Q&A WITH… JARRET EATON

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Country: United States of America

Profession: Athlete – 60mH

Career highlights:

  • 2022 World Indoor Championships bronze medallist
  • 2019 Pan American Games Bronze medallist (4×100 m relay)
  • 2018 World Indoor Championships silver medallist
  • 2016 World Indoor Championships finalist – 4th  
  • 2016 and 2018 American Indoor Champion

When did you first start to think of becoming a professional athlete and why?

I first thought about becoming a professional athlete during my senior year of college in 2012 after I had run a very fast time for the indoor season. I ran 7.49 and at the time it was a world leading time. I didn’t really know what it meant to be a professional athlete, but I knew that if I had run a time like that, I could be competitive on the global stage. That’s kind of where the idea came into my head that I could maybe be a professional one day after my collegiate career was over.

For you, what is the most challenging part of the 60mH’s?

That’s a really good question. I would say the most challenging part for me staying focused on my lane and not letting the competition that’s around me kind of throw me off of my game plan. I think it’s easy to be distracted when another person gets a really fast start, and it can kind of distract you a little bit and take you away from the way you run your race. So I think that one of the hardest things is really just digging deep and staying true to your race pattern, how you trained and practice, and how you would normally run a race.

Also, before every race I always tell myself to go out there and have fun. It’s really easy to get caught up in the pressure of performing and at that point there’s nothing more you can do to make yourself more prepared. You only add stress to yourself, so I trust the training that I had leading up to this moment and I always tell myself to just go out there have fun, enjoy the moment and enjoy that you get to compete for Team USA in different countries. As a kid from Philadelphia that’s kind of a foreign thought to think that you get to travel around the world and run track and field.  So, you don’t want to just gloss over this moment, but rather really soak it up in and enjoy the chance and the opportunity that you have.

What do you enjoy most about being a professional athlete?

I love the opportunity to get to go out and travel. Like I said I never thought that I’d be able to have the opportunity to travel a lot and so just getting to meet new people and being able to experience different cultures and food really means a lot to me. I think that’s one of the most valuable parts of being a professional athlete because I’ve matured in such a different way that I think I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t able to travel.  Of all the places I’ve been to I think the country of France has been my favourite. It is just a beautiful place, I started to speak the language a little bit and I’ve run so many races over there and I know so many of the athletes that I feel like it’s a second home essentially. So, I really feel connected to the country.

We read that you worked as a substitute teacher while competing, can you tell us more about this decision?

I was a substitute teacher for most of my career as a professional athlete. I chose to do it because at the time it was the easiest job to do while I trained, and it was also fulfilling to work with high school students and have an impact on their lives as a black male role model especially being in all predominantly black school. I felt it was fulfilling in both of those ways.

Growing up I’ve always done school and athletics. When I graduated high school, I decided to focus just on track and field and those were some of the worst times that I’ve had in terms of performance and just in general. I realized that if I was going to be successful then I need to do things outside of the sport that helped me grow as a person as well. So not only did I work as a substitute teacher but I also did volunteer work and service projects as well and started a non-profit to help disenfranchised youth get running shoes so they have access to sport.  When I finally did my community service and projects, I then made my first world indoor team and I got my first medal! From then on it was really easy to stay connected with either work or some sort of community service project that made me feel fulfilled in my life and kept me busy instead of just focusing on track and field, because for me it was more of a distraction than it was helpful.

What secret talent do you have?

A secret talent I have is that I can burp my ABCs.

Where are you at your happiest?

Oh, I am at my happiest when I’m helping others and when I am coaching. I’m a high school coach right now and when I’m coaching others about my sport and they’re just as passionate as I am. Also, when I am helping a teammate with a rep and when I am helping people doing things they are passionate about I think is what I’m at my happiest as well.

Which book would you recommend every athlete reads?

I’ve read a lot of books along the way. The book I would recommend for every athlete to read is one that was the most impactful and that I felt the most influential within track, it is Crushing It by Gary Vaynerchuk. The reason why I say this book is because it helps you think about being a business in track and field, taking control of your likeness and your brand, and how to better market yourself as an athlete. I think there’s a lot of things that are lacking within the sport of track and field and sometimes as athletes we feel hopeless or the need to have someone else come in and give us something when we truly have the power to do things on our own. This book helps spell all that out and gives me the confidence and a little bit of knowledge on how to do that.

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