Mitchell Watt improves to 8.44m in Melbourne ( ) © Copyright
“My involvement with football started in my final years of secondary school. I played rugby union and a little bit of Australian Rules football, though it was rugby I did better at.
“Around the age of 14, I got a scholarship to Brisbane Boys School, which is quite a big rugby school.
I’d done quite well at athletics before that. I’d won a couple of Australian U15 titles at 100 metres and long jump. I didn’t steer off into football because I was hating athletics, or was doing badly. It was just that when I got to my new school it seemed more appealing to go down to the oval and kick a ball around with my mates than to go to the track and run by myself.
“It was rugby that I focused on. I played in grades 10, 11 and 12, and in my grade 12 year I was selected in the Queensland schoolboys State team. A few members of the current Australian national team were in that side, including Quade Cooper and Will Genia, who are both Wallabies (Australian rugby internationals) at the moment.
“I played a bit of Australian Rules football. We won a state title in that in year 12 as well.
“The reason I didn’t stick to it when I left school was the same reason you don’t stick with anything, I never really felt comfortable with it. I’d only been playing a couple of years and I didn’t really feel I could go on and become a professional, even though I’d done quite well.
“Because of what I’d achieved, though, I had a few coaches chasing after me to keep on with it here in Brisbane when I left school, but didn’t really feel the urge. I got accepted into uni for my law degree and concentrated on that for a couple of years.
“It was a couple of years into my law degree that I started training in athletics again, so it had been about five years from stopping, through the football phase and two years of uni until I came back to track and field.
“I keep in touch with a fair few of the guys from my rugby days. It’s nice getting texts or messages on twitter from them when they see I am doing well or had a good competition.
“I definitely don’t regret playing football. I think if I’d gone from being a 14-year-old till now just doing long jump the whole time I would have got sick of it.
“It was a good thing. People always said to me ‘do what you enjoy doing’, and I did that. I don’t regret it and I had a great time doing it.
“Everyone knows you can make good money playing professional football and earlier on I did think about that. It sometimes did cross my mind when I was just starting out in track and field. But right now when you’re three months from an Olympic Games, there’s no position I’d rather be in.
“Everyone knows track and field athletes aren’t in it for the money. In saying that, I’m fortunate to have the support of some great sponsors. It’s nice that they’re taking an interest in me and my sport.
“I can’t think of any particular benefit from football. I was quite a lot heavier and musclier, so there wasn’t really any great transfer to long jump. I think it was just good to keep my mind off athletics. A lot of people do athletics from young and burn out, or don’t enjoy it. It just really let me know that when I did start back training for track and field that was really what I wanted to do.
“It would have annoyed me even more had I gone through life and not tried other things I might have done. No regrets.
“I still did a small amount of athletics while I was playing football, but just school competition. You’d do a few weeks training before school competition, nothing more than that.
“As for football, I still go to games now and then. Mainly I watch on TV. Obviously I’m not out partying on the weekends, so when we finish training on Saturday at midday, the way I relax is by watching sport on my couch all weekend.
“As far as training goes, things are back to normal and getting better week-by-week. And I’m pain-free: pain free and getting better, you can’t ask for much more than that.
“I’ll probably do a low-key competition on the Gold Coast before I leave for the New York Samsung Diamond League meeting. I definitely won’t go into a Diamond League without a competition under my belt.”
Until next time,