Sun | Mar 24, 2019

It’s all in the head - Olympian Haughton ­pushing mental ­coaching and mentorship for ­Jamaican athletes

Published:Wednesday | January 23, 2019 | 12:47 AMAndrÈ Lowe/Sports Editor
Dr Gregory Haughton

Three-time Olympic-medal winner Dr Gregory Haughton believes that with proper mental conditioning, Jamaica’s current crop of quarter-milers, which he described as the best in the country’s history, can rise to the top of the event globally.

Haughton, who holds a PhD in management from North Central University in Arizona, is looking to share his expertise in mental coaching and mentorship with local athletes and coaches, and is calling on local administrators, as well as corporate Jamaica, to support his programme, which is set to come on stream over the next few weeks.

The 45-year-old has already worked with several athletes from around the world and is finalising plans for seminars and workshops while putting the final touches to a suite of materials and programmes, which he hopes will be utilised in helping the mental development and performance of athletes and coaches.

“My personal view is that we have the best crop of quarter-milers of all time – physically that is,” Haughton told The Gleaner during a recent interview. I don’t think the crop that we have here now are as tough as our time.”

“We had to work for every opportunity. For them, it seems like things are just handed over, and they don’t appreciate or understand the hard work that they have to put in. The physical part comes easy to them because it’s about running and jumping.”

Jamaica currently has three athletes who have gone below 44.20 seconds – 26-year-old Rusheen McDonald, the national ­record holder with 43.93 seconds; Akeem Bloomfield, 21, who has a best of 43.94; and 23-year-old Nathon Allen, 44.13.

CREATING A LEGACY

“If we can get some of this raw talent and get them to embrace the mental aspect, they can achieve so much more, not just now, but for the next 10 years. That’s the kind of legacy I want to see for our athletes, where we are not just winning here and losing there, but consistently through mental training, we can help to keep them on top,” added Haughton,

Haughton, who famously tripped, rolled over, got up and helped Jamaica to a 4x400m bronze at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta before winning a mile relay silver and a 400m bronze, at the Sydney 2000 Games, says a big motivation of his is to give back to youngsters, very much in the manner that he was assisted as a youth.

“This is a calling for me. This is not just me jumping up trying to do something, this is my mission and purpose, because I know that if others didn’t help me to find myself, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish the things I did,” said the six-time World Championships medallist.

“Because track and field gave me the opportunity and the keys to take myself out of poverty, the keys to get my education, to do so much, I think it’s time for me to help those who need that guidance.”

Haughton is hoping his intervention will help to bridge a gap and influence frustrated young athletes who otherwise might drift from sports altogether.

“It started by someone reaching out to help me. I know that there are a lot of talented young people out there that need that help, and if I don’t step up to the plate and help to support them, whether financially or psychologically, the frustration can be overwhelming and we can end up losing a lot of these people from the primary- and high-school levels,” Haughton noted.

He is hoping that his efforts will get the support of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, the Jamaica Olympic Association, and the wider sporting community.

“Mental conditioning is more important than anything else, and the quicker we realise that and start to put together mental training sessions to help our athletes and even the coaches, then the better we will be long term,” said Haughton.

Haughton will be making presentations to Kingston College, Hydel High, and his alma maters Excelsior High and Excelsior Primary, where he will also contribute two scholarships.

andre.lowe@gleanerjm.com