Jaide Stepter Baynes, an All-American sprinter, high school record holder, and professional sprinter is accustom to adversity. When asked about how the 2019 season went, she simply describes it as "terrible." Things were beginning to look up in 2020, and then the pandemic hit, putting everything at a standstill. Track meets were cancelled and she couldn't train at her regular track and weight room because of safety precautions. "When everything got shut down, it meant that all my resources were cut off," says Stepter Baynes.
As frustrating as it was to not be able to train at the track or go to the weight room, like most athletes, she had to get creative. Sprint intervals that would commonly be done on the track became hill intervals on the road and instead of her regular weight-training program, she did at-home strength circuits. At times, she says she felt silly, training with no competition in sight, but it was better than getting out of shape—only to have to get back in shape again ahead of the Olympic trials. "I feel the one constant thing that I do have control of is myself. My preparation, my perspective, all those different things," she says. "So I'm just trying to keep those things as constant as possible because that's literally the only thing that I can control."
Although she hasn't had much competition under her belt lately—she opted out of meets in 2020 and the beginning of 2021—she feels more prepared than ever for the Olympics, and that's, in large part, due to the lessons her mother and coach LaTanya Sheffield, a retired 400m hurdler and Olympian, instilled in her. Keep scrolling to learn what they are.
1. Get out of the grey area
The first lesson came about when Stepter Baynes was in college, competing for the University of Southern California. Her freshman year didn't go as planned, and the following year, the team had a completely new coaching staff. On her first day, the new coach told the team that if they didn't have marks that would put them in a position to be competitive at the national championships level, they would no longer be on a full-ride scholarship.
"I freaked out and I called my mom, looking for mom. And I think coach mom stepped in and she was like, 'Well hey, get out of the grey area, and go be an All-American, then.'" The conversation was direct, but it was the kick she needed, she says. That year she made it to the national championships. Even though she's no longer a collegiate athlete, getting out of the grey area and never having her abilities questioned stays with her and is a source of motivation.
2. Belong in the spaces you put yourself in
The second lesson Stepter Baynes says has stuck with her over the years is: "You belong in this space. If you put yourself in this space, you belong there, and make it so that nobody can ever doubt you. No one can ever question you because your stuff is so much on lock." This lesson definitely applies to being an athlete, "but it also works for everyday life as well," she says.
3. Ask yourself: Why not me?
The final lesson that's made Stepter Baynes who she is today, and has prepared her for the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials is: "Why not me?" This mindset has helped her eliminate the doubt in others' minds about her performance, but it's also eliminated any doubt she may have about herself as an athlete. "That has lent to my own confidence and my own approach to different things in every walk of life."
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