Thu | Feb 20, 2020

Sherone the scholar - Olympian going back to school to fill void of sports psychology in Jamaica

Published:Friday | January 31, 2020 | 12:24 AMAkino Ming/Staff Reporter
Sherone Simpson (left) receives the baton from Anastasia Le-Roy in the women’s 4x100m relay to carry the Sprintec Track Club team to victory at the Gibson McCook Relays held at the National Stadium on Saturday, February 23, 2019.
Sherone Simpson (left) receives the baton from Anastasia Le-Roy in the women’s 4x100m relay to carry the Sprintec Track Club team to victory at the Gibson McCook Relays held at the National Stadium on Saturday, February 23, 2019.

Before Sherone Simpson called time on her long and illustrious career at the end of last season, she identified a void in sports in Jamaica that she believes is preventing athletes from maximising their potential. The 35-year-old says she is determined to fix it.

Simpson told The Gleaner that Jamaica has done a good job of identifying talent and preparing them physically, but it is the mental aspect of the preparation that is lacking.

The former Manchester High School standout, who won a silver medal in the 100m at the 2008 Olympic Games, is ready to commit herself to understanding the intricacies of sports psychology to serve Jamaican athletes.

“I realised that in Jamaica, we have a lot of talent, but the focus is always on the training, the physical part of it, and the mental aspect of it is ignored,” she said. “If you look at schoolboy football in the first round, a lot of teams do well, but they struggle at the serious part of the competition, the semi-finals, and the final, not because they are not physically ready, but because they are not mentally prepared.

“I want to go back to school to study sports psychology. We do not have a lot of sports psychologists here in Jamaica, and I think my experience in track and field will also help me to drive home a point to young athletes because I have gone through it already. So I think if I am certified, I can really help.”

AFTER CHILDBIRTH

Simpson showed mental fortitude when she resumed her athletics career after giving birth to her daughter, Leanna.

“I never wanted to end my career after having my child,” she said. “I wanted to continue doing track and field until it was my time to retire.”

She decided to walk away from the sport to be able to be there for, Leanna, who has now started preparatory school.

“It was a lot of driving back and forth between Kingston and Spanish Town two times per day and because Leanna is in prep school now, I had to ensure that I was there for her daily activities,” she said. “I wanted to be there to help her with her schoolwork, and my commitment to training wouldn’t allow that. And I believed I gave it everything in training in 2019. I was getting personal records in training, and it was going so well, but when it comes to competition, I was just not getting the results.”

Apart from her individual silver medal at the Olympic Games, Simpson won a gold medal as a member of Jamaica’s 4x100m team at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and claimed silver in the event at the 2012 London Games.

She owned the title as world’s fastest woman in the 2006 season when she had the fastest times in the 100m and 200m.

But her most memorable moment in sports came in 2015 when she won gold in the 100m at the Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada.

“The years leading up to the Pan Am games in 2015 were very hard, and to pull through out of lane Eight was a wonderful experience,” she recalled.

Simpson has already started to use her time to motivate student- athletes, an activity she finds gratifying.

“I have been doing some motivational speaking engagements, and I really like it and believe it is something that I can see myself doing for a long time.”

akino.ming@gleanerjm.com