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Sports psychology bringing out the best in Lennie Waite


LENNIE WAITE may not have the luxury of being a full-time athlete but she does have the advantage of being able to apply her job directly to her athletic career.

The steeplechaser is on the verge of competing in her third Commonwealth Games, with Gold Coast 2018 beginning in less than two weeks time, but she is forced to combine an elite-level training regime with her day-job as a sports psychologist.

While her schedule is, she admits, ridiculously busy at times, the fact that she can implement much of what she has learnt throughout the years is something that few other athletes have the advantage of.

“There’s definitely parts of my job that I use in my athletics,” she said.

“What it does for me is that it helps my sporting narrative. I’ve had an incredible career- so much better than I ever thought possible when I was a small child – but there’s still be so many ups and downs in that career and I think when you don’t understand sports psychology or how the mind and body works, or if you don’t pay attention to other people’s stories, you can start to feel like why am I always failing at these big competitions or why can’t I do what this other person is doing?

“But through sports psychology and through the research and the work I’ve done, I’ve realised that’s totally normal and so it’s all about how you want to tell that story and how you respond to having a bad race or not achieving your goal.”

The 32-year-old is originally from Paisley but has spent much of her adult life in America, studying at Rice University in Texas. She has remained in Texas since graduating but while she is in Gold Coast with Team Scotland, she will be focused solely on the Commonwealth Games.

Waite has saved her best for the latter part of her career, with one of the best seasons resulting in her maiden selection for the Olympic Games, in Rio in 2016.

With Gold Coast being her third Commonwealth Games, Waite is clearly far more experienced than she was eight years ago in Delhi but she admits that knowing exactly what to expect can be both a positive and a negative.

“In some ways, I feel way more relaxed ahead of this one because I know exactly what to expect,” she said.

“But in other ways, because I know a lot, I feel like I should be more prepared and it raises expectations that I have on myself. Going to Delhi in 2010, I couldn’t have been more naïve – I had no idea what it would be like and in some ways, that’s helpful because the only thing at that point you’re thinking about is running.

“Whereas now, I know I know a lot more so I think about a lot more things. So there are pros and cons to being really experienced but also to being really naïve.”

The steeplechase is likely to boast an impressive field in Gold Coast, with Kenya particularly strong, but Waite’s experience has taught her to focus purely on her own performance, especially when she knows that even the briefest lapse of concentration can result in disaster when you are being asked to hurdle 28 barriers and seven water-jumps throughout the course of a race.

“For me, it’s all about competing on the day in that single race,” she said.

“That’s one thing I’ve definitely learned from competing in a number of major championships – you just cannot predict how the race is going to be run so if I go in there with specific time goals, I could end up completely shooting myself in the foot because if it’s a slow, tactical race, I could go on my own journey to run a certain time and that might well not turn out well for me. So you just have to promise you’re going to compete as hard as possible.”

The Team Scotland athletics squad that is headed to Gold Coast is one of the strongest in living memory and while Waite may not have day-to-day contact with many of the Scots due to living in America, she is well aware of the health of the sport in this country at the moment. And she admits that watching the success of her compatriots pushes everyone on and cultivates a belief that there are no limits when it comes to achieving success. “When people around you start doing incredible things, it makes you think,” she said.

“You know they’re not super-human – it’s just that they’ve worked really hard and it makes you realise what’s possible and it makes you think where you could take your performance. It’s definitely done that for me.

“There are people over in America who are asking me what is happening in Scotland because the results have been so great.

“I really do believe that with us being such a small country, you see what others are capable of and it’s really motivating. It’s just awesome to be a part of it.”


Source : HeraldScotland

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