Embracing Your Identity
with Scout Bassett
16 Aug, 2022 · Track and Field
Paralympic track and field athlete, Scout Bassett, joins us on the VIS Podcast to talk about her childhood as an adoptee from China, overcoming adversity and disability, and important life lessons that go beyond the realm of sports.
Guest: Scout Bassett
“Inclusion and Embracing Life’s Obstacles with Paralympian, Scout Bassett”
This week's guest on the voice and sport podcast is 2016 Paralympic track and field athletes scout Bassett. In this episode, scout shares powerful stories about her childhood surviving the loss of her leg as an infant, being a Chinese American adoptee, finding her passion with running and so much more.
She gives us life tips and shares lessons that shaped her success today. Scout also highlights the importance of representation and inclusivity for everyone, especially those with disabilities. She reminds us to embrace life's challenges for good to recognize and celebrate our growth and not put our worth in social media.
In comparison, throughout her journey, scout has turned adversity into opportunity and it is such an inspiration for all of us to hear her story. Welcome to the voice and sport podcast out.
Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to be here. And I think this platform is just incredible and the work you're doing is amazing.
Ah, thank you. Well, you are an inspiration to all of us and as a Paralympian into the 2016 games and two time world champion medalist, you have achieved success at the highest levels, but what is just so amazing is how you got there. So today we're going to dive into your childhood, how running changed your purpose in life and how you have learned to embrace your identity.
So let's start with your childhood. It was probably unlike many of our listeners experiences and so suffering from the loss of your right leg and a chemical fire as an infant to spending seven years in an orphanage in China, before being adopted and moving to the United States. Your story is really incredible. And what you have accomplished during this journey is just amazing.
So let's start from the beginning. How did you feel your childhood shaped you into the person that you are today?
[00:01:59]Scout Bassett: It's a, such a good question. I would say that it really is at the underbelly of, everything that I am today. I suppose that's there's probably pros and cons to that, but I would say mostly pros for sure. You don't go through such a traumatic experience like I did at such a young age and not have that impact.
Who you are. We're just not wired to be that way. And so I can say it certainly has been the thing that growing up in the orphanage and losing my leg and coming here at such a young age and all the circumstances that surrounded my childhood. It's also the very thing that drove me and has pushed me to have the success that I have today.
But I don't want to be a sugar-coated and say that it was all, you know, roses and unicorns, because it certainly wasn't like that the impact of it has been enormous. And there are scars that. Both physical and invisible from, from my childhood experiences that will never go away. I'm constantly working through and on this journey of, healing and, those are things I'm always working on, but it's been unreal in so many ways.
[00:03:17]Stef Strack: Well, I think what you mentioned is so important, right? You, cannot always judge or know how somebody is feeling on the outside just by their physical appearance. There's also the inside and that, what we talk a lot about at voice and sport is both the mental side and the physical side of being an athlete, but certainly that extends beyond sports and it goes into your experiences and where you grew up and how you grew up.
And so, you know, reflecting back on your own experience as a young woman, what do you remember at your earliest times when you go back, when you did lose your leg do you remember that moment or what was the earliest moment that you realized that you don't have your leg and how did that impact you when you were younger?
[00:04:03]Scout Bassett: Well, fortunately for me I actually don't remember the fire, how I lost my leg. I was a year and a half old when that happened. So I don't have memories of that, but I do have memories of growing up seven years in an orphanage in China and Nanjing. And just that experience alone was heartbreaking and heart wrenching, the kind of experience that just breaks you down where you do not know how you are going to continue.
And this is. A government run institution. This isn't a charity orphanage. So not a lot of nurturing and love was given. As a result of that you know, just a lot of other unthinkable things happened in, in that place. I remember just that every day of like, I need to survive, I need to survive.
And many days not knowing how I would do that. , you get to a point where you're broken down physically and mentally and emotionally. And so many pieces that you don't know how you're like, you, you start to lose your will to keep going. Because as far, you know, for seven years, when I lived in that place nothing changed.
I never had a feeling of a hope that things were going to get better or that I was going to get out of this situation. And, I think that for a lot of people, maybe not to those extremes, but I understand why mental health and why so many people struggle , with mental health because really at the core of it is a feeling of hopelessness. Right. A feeling of things are not going to get better. I cannot see the light at the end of this tunnel. There is no promise of a better future or a better life, or there've been things that have happened that there's so much shame or embarrassment attached to it that they feel like they can not live beyond that.
I think for me, that was very much at the core is when you feel like there's a lack of hopelessness or hope you feel hopeless being able to continue. For me, my encouragement is that. I, don't really know how I can say that there's some level of , divine intervention from above whatever you want to call it.
But that really helped me because , I would say every day I literally, don't have the physical ability or even mental capacity to keep going, but you just do anyways. There's something to be sad about that because if you're able to, if you can just keep going, you might get that miracle.
You might get that light that you've needed and, and it is there. I know it's kind of heavy stuff to talk about for our childhood.
[00:06:56]Stef Strack: No, but it's so important and that hopelessness, you know, it can come at any time in your life, right.
It can come early, it can come later. And I think finding the light is really important. Wherever that light comes from. Like you said, if it comes from some sort of spiritual guidance, if it comes from a religion, if it comes from two amazing people from the United States coming to adopt You and bring you home you know, it comes in different forms and that hopelessness can come in and out of a lot of people's lives. I think it is really important to talk about it because many people feel alone or feel like they're the only ones going through that helplessness feeling. And we want everybody to know that, Hey, it actually can be quite natural human nature that we go through this, but it's important to find that light.
Talk us through. What did that light look like? And how did it sort of change, the next couple of years, because at this point you still were not running you, you didn't really start your running journey until you were at 14. So when that moment happened, when you were adopted by your parents in Michigan, what was that moment like for you?
[00:08:04]Scout Bassett: You know, I think I was surprised quite a few people when I say that it was in itself, another form of trauma and just heartbreak in the sense that I go from leaving. The only thing I'd ever known in my life, this orphanage to being ripped out and what people forget is while we didn't necessarily have parents or loving adult figures, we had each other.
The other orphans become your family and you're in this struggle together and you're all going through the same experience of, immense pain and trauma. There's something about that that binds you together so closely. And it's a bond that's very unique because it's not like there's a lot of other people that go through that same experience.
Right. So you get so close to these other kids and they really were my family. I put it under the context of like, if you don't know any other life or any other way, that is what home is to you. So to be ripped out of that place, and we had no access to media or the outside.
So, it's not like I had a reference of , I'm going from this situation to something much better. , I didn't know that. We didn't see anything , in any form of media of America or families, or all these situations or something. , you can't even fathom. So , that was really traumatic.
I remember for almost the first year of just that deep heartache of like longing to go back to what I knew and to the other children and the other kids. But then obviously you settle in and you realize , this is wonderful. And life changing. , I would have obviously never probably survived had I not been adopted.
And I say that because when I came here at seven years old, I weighed 22 pounds. , that's almost some one-year-olds way that by the end of their first year, I was a size two toddler. So obviously not even close to what I should have been and extremely frail. I'm able to know now and understand that. Being adopted and coming here was really the thing that saved me because I would have never lived a full life.
Had I stayed in that, , environment and obviously there's a certain process and age where they age you out of the orphanage, but my parents are incredible people for what they did. I feel so immensely grateful, but there were so many circumstances even coming here that were really challenging.
I was brought to a really small town in Northern Michigan, a town of 1600 people, so real small town. I could count on one hand the number of minority. That lived in this town and three of them were in our family. Cause I have two other siblings that are adopted from China. So,, just to give you context and then also I have a disability, I don't speak the language.
Just that process of adjusting here was really, really difficult. , kids are not always the the, most understanding at that age. And to be put in school right away and trying to make friends , I have a different story and, and I have a disability and, having them try to still be friends with you that that was really hard.
And was a really difficult transition.
[00:11:33]Stef Strack: Wow. yeah. I feel like there there's this moment when you get a little bit older and you reflect back on to your younger self and in that age group of middle school, and even sometimes into high school, and you realize how many. Kids can be really mean to each other.
And I hope that anybody who's listening to this podcast can really take a step back and realize like the impact you can have with just one word, one comment, it can be really positive or it can be really negative on people and you never know how people are doing where they came from, what their experience was.
And it's just so important to recognize the impact of your words and how you treat people. And that's unfortunately not a lesson. A lot of people learn until they're a little older. So with you know, going into such a small town and not a very diverse town is that, what drew you into sports or how did you get involved into sports?
And is that where you found a sense of belonging?
[00:12:30]Scout Bassett: definitely. It was both. . I got involved in sports because a lot of the kids at school did youth sports, like youth, city soccer and softball. And in that, I remember them coming to school and talking about how much fun they had. I couldn't really understand exactly what they were talking about because obviously second grade, I mean, I am getting somewhat proficient, but I don't fully understand the language.
I'm not fluent in it. But I just remember the joy that they had coming to school, talking about these sports. My family is not athletic at all. Nobody played sports. My parents didn't do sports, so it's not like we watch sports on TV or that I was taken to any sporting events or anything. And I remember being like, I don't even know what soccer and softball is, but I want to sign up and do it anyways.
I think also the thing about that's really beautiful about sport is that it is without boundaries in many ways. And what I mean by that is you don't have to be of the same ethnicities. You don't have to speak the same language. That's really, the beauty of sport is that can bring together people from very different backgrounds.
So I signed up and I quickly realized. Disability is going to be a bit of a problematic thing, because I'm always welcome to be there. I can come to practice, but when it came to the actual games or the tournaments, I didn't get to play. So , I see this is going to be another hurdle, something else I'm going to have to navigate.
And honestly it didn't change. I didn't play hardly at all through grade school, middle school, high school years. I didn't get a lot of playing time. In fact, there were seasons in sports where I never played at all and everybody else did, but I continued to sign up and I continued to join every season.
Every year I did a sport and I think it was just the fact that I was able to be mobile, to move, to be outside, to do things that I wasn't able to do as an orphan in the orphanage that I just wanted to be part of. But I found out that disability was something also I was going to have to navigate.
And it was pretty obvious to me, the prejudices, the preconceptions that, or the misconceptions people have of disability. It's what drove me in sport.
[00:14:55]Nicole Robison: Thank you for listening to the voice in sport podcast. My name is Nicole Robson, and I am a beach volleyball player at Santa Clara university. I love working with voice and sport because we empower young girls and women. And I would love for you to join us in trying to make a change. Go follow us on Instagram. Take talk in Twitter at Boysen sport for more amazing content.
You can also sign up for free and join our community of female firstname.lastname@example.org for mentorship, sports, content, and inspiration. Thanks now let's get back to the rest of the episode
[00:15:27]Stef Strack: What would you hope if you could go back and maybe whisper to all of those kids that were around you in your, different sports with you at that time, if you could just whisper something to them now, what would you whisper to them about how to be more inclusive of a young woman like yourself?
[00:15:45]Scout Bassett: I would say. To not be fearful of things that you don't know or people that don't talk like you look like you behave like you. It's important to embrace those things. I know it's a hard thing for young kids to grasp, but it's human nature to want to bond with people that are similar to us, that share our same similar backgrounds or that look like us. And that's human nature. But also I would say that the things that I've gained, the relationships, the friendships, the connections that have been most valuable to me in my life are ones that people don't look and act and talk like me.
I think there's something really valuable about that. So I just encourage kids to embrace that we're fearful of things. We don't know. We're uncomfortable by things that are different than us. When in reality it could be something gained on both sides from the idea of inclusion and acceptance and, oh, you can play with us.
You can sit with us, you can hang out with us. That was the only something that I didn't hear a lot of growing up at all.
[00:16:54]Stef Strack: Yeah. It breaks my heart. And I think what you're saying is so important. So I really appreciate you sharing that with us. It's such a valuable lesson, whether that's sport or not. . It's just, important to be kind of aware of your own biases and your own experiences.
[00:17:15]Scout Bassett: Yeah. And if you don't know something, it's okay to ask questions. I think a lot of the kids were not necessarily wanting to be exclusive of me, it was more like, well, we don't know how to talk to her Maybe we have concerns, but we don't know how to ask her.
So instead of talking to her, we're just going to pretend she's not there. And my thought is, I think it's an important to ask questions, , go home and ask your parents have conversations it's okay to go up to the person too and say, Hey, I wanted to ask about your leg or are you comfortable if we do this?
It's just good to have to ask questions and know what's your story? I think like a lot of that didn't happen either. And I think one of the hard things too, is a lot of times people in our situation where if you're the person that's marginalized, it's difficult.
People think, well, you should just speak up and you should just kind of. Search yourself more, right? Like that's how you're going to get them to listen to you and to pay attention. But the thing is it puts a huge burden on that person. And I was not who I am today. I didn't have the confidence or I was not as outgoing as I am today.
So it was really hard for me to just pour myself out and be like, this is who I am. This is my story. And I just wasn't that way. So I think when kids or coaches or educators put me to the sidelines, it was really hard for me at that time to advocate for myself and to really speak up and to stand up.
And that's why earlier you mentioned about the comments and stuff. I never realized how damaging. The experiences were . I mean, I was in a grid with only 12 kids. . Super small. And the other 11 kids got invited to a birthday party of somebody in the classroom over the weekend.
And I found out I didn't get the invite. But at the time, those things, whether they're blatant or not, or just the comments of anything like being Asian or having a peg leg, or do you want to be a pirate for Halloween because you already had the cost, like those kinds of things , I remember just laughing it off almost because I didn't know what else to do.
And I think you see that from a lot of kids in my position. I see it when I mentor kids, they're in situations where somebody will say something and they don't want to be combative. They don't want to be rude. And they just kind of silently sort of absorb that pain and that's something that's very common.
I think that a lot of that could be avoided if we just had an open mind of inclusion and acceptance and the idea of really just loving and accepting people for who they are. Obviously it's a different time now, but back then, , this was before the age of internet where you never saw somebody with a disability really on TV or in entertainment or media.
It was so foreign. But now obviously there's a lot more information and access. And I do think that things are changing a little bit.
[00:20:29]Stef Strack: Yeah.
What you said is just so spot on. I think it's like those micro moments, you know, and all of those small comments, they can add up to an overall, really heavy feeling. Everybody has a role to play. It's one of the big things we're trying to do at voice and sport is really educate young girls on how they can not just be their own advocate, but advocate for others when others might feel the pressure to have to speak up for themselves.
And I think what you called on is just so critical. There is power in speaking up and having conversations and not putting the burden all on the person that is marginalized. I really appreciate what you said because that's a big focus of what we're trying to do here at vis is like inspire girls to stand up, speak up have conversations on things.
It might not just be affecting them, but might be affecting so many other people who feel like they can't speak up. So such an important Conversation we're having on this. And I'm curious to know, when did that transition happen for you, where you started to feel more confident in yourself?
I know that you received a grant from, for running prosthetic, from the challenge, challenged athletes foundation when you were 14. And you started to kind of get a bit more into running in the events is that when your confidence kind of started to come in , or did you find confidence later when you were at UCLA?
[00:21:54]Scout Bassett: It definitely started when I began to run. That was a big turning point for me being able to do something that I had never done before, but also in running, I felt like all the chains that had held me down. As a young girl were lifted. And just knowing that this is the thing that I think is so beautiful about sport is that if you find something you love in sport, it can make you feel like all things are possible.
And that's what running did for me. It was like, I have a future. I'm going to be okay. Like everything that I have struggled with in my life, it's going to mean something, you know? And so I think that was what running really gave me was just that feeling of okay, not only do I belong, but I matter.
And I don't know what it is but one day I'm going to do something great and my story is going to be meaningful. And so it's just, that was like so incredible. And it was really the journey of the start of a healing journey. In many ways, for me is being able to run, but I never had any aspirations to to be a professional athlete or, or to do Paralympics or anything like that.
I want to say this because so many young kids struggle with this growing up. I did not know what I wanted to be or to do. And I would even say that all of this, while it has been a dream, now, it wasn't a dream then, because I didn't even really have the ability to dream. When you come from where I come from and go through the kind of struggles and loss and.
Pain and hardships that I've gone through. It's like the idea of dreaming of who you want to be and where you want to go. Like that. Wasn't even a thought. I just want to encourage young kids that if you don't know what you want to do, or you don't have dreams, or you don't know what that is, it's okay.
It will find you, or you will find it at some point. But I know so many, girls in particular, struggle because they're like, oh, I feel like I'm not together because I don't have a path or it wasn't like I wrote in second grade, I'm going to be a Paralympian and went out and did that.
And it's okay to take a path and a journey of winding roads and self discovery of uncertainty, like all of that is important and is meaningful to. So my point being is that when I started running, I had no idea that it was ever going to lead to the dreams that I have today.
, I just want to kind of give that a little sense of hope that you don't have to have it all figured out. You don't have to have all the answers. And actually for me, I didn't even find out about the Paralympics until I was in college. And obviously didn't start doing this professionally until several years.
Post-college so it's okay to not have it all, figure it out and it's okay to take a path where, you know, it's not a straight line.
[00:25:12]Stef Strack: Absolutely. I love that advice, you know, because you can go in one direction and then another, and you will have so many different turns in your life. I love what you said because I always talk to the girls in the community of voice in sport. I try to remind I'm remind them, even when I was graduating college, I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, but, I took a step. I tried this, then it led me to another step. And then it's almost like a zigzag to then these moments that don't happen all the time.
They happen over periods of years where you then say, ah, ha like that's what I want to do.
[00:25:52]Scout Bassett: Yeah.
[00:25:52]Stef Strack: And then you might Zig and zag again, and then you have another one of those moments.
[00:25:57]Scout Bassett: No, that's such a great analogy that along the way it's okay to taste steps backwards and you're going to make some mistakes and you're gonna have failures. And I mean, gosh, my whole store is of that. , I've had so much failure, so much rejection, but also so many triumphs and wins along the way.
And that even the hard stuff of going through failure or setbacks or struggles that they're, they don't have to be a negative, you know? And it doesn't mean that it's the end of a story or your journey. In fact, all of that can be building you for something really incredible. If you just. Lean into it.
You don't run from it. You don't fear it and you say, okay, whatever mistakes and failures that happen along the way it's going to grow me. It's going to lead me to where I'm supposed to be. I've never met a truly successful content thriving person that hasn't gone through a lot of mistakes and failure and disappointments along the way, like all of that is supposed to happen.
In fact, if you don't experience any of that, trust me, it might not. You probably not at where you're supposed to be yet.
[00:27:15]Stef Strack: Absolutely. Well, let's talk a little bit more about failure and perfectionism, because I think this is what causes a lot of anxiety. Especially for student athletes today where it's just a lot of pressure and the pressure to be good at school to be good at, in the field to be a good friend, to be good.
You know, it's just a lot of pressure. So what advice would you have knowing that you went to UCLA and then, but that's kind of when your career sort of kicked off, when, when you had a performance director who saw your results, wanted to recruit you to go to the U S Paralympic games reflecting back now on your time as a student athlete in college, what advice would you have for those girls who still feel like, Hey, it's not okay to fail and they're trying to be perfect.
Whatever some social society ideal of perfect is what advice would you have for those girls?
[00:28:09]Scout Bassett: Well, I might not be the best person to ask this because I am a perfectionist in so many ways. And it's something I'm still working on and even now today of letting go, but also it's not necessarily a bad thing because in many ways that drive to improve to get better, to always be striving for that next level of greatness is also.
What has led me to have so much success. I would say for anybody who is that type it's a good quality to have, obviously , there's a cons to it, but for me, I've just had to really work on trying to be just the best that I can be. I think so much of the perfectionism.
Mentality comes from a lot of external expectations or pressures or perceived demands that we have on ourselves. So whether it's coming from a parent or in my case, it could be partners or sponsors it could be family members or friends. But that ultimately everything you do, you have to ask, who are you doing this for?
And to appease others is never going to sustain you. Like long-term, it's not going to lead to a long career and anything. I'm always going back to like, what is your why? And I think when you can answer that and you build everything you do, based on that, it gets a lot easier to sort of okay, take off the pressure, the demands, because as long as you know, you're living in your purpose and you're in alignment with what your, why is You're never going to be a failure.
[00:29:54]Stef Strack: I love that. Well, that's a great segue into kind of your identity. I think I want to talk a little bit about identity and as athletes and as humans, because sometimes a lot of young athletes can struggle when it comes to really thinking holistically about who they are as athletes, as humans and to not compare themselves to other people.
You were quoted in an article saying, I am never, again, going to be ashamed of my story or where I came from. And you went on to talk about how you felt you had so many different identities growing up in a white family, being from China. But also with a disability in a small town, all the things you've already talked about.
So how did you learn to really embrace all those aspects of your identity that really make you, you versus where I think a lot of people can get into trouble is when they just define themselves as one thing, like I am an athlete and that is it. And sometimes that can get you in a, not so healthy space to.
[00:31:00]Scout Bassett: I think a lot of that comes from people wanting to put us in boxes, right? You're this, or you're that, but you can't be this and that. For me, I think I struggled with that so much because as you mentioned, there are so many different layers of who I am of my story. I wear a lot of hats and that can be really challenging, but also.
There's a little bit of a heavy weight when you recognize that you represent something so much bigger than yourselves. And for so many people, being a woman, being an athlete being Asian, having a disability. While you want to be a wonderful advocate and voice and representative of these different groups, it can be a very heavy weight to carry.
I think also for me, growing up, I sort of felt like I was in between two worlds. You mentioned I was grew up in a, in a white community, raised in a white family, but I'm ethnically Chinese and sort of having to balance what that means. . Am I white or am I Asian? Am I, am I both? And my half half. For me, I think what I've realized is that there are many things that happen to each of us circumstances, things that we're born with, that we cannot change about ourselves, or that you had absolutely no control over and that rather than being shameful of those things or embarrassed to embrace all of it.
I think the day that I re recognize that these are everything that is who I am, and I can not change my ethnicity. My legs not going to grow back. And, I can't change the circumstances of how I came here and all that. When you just learn to embrace
that's your story. That's who you are. Okay. How can I use this for good? It becomes a lot easier and but certainly, you know, there's just a lot of challenging aspects of, of that, but I think it's important to really just the only way you make peace with all these different things is when you recognize, like you cannot change it and okay.
If I can't change it, then how am I going to use this for good. And that's, what's really important.
[00:33:29]Stef Strack: What advice would you have for somebody who might be working through this and they might not be in your exact scenario scout with the same differences that you have been discussing here today. What advice would you have for someone who is out there today who might just feel like they don't belong or they're working through their own identity in a situation where maybe they don't feel as included?
What advice would you have for them?
[00:33:55]Scout Bassett: have grace and love for yourself. Don't beat yourself up that you're confused or if you're uncertain or trying to figure it out you don't have to decide overnight and it's important to just have love and grace and patience with yourself as you go through that journey of figuring out who you are and what you want to represent or what you want to be.
And also that a lot of that is very complex. It's heavy stuff to deal with and. I just want to encourage even young people that if it is taking an emotional or mental toll, physical toll on you, that it's okay to seek help. And there are P or any sort of treatment that you might need. I started going to therapy when I was in fifth grade and just starting to talk about the orphanage and coming here on all of these sorts of different aspects that I was dealing with of my childhood.
I've continued that throughout my adult life. And there's nothing. Wrong with that. It's okay. It's not on us to process everything that's happened to us and to figure it out and that it's really helpful to be able to see somebody that is a professional and licensed to be able to help you navigate that and work through that kind of stuff.
For me, that, that was a really important part of my journey of healing and of wholeness is saying, I can't do this on my own. I'm struggling and I'm willing to go see somebody who can help me navigate this. It's been one of the best things I've ever done for myself. I would say that you especially when you're young, like I didn't tell any of my friends.
When I was in fifth grade and continuing middle school that I was going to therapy because I know they would've just mocked me I hid that, but I don't want young people today to feel like they have to do that because you don't have to hide it. I'm thankful that I was per courageous and brave enough to say, I need a little bit of help in this.
That's what I want to encourage young kids too, is that by saying you're not okay. And by maybe seeking help that that's actually the most brave and courageous thing you can do for yourself. It's not a sign of weakness and you don't have to tell everybody that you're doing it.
If you just feel comfortable between you and your family, that's okay too. But it's never too early to start and it's never too late to start.
[00:36:32]Stef Strack: That's right. I mean, that is fundamentally why we've built this platform. We have over 80 sports, psychologists and nutritionists for girls to talk to on our platform because we think it's a super power for every person to unlock. It's the exact opposite of how we grew up scout. I'm a little older than you, but , we grew up in a time where it wasn't cool and it was like taboo to talk about some of these things.
We need to quickly continue to accelerate that change in that narrative for this next generation. It's people like yourself. It's other athletes who are open speaking openly about mental health. That really are going to be powerful in this movie. To change the narrative because we want girls to be not just girls, but our platforms focused on girls because we really believe that there's just not enough resources out there today for them.
So we need to really accelerate that work. And I hope anyone who's listening knows that it is definitely a sign of strength when you ask for help. Sometimes that can be hard to do. But it's so worth it when you do it and hearing from you scout about how it has helped you, not just as a human, right, but also as an athlete.
Can you talk a little bit about how, seeing a psychologist and then also maybe a sports psychologist has improved also your performance on the track?
[00:38:02]Scout Bassett: Yeah. Seeing I've been working with a sports psychologist for a while now. And it's funny because initially I was kind of resistant to going, seeing a sports psychologist because I consider myself so strong mentally, physically, I've been through so many hard things in my life that you know, I just see myself as somebody who, and it's also sort of the athlete mindset.
But then I was having some performance anxiety issues and, and things with expectations and demands and pressures of being an athlete that was really affecting my performance and my ability to really be my best. Awhile ago, I started working with a sports psychologist to help me navigate that.
And it's been really beneficial and so important, I've been so consistent about doing it. I have just seen a difference in my confidence level as an athlete and my ability to believe in myself, to know that I can do it. But it's very normal as an athlete to be all about dealing with pressure
one thing about sport is there's nowhere to hide. So when you fail or you have a disappointing performance, typically you're not the only one that knows about it, right? Whether there's an audience or you're at a proposition. And so dealing with that is, is not a normal thing. So that's one thing about being an athlete.
That's not like most people's jobs, right. Or most people's situations. And so the failures, the disappointments, the highs and lows are out there for anybody to see and the results. So just working with a sports psych has really helped me to manage that and helping me to deal with the external pressures or the critics, or just things like that.
I think it's really helpful and beneficial. And you know, if you're somebody that has performance, anxiety, it's really important to possibly work with a sports psych. I've enjoyed it. And it's actually something that I really look forward to because every session and every week and every.
Competition. I just feel like I'm getting stronger and stronger and I have more tools to be able to deal with sport related challenges. So that's really wonderful too.
[00:40:23]Stef Strack: That's amazing. You also keep a journal where you note down how your body feels every day. How does this help you cope with the pressure and to be a better.
[00:40:34]Scout Bassett: Yes. I think this is a really great thing to do for young people and Keep a journal. I actually talked to a young girl the other day who was like, I don't really have time. And I don't really know how to formulate my thoughts into a journal. I said, if you look at my journal, it's not full sentences.
You don't need to write an essay. I think a lot of people think like journaling is that right? I got to write full sentences. I have to put together paragraphs. It's got to be an essay format. My journal is literally just bullet points. It's just words. It's just thoughts. It's not coherently put together, but it's just how, oh, you know, I was feeling really okay, tired might be tired or it might be, I'm dealing with.
Menstrual stuff or hormone stuff, or I felt a little flat today, or it could be even something you're dealing with personally, like had family issues or whatever it might be. And it's good to just put that all down on paper and as well as the good stuff, things that are going well, like write those down too, because when you're really struggling, it's nice to also look back on the journal and see what helped you to be great.
So when you run really well or you poor perform really well, what would you do that day? How were you feeling that made you have a great performance? And then when you're go through seasons or stretches, when you're struggling, look back, oh, I've gotten away from doing this or I've gotten away from, you know, this was working well, I got to get back to that.
So I think it's really wonderful to do that. And also funny to kind of look back and see, like, I even recently looked back and eight years ago to see some of the stuff that I was feeling or going through, and I kind of laugh because some of it was, seemed so important and I look back and I'm like, okay, that was really not a big deal.
You know? So it's also just fun to look back at the different things in your life you are going through.
[00:42:37]Stef Strack: I love that I recently was in Alaska and my parents' house. And I found a letter that said don't open until 2020. I had written it in like something like sixth grade. Oh, it was a moment where I was like, wow. I'm going to be in the Olympics. I'm going to like one of these things, which. You know, I think is so amazing to reflect back on the words that were in your mind at a certain point in time and what that can reveal for yourself and also just what it can bring to you.
So even if it's just three months ago or two weeks ago versus 20 years ago, I mean, it's so therapeutic. So I love that you bring that up. What are some other things that you love to do that you incorporate into your weekly routine to make sure that you are in a good place mentally?
[00:43:32]Scout Bassett: I've been really working on saying no. I think that's kind of counterintuitive to today's culture that wants you to say yes to everything. Well, if you don't say yes, you might miss out and I actually have been taking sort of the opposite approach that it's okay to say no. And just to have time for yourself, because the thing is that the more yeses you say to things at some point.
You're well, gets dry and empty. You've got to refill it somehow. And if you just give away your time and your energy and pieces of you to making everybody else happy and you're not doing what makes you happy, you're not going to be able to be your best. And you're certainly not going to be able to perform as an athlete.
For me, that's something I really struggled with because I generally like to make people happy and I like to be a people pleaser. And I've had to get away from that and just say, you know, your friend wants you to go out one night or go to do something and sorry, I can't are, you know, it's like, it's okay to say that you can't do something or you don't want to do something.
I think that's really hard for me because that's not something I normally do. I found myself just so drained, empty, because I was running around trying to make everybody else happy and making sure they got what they needed. And then I was like, wait a minute, nobody's doing this for myself.
I just had to step back and just take the day and do nothing for nobody and just to be home and, and eat foods that you enjoy, watch a show that you enjoy and just have time for yourself. Those are actually the days that I cherish the most, because so much of my life is on the go and hustle and bustle.
And there's a lot of demands and a lot of expectations. To be able to take time it's usually one day a week on Sundays and I don't do anything. I don't go anywhere. And I just love being home and alone and just. You know, resting and there's so much benefit to that. For the young people out there too, it's okay to take time to rest.
In fact, you need it. And so that's, what I love doing for myself is just resting.
[00:45:48]Stef Strack: It's one of my favorite exercises to do. And now that we're talking about this today, I feel like I need to go back and do this, but take your journal and draw five or four buckets and label those buckets with the things that you want your life to be filled with and what you want to be doing. And one of them might be being an athlete or doing sport, and one of them might be writing or, and the other might be, you know, maybe you do really love studying and you want to become a doctor.
I don't know whatever those buckets are. For me, it's like , my kids is in one of those buckets. And then there's this visual that you can have, hopefully, if you can, if you do this and put this front and center for your life, this visual of like, Which bucket is leaking, which one do I need to fill up more?
You know? And if you're only filling up one bucket and overfilling it, and you're ignoring all the other buckets in your life that you said you cared about, you're gonna feel some sadness. And so that's always a good gut check for me and a good exercise. I like to do.
[00:46:53]Scout Bassett: I love that. That's awesome. And such a great picture. You know, that's, that's a really good one.
[00:47:01]Stef Strack: Well, let's talk about a really important, amazing event that you have been part of, which is the Paralympics games, the para Olympic games. I want to talk about your experiences there and just how we bring more visibility to the Paralympic games and how your experience has been. So in 2016, you competed in the Rio de Janeiro Paralympic games that had to been such an incredible experience.
Could you tell us a little bit about your experience there as an athlete?
[00:47:32]Scout Bassett: competing at the Paralympics is definitely one of the highlights of my athletic career. There's nothing in the world as an athlete that compares to being on that stage and obviously how special it is. How difficult it is to reach that level, but just an incredible experience and you know, one that I enjoyed it so much.
I'm working to get back to another one, but I can't say enough about to be able to live your dream. Especially for me to be able to, I remember the night of the a hundred meters, they take you on the longest walk around the track to the start line. I just remember tears were just streaming down my eyes.
And as we're taking this walk and I'm like, here, I'm about to run the a hundred meters at the Maryland big games and I'm no crying, but it was tears of joy because I, in that moment thought about my life and my journey, my story, where I'd come from, everything that I had been through All the pain and the loss and the struggles that have brought me to that place and that I'd been able to overcome them all.
How meaningful it is to be able to reflect on that moment of this doesn't happen to people like me, you know, it's not that often that you hear a story of somebody coming from the streets of China in an orphanage to competing at the Paralympic games. I got to reflect and think about all the people along the way who have helped me to achieve that, to do that.
The friends that let me live on their couches and in their spare rooms, when I decided to be a professional athlete and I had no money and not a single sponsor. All of that, you know, it's just so meaningful and I'm so grateful for all of it because it led me to that stage, but it wasn't credible.
[00:49:30]Stef Strack: Well, I love that you, your story is just so inspiring and it's a big passion of yours outside of sport to spend time really sharing your story. You're going to be on the, on the podium a podcast with BPC on season two later this year, sharing your story, which is really exciting. What does it mean, you know, for you to share your story and what do you hope is one of the biggest lessons or takeaways that young girls will, will take away from hearing your story?
[00:50:01]Scout Bassett: I hope that in sharing my story. It sends some measure of hope of light to anybody out there who may need it, because I want you to believe and to know that truly all things are possible. And to just keep going, even when you think you cannot go any farther or that you can't go on keep pushing because on the other side of all the hard things have been all the rewards of this life.
And I would have never gotten to experience that if I wasn't willing to walk through the darkest of tunnels, the valleys, all of that. But I hope that really my message or the one thing I want to share is just especially for young girls to not attach your value to a person, a place accomplishment, a title Your social media don't attach your value to how many likes or comments or followers you like.
Those things are not important. They really aren't. And while social media is great and it's wonderful and exists, it also puts us, as you mentioned earlier into these comparison traps, right? And I always say comparison is the thief of joy. And but, but so many people and myself included, we've attacked.
I've attached my value to what the world says about me. And you can't do that because it's not sustainable. You will always be searching. You'll always feel empty if that's how you attach your value and instead attach your worth to a purpose to a calling and. To your why, and when you're able to do those things, you'll never feel empty.
If you always keep that as sort of your north star, you'll be able to overcome any challenge or any struggle in your life.
[00:52:04]Stef Strack: For anyone who's listening, who is faced with a disability, what would you want to tell them about all the opportunities that are out there for them?
[00:52:14]Scout Bassett: Oh gosh. That having a disability isn't the badge or the marker of something awful in your life, because for so many people, it is, it's the reminder of that accident. That terrible thing that happened at birth or, or that diagnosis, whatever it might be. It doesn't have to be that it can be the very thing that strengthens you, gives you your power is the thing that elevates you to new Heights and new levels.
If you again, are willing to just embrace it, to accept it for what it is and say, okay, how can I use this for good? I think for women in particular, because having a disability as a woman is quite different than the men and how our culture perceives women with disabilities is very different.
I want women with disabilities to know that you are powerful, you are strong, you're valuable, you're important. And you're beautiful even with what the world sees as your deficiency or your imperfection. It's not those things. that you can be all those things, even what the disability.
[00:53:26]Stef Strack: What would you like to, to share with the sports industry at large about how to be more inclusive of athletes with disabilities? If you could just take, if you had the microphone to the entire sports industry today on the voice and sport podcast, what would be three things that you would just want everybody to either consider or to know as we go forward in hopefully a more inclusive sports
[00:53:55]Scout Bassett: well, something that I've noticed that's been happening right now is it's Asian American Pacific heritage month. And I've seen many platforms and outlets celebrate Asian excellence as they should. But what I've noticed across the board is none of it has featured. People with disabilities and I'm not just saying it's for Asian Pacific heritage month.
This is an all walks of life. We are so inclusive of all these other groups of people. The thing that I really Maddens me to some level is just that we often leave out people with disabilities. When we talk about inclusion and diversity, and we celebrate all these greatnesses and all these attributes that make people that, that diversify us.
Right. But then we, we leave out people with disabilities all the time and it's like, oh, we're forgotten. Like you don't recognize us as. Making valuable contributions or having significance. And it's like I think that's just disappointing, you know, because there's so much positive, valuable, important perspectives experiences that people with disabilities provide.
And when we fail to acknowledge them in these conversations or in these celebratory moments, it's really sad, you know, because in the U S there's 57 million Americans that live with a permanent disability and globally over a billion people, I mean, this is not a niche, small group of the population here.
And so, but we just so often forget, and we just think they're not on par with the rest of us. And I hope that that's something that changes in sport too, especially in sport. .
[00:55:58]Stef Strack: absolutely. Well, I'm so thankful that you spent the time with us today, sharing your story, and also just speaking some so much powerful truth because whether it's your own journey that you've had with mental health or. Identity or even just wanting to, , be seen more for your community. I think they're all just very powerful, powerful conversations for young girls to hear and very inspiring scout to, to know that you're out there, , not just doing amazing things on the track, but also continuing your efforts in really mentoring and inspiring the next generation.
So we're so excited to have you part of the voice and sport community and joining our podcast today and hope to see many more amazing things from you in the future.
[00:56:53]Scout Bassett: Gosh, thank you so much for having me on. I want to commend you for all your amazing work and what you're doing, because this is important too. And just the impact that you voice and sport are having on so many young women is absolutely needed. Your message is important. So just I can't thank you enough in any way that I can help support going forward.
Please let us know.
[00:57:19]Stef Strack: Thanks scout. You're amazing. And we're really looking forward to that. Also listening to you in on the BBC podcast later this year.
[00:57:27]Scout Bassett: All right. Thank you so much.
[00:57:29]Stef Strack: thank you for listening to our conversation with the inspiring scout Bassett. We are so grateful to have her as part of the viz platform as a resource and athlete to learn from she's accomplished so much as a Paralympian and advocate, despite facing more adversity and challenges than most of any of us. I hope we all take away the importance of having a growth mindset and the importance of unaltered determination. Every story is powerful and scout reminds us why increasing the visibility of those stories is so crucial. We are so excited to see all the incredible things she will achieve in sport and beyond in the future.
And you can follow scout on Instagram at @scoutbassett. This week's episode was produced and edited by vis creator Nicole Robinson, a beach volleyball player at Santa Clara university. Head to the feed on voice and sport and filter by journey or running and spend some time diving into the incredible free resources we have at viz.
Check out the session page and filter by professional athlete and sign up for one of the free or paid sessions with our viz league or a viz experts. Please click on the share button of this episode and send it to another athlete that you think might enjoy the conversation You might also wanna check out episode 77 with CeCe Telfer another woman athlete who turned adversity into opportunity and teaches us to fully embrace our identity. See you next week on the voice and sport podcast.
Paralympic track and field athlete, Scout Bassett, joins us on the VIS Podcast to talk about her childhood as an adoptee from China, overcoming adversity and disability, and important life lessons that go beyond the realm of sports.