Athlete Jeannelle Scheper, High Jump: “The heights will come.”

How long have you been in high jump and how did you first get involved in athletics?

I started high jump when I was 13. I got involved in a high school sports meet. No one trains for it, but when it comes up, teams start trying to find people to compete. If you look tall, they use you for high jump.

The coach asked my mom if I could train 2-3 times a week, and I trained with her until I left St. Lucia in 2011 when I was 16. My coach didn’t speak English, and I spoke very little Spanish. I don’t remember how we communicated but we managed.

What’s your first memory as an athlete in high jump?

Probably all the techniques: scissors kick, Fosbury flop going over the bar backward. I still have memories of the references my coach would make in training, which were weird, but it did the job.

What’s the best advice a coach ever gave you?

My coach at USC, Coach Dee, sat me down and told me, “You need to realize that you are the owner of your own personal company now. You need to create your brand.” As a professional, especially in track and field, it can start to feel really lonely and you really have to take ownership of your career for it to go somewhere.

Do you have a go-to resource for inspiration?

I love The Pressure Principle written by Dave Alfred. It has a lot of hands-on tips for handling pressure and anxiety and gives you actionable tasks and little tidbits before going to a competition.

Natasha Hastings and Phylicia George’s Diva Chronicles podcast is so inspirational. I can relate to the things they’re saying; it lets me know that the struggle is across the board.

How do you stay motivated in and out of season?

I follow competitors on Insta(gram). On a day when I’m working full time and have training in the evenings and am not feeling it, I just get amped up by seeing what they are doing. I never want to feel like I’m not doing enough. I want to be the best I can possibly be.

I’ve also had a training partner since November, and she’s helped me so much. She’s always excited to see me and workout with me. I underestimated how much of a difference it could have to have someone who wants the best for you.


What are your predictions on high jump in the next 5 years?

I think it’s interesting because a lot of veterans are phasing out; there’s a lot of retirement happening, especially on the international stage, so the girls will be a lot younger. It will be a less mature group.

Of course, some things come with maturity. But I think there is some benefit to naiveté. You don’t have a realistic idea of how important your place on a world stage is. You’re not really intimidated.


Do you have any prerace rituals, like visualization, special socks, etc.?

I try to have a premeet visualization. The last practice going into the meet, during the warmup, I try to imagine the warmup and pretend that I'm getting ready to compete and have that same intensity.

I do have a couple pairs of jumping socks. If I didn't have them, I might have a small moment of fret. But they’re comfy and functional.

What advice do you have for up-and-coming athletes in high jump?

Keep the fun in it. Don’t get too serious, especially for high jump. It’s very much a mental battle; you have to defeat yourself, basically. Especially when you’re young, you can solidify good habits by having a free natural way of jumping. The heights will come.

What are you working on now (athletically, professionally, personally)?

I have a full-time traineeship at Adidas as a digital analyst. I wanted the experience of working in my field. My line manager is extremely supportive.

What are your athletic goals for the 2019/2020 season?

Trying to maintain realistic expectations. I know that maybe it won’t come together all at once. I’m taking small incremental wins and staying true to the process.

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