Elite Athlete Interview: Samantha Haggo, Scottish Cricket

"Cricket is a sport that has been in my family for generations."
1. Tell us about yourself. Where are you from/ where did you grow up? What attracted you to cricket?

I’m from Prestwick. I lived there up until two years ago, when a new job brought me to Edinburgh. Cricket is a sport that has been in my family for generations. My grandfather played and umpired, my uncle is a former Scotland wicket-keeper, and my dad played–and is now an international umpire. I couldn’t avoid it really! Fortunately I love it – it’s a social sport, great for fitness, involves many different skills and allows me to travel to some cool places.

2. Yoga. Useful for you professionally/ personally? How has it made an impact on you?

Yoga has been a huge assistance to me, since I began practising properly a couple of years ago. Not only is it excellent for cardiovascular fitness and developing muscular strength, it is also a great release mentally. After a long day at work, or the day after a match, it’s nice to be able to go and practice mindfulness in amongst the madness! I’ve particularly found it beneficial for dealing with high pressure situations in work and in cricket…focusing on the breath is a simple way to calm down, re-set and re-focus.

3. People don’t always see yoga and cricket as being closely connected. How did you first find yoga? Do you see it advancing in this particular field?

I first experienced yoga whilst at a European training camp in La Manga, Spain around 8 years ago. It was an intense week of training, and early morning yoga was factored in some days. I must admit, I was young, naïve and immature. I didn’t take the sessions as seriously as I should have, and kept getting the giggles. My next experience of yoga was actually Tribe! I can definitely see it being used as a mainstay in cricket training and preparation. The practice of yoga is brilliant for developing cardiovascular fitness as well as strength, both of which are crucial for performing well in cricket, as well as preventing injuries. I know that a lot of professional cricket teams already practice yoga regularly, and I can only see this becoming more common as word gets out about how beneficial it can be.

Samantha’s squad photo when she played for the Canterbury Magicians in Christchurch, New Zealand, November 2014.

4. How about Tribe? Let us know about your experiences at Tribe; what drew you to it and what kept you coming back?

As a Cricket Scotland athlete, I’m lucky to get the support of Tribe–which is an incredible space.  From the warm welcome you receive at every studio, to the challenging, enjoyable classes…it’s impossible not to gravitate back each week. I love that the staff show interest in yogis; from knowing their name, to asking about a recent trip, or just their life in general.  It really adds to the experience of going to Tribe – yoga can be intimidating but the Tribe crew make sure that’s not the case for anyone who walks through the door.  It also helps that the studios and changing facilities are top notch!

5. At what point in starting with Tribe did you first notice it was beginning to help physically? What did you feel?

Once I started coming 2-3 times a week I really started to notice physical changes in my body. I gained more muscle definition, and definitely felt stronger in my core. I found the classes extremely challenging (and sweaty!) yet always left feeling a bit lighter and more energised mentally.

6. It is widely known that professional athletes are often under a huge amount of pressure. Do you think, beyond the physical benefits of yoga, there are mental benefits too?

Absolutely. I imagine it can be very full-on being a professional athlete, with training and games taking over the week. I work full-time, with cricket on the side, so I’m in a slightly different predicament but I firmly believe the mental benefits will be similar. Yoga can provide an oasis of calm and an outlet from the external world for an hour. You get that hour to be completely present in the moment, and use it as downtime. Whilst the classes can be can certainly be challenging, it is still a release from the outside world. I think having this time is important in terms of allowing a good work/ life balance, thus contributing to a better performance on the field/pitch/court.

Samantha receiving her 100th cap in Newport-on-Tay, July 2017.

7. Are you seeing yoga becoming more included in sports overall? Do you think it is something we should be looking at developing amongst younger athletes?

Yeah, definitely. I know that Tribe already supports a wide range of sporting teams, which is great and serves as a testament to how seriously performance teams are now taking yoga as an integral part of their training setup. I do think it would be good to introduce it at a younger age. I think I would have benefitted greatly from yoga when I was younger, especially in terms of learning stress-reduction techniques to use during high-pressure sporting situations.

8. What were your favourite classes at Tribe? Did you take a variety of different ones or stick to only a few?

My favourites are probably Flow Yoga and Power Yoga. I also love Tribe Cycle. Bridget and the team somehow manage to turn 45 mins hard cardio into an absolute party. If I’m feeling brave, then I’ll do a Sculpt class. Top tip: Don’t underestimate 1.5kg weights!

9. When you’re not playing cricket or doing yoga, what might you be up to?

I work in marketing so that consumes a lot of my time but for fun, I like watching sports or a goof TV series, reading, catching up with friends and going out for brunch!

10. Has yoga taught you anything else in particular about yourself?

It’s actually made me realise how hot-tempered I am. It sounds silly but being in classes has helped me calm down, in terms of dealing with situations better rather than flying off the handle.

11. Any particular role models? Why him/ her/ them?

I admire Dame Katherine Grainger. I love how she finally achieved Gold after three consecutive Silver medals. Whilst getting a Silver medal is nothing to be ashamed of, I love her determination and perseverance to keep striving for excellence and the number one spot.

12. Where was the last place you travelled?

I recently went on holiday to the USA, to Orlando and Nashville. I visited the theme parks, caught an NFL game and enjoyed the huge food portions (a little too much).

13. You’re a new addition to the crayon box. Which colour would you be and why?

I would be a beige crayon. I am really quite a boring person…I definitely prefer a night in over a night out these days.

14. If you could only choose one song to play every time you walked into a room for the rest of your life, what would it be?

“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham! Banger.

Samantha at the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifiers in Stirling, August 2017.

15. What would we find in your refrigerator?

I’m a millennial cliche–you’ll probably find eggs and avocado. Also apples. Putting them in the fridge instead of in a fruit bowl has been a total game changer. Try it, you’ll never look back! 

16. What is your spirit animal. Or, if you were an animal, what would it be?

Koala bear. I’m a terrible sleeper, and they sleep most of the day which would be a dream. Also, when they’re not sleeping, they’re eating…

17. What did you have for breakfast this morning? 

Bran flakes with blueberries and almonds.

18. What was your last class? Will we see you again soon?

Yoga Sculpt the other night…I’ll be back in tomorrow for Power Yoga with Jess Mackenzie.

19. What’s next for you?!

After a season off cricket due to poor health, I’m working on building my fitness and strength back up. In the short term, this will involve regular Tribe sessions, some running and light gym work, with the long-term goal of playing competitively next summer. 

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