Rebecca Joins the True Athlete Project

This week, we caught up with Rebecca Blake to discuss the True Athlete Project & how she got involved. Below is what she had to say ...

Cricket has always been a big part of my life. I first started playing at the age of 11, in France of all places, but was lucky enough to be selected as part of the first ever French National Ladies Cricket team in 2011. I continued to play for them for several years and had the privilege of captaining the team between 2016 and 2018.

In 2015, a European squad was selected and I was one of the players to face the Netherlands women’s team. That same year, I was having a week of training at the Ageas Bowl, where I was introduced to Phil Green and Tom Morton. They showed me around Solent University, and in 2016 I moved to the UK and started my degree course.

Tom Morton introduced me to South Wilts in 2019 while in the process of completing a performance analysis internship with Game Changers Coaching. I was welcomed into the club with open arms and soon after, found myself playing in the men’s 4th XI and in 2020, even got picked for a couple of 3rd XI games. In October 2020, I was contacted by Steve Hatcher regarding the True Athlete Project which they had been made aware of through Sarum Rotary.

The True Athlete Project is a mentoring scheme that pairs up current athletes with former International ones, many of which are Olympians or Paralympians. The aim of this project is to help athletes improve their performance, mental wellbeing and cultivate a more compassionate world. It helps them learn about resilience and how to overcome challenges. I sent my application in, and soon after, I received a first stage positive response in the selection process. For the second stage there was a Zoom interview in which I was successful. Studying for a Sport Science and Performance coaching undergraduate and master’s degree, I had learnt a lot about working with athletes, but had never really had insight of what it was like with the roles reversed.

In January 2021, we got to meet our mentors! I was paired up with Rachel Smith, a rhythmic gymnast who had competed at the World and European Championships as well as captained the first GB rhythmic gymnastics team at the Olympics. I must say I couldn’t be happier with my mentor!

Throughout the year we will have regular meetings to talk about the season and my performance. They are aimed at understanding my game and what I can do, on and off the pitch, to better my performance mentally and physically.

We are currently in the process of completing a Mindfulness course. Mindfulness is the practice of intentionally concentrating your attention on the present moment, your thoughts, feelings and emotions and how your body feels, accepting it without judgement. This practice is said to improve focus, concentration and our ability to let go of negative thoughts, which all have an effect on our performance. It helps manage anxiety and in the long run, improves performance.

 I want to take this opportunity to thank the club and Sarum rotatory for the part they have played in getting me on this project. I am still at the beginning of this journey, but I truly look forward to the rest of the year, when I will be able to learn and grow, both, as an athlete and as an individual.

James Hayward