," she said.

"I think the other teams are probably more hindered by it, and for the teams that are playing Newfoundland — if they view it positively that could certainly fuel them on as well."