Paralympic Track Athlete Scout Bassett On the Importance of Recovery — for Athletes of All Ages
The world champion track and field athlete gets real about the impacts of hustle culture, plus why young and high-level athletes alike should take the R&R they so desperately need.
Scout Bassett could have easily snagged the "Most Likely to Become the MVP of all MVPs" superlative growing up. She played sports every season, year after year, and gave basketball, softball, golf, and tennis a trial run before starting to compete in track and field events. At the time, sports were a safe haven — a place where Bassett could escape from any personal problems she was dealing with — and an outlet to express herself, she tells Shape.
"I think if I had not been in a sport every season of every year, I don't know where I'd be in terms of my life, as a person," says Bassett. "Not to say that I would've gotten in trouble or made bad choices, but certainly that is not out of the realm of possibility. And so that was great for me [to keep] me focused on a path, motivated, [and] setting goals."
Clearly, the 33-year-old's steadfast dedication to athletics, specifically track and field, has paid off. Bassett, who lost her right leg in a fire as an infant, joined the U.S. Paralympic Team for the first time in 2016 and competed in two events at the summer games in Rio de Janeiro. A year later, she clinched two bronze medals, one in the 100-meter dash and the other in the long jump, at her third World Championships. Although Bassett didn't qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, she'll be cheering on her fellow athletes as an NBC correspondent throughout the competition.
And she's not stopping there. Bassett remains a vocal advocate for young women to continue their participation in sports. In fact, girls drop out of sports at two times the rate as boys by age 14, according to the Women's Sports Foundation. And this passion for athletics is why she partnered with Always. Currently, Always is working with the YMCA to create nationwide programs that help get young women back in the game as part of the #KeepHerPlaying campaign. "I know that sports has been so transformational in my life, helping me to not only navigate so many personal challenges and struggles but also developing important life skills that really have nothing to do with the actual field of play or the physical training," she says.
To Bassett, the societal pressure to have a "hustle mindset" is one major contributor to the problem. "You can really get overwhelmed by that, thinking you've got to go above and beyond all the time, and then you just reach this burnout," she explains. "...When you do sports, whether it's a recreational level or a high level, the burnout is high. And I think that's part of why girls struggle to stay in sports at a young age — it can be all-consuming, and there's not enough recovery time or time away from it to really reboot yourself."
Bassett isn't immune to burnout, either. In a typical fall training season, she'll work out for five to six hours a day, five or six days a week, performing endurance and technique drills on the track, strength exercises in the gym, and other off-beat, low-impact workouts, such as "running" laps in a pool while wearing a swim belt. FTR, Bassett says she enjoys the "challenge" of her fitness regimen and that "it's something new and exciting every day." But over the past year, Bassett says she was "overtraining in some ways" while preparing to potentially compete in the Tokyo Games, which were delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "There's no playbook, so to speak, of how you train for a fifth year," says Bassett. "I think we really wanted to make sure we were working just as hard as everybody else, if not more, to not lose any time, to not waste the extra year." (Related: Swimmer Simone Manuel Revealed Her Struggle with Overtraining Syndrome Just Days Before Qualifying for the Olympics)
Though she wishes she took a bit more time off while prepping for the Tokyo Games, Bassett generally makes an effort to prioritize recovery — and not just methods that help her physically, such as icing her muscles and seeing a physical therapist. "I think it's important to do something different from your actual sport," she explains. "[On] my recovery days, there's no actual running involved." Instead, Bassett says she flows through yoga classes, visits the beach, and takes walks and hikes to reset herself mentally.
"I don't think it can be stressed enough how important it is for athletes of all levels and ages to really take those recovery days and even parts of the year where you take a bit of an off-season away from doing sports, just for a little bit, to reboot," she adds. "...You can excel at a high level and take a day off to recover, whether it's mentally or physically. There's no shame in that, and it doesn't mean that you're not working hard or you're not committed or dedicated to your sport."
More importantly, the world champion wants to emphasize that young athletes shouldn't automatically wave the white flag when the going gets tough. "One of the things I'm most proud of is working with so many young girls, especially girls with disabilities, [and] wanting to be that example to them that just because things didn't go your way or you fell short, that's not the reason to quit. In fact, these are the very moments and reasons to stay involved in sports, to be committed to your craft," says Bassett.
"It's easy to give up, and it would be easy in this position, but so much can be gained," she says in regard to not qualifying for this year's Paralympics. "I truly believe the best rewards of life come from the other side of the struggles."