Like for most of us, the last 12 months haven’t been easy for Natasha Hastings.
About a year ago, the two-time Olympic and five-time World Champion gold medal sprinter was gearing up for another summer of international competition and adjusting to life with a newborn baby.
But within a few months, Hastings became a single mother, and the coronavirus pandemic had postponed any thought of adding to her medal count.
As Hastings began navigating these obstacles, she realized that her training routine would not only require physical conditioning, but a change in her approach to her mental game.
“Quite honestly, I think performance is more mental than physical. Yes, I have to go out and put the reps in and do the work, but if the mental piece doesn’t match with the physical piece, then the physical piece is worthless,” Hastings said.
Hastings has worked with Under Armour’s human performance experts since 2017, getting her body in the best shape for sprinting.
After she gave birth to her son in August 2019, Under Armour developed a personalized postpartum recovery and training program to help Hastings return to activity.
“Fortunately, in addition to all of the tools Under Armour’s human performance team gives its athletes to work on the physical things, they’ve also helped make sure we have access to what’s necessary for mental performance, too.”– Natasha Hastings
While Under Armour’s mental strength training resources helped Hastings’ performance on the track, she still sought support to talk through her experiences as a newly single mom, so she decided to seek out a Black woman therapist.
When she struggled to find one, however, she realized just how much mental wellbeing was stigmatized in the Black and athlete communities.
“As Black women, we can sometimes wear our struggle as a badge of honor, and you see the same thing with athletes as well, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” Hastings said.
“You should definitely celebrate that you’ve overcome difficult things, but we’ve normalized struggle to the point that it has become unhealthy.
““Being able to admit that — to sit in that vulnerable space — is hard and is still something that I work on every day,” she added. “But I hope to be a part of changing that narrative for athletes as well as marginalized communities. That’s the mission for me going forward.”
– Natasha Hastings
Since meeting with a therapist regularly, Hastings has enrolled in a master’s program focusing on clinical mental health. Inspired by the sessions, as well as the “big sister” role she has taken on with many in the track and field community, Hastings plans to become a certified sports counselor who can offer advice based on both personal experience and licensed expertise.
In the meantime, Hastings will continue to guide young athletes via the Natasha Hastings Foundation, which aims to empower girls to become women of confidence in sport and in life.
Hastings notes that about 95% of women in C-suite positions have played a sport at one point in their lives, proof that sports can help girls with life skills like self-esteem, discipline, and teamwork.
But if there is one thing Hastings knows as she enters the twilight of her career, it’s that earning a seat at the table is only half of the journey — women must work to open opportunities for the next generation, too.
“When I was signed to Under Armour, a woman signed me. When I made the call to Under Armour to tell them I was pregnant, I made that call to a woman,” Hastings said. “It’s important for women to be telling our stories and making decisions for us. A lot of times, women are left out of the conversation because the people making the decisions don’t look like us, don’t understand us.
“We’ve got to continue to lead the charge in filling as many spaces as we can so that we can reach back and pull the next woman up. That’s some of the responsibility that women take on the more we accomplish in life.”