Our very first Spotlight falls on Kaimare Laird – but you can call him Kai. Being The Performance Pursuit’s sole male consultant, Kai is one lucky (and very brave) man. There are a number of things that he brings to the table, such as his Caribbean accent. An experienced athlete, a knowledgeable professional, and a strong leader – Kai is an irreplaceable part of our team. The following Q&A are designed to help you get to know Kai a little better!
Why sport psychology?
Sport has always been a huge part of my life whether I was competing, coaching, or even spectating. During high school and college I realized how important mental skills conditioning was both within and outside of athletics as I experienced many severe injuries ranging from fracturing my L4 vertebrae in my senior year of high school to tearing my ACL during my junior year of college. Those moments were probably the most difficult times as an athlete as they were injuries that immobilized me for long periods and required extensive treatment preventing me from doing what I loved, competing in sports. Through the consistent application of mental skill training and hard work, I learned the importance of sport psychology as it accelerated my recovery time and provided me with the tools to continue competing in the sports I love to this very day.
Besides spending countless years of my life training, competing, and coaching, I always knew that one day I wanted to own a business with social sciences always peaking my interest. The most important lesson I learned from obtaining a business degree was to “follow your passion”. So I did, with my first professional sport psychology experience occurring while working at The Trinidad and Tobago Sport Company in the Elite Development Performance Unit (EDPU). Working with the EDPU was a fantastic experience as I saw first hand how hands-on the field was and how rewarding it was to assist others achieve their athletic and personal goals. After my time at the EDPU I was convinced that I was wanted to pursue a career in sport psychology and haven’t looked back since, going on to consulting with several athletes, teams, and coaches at various colleges and high schools.
What is your favorite sport to play? What is your favorite sport to watch?
Growing up I always enjoyed playing sports, spending several years competing in swimming, field hockey, and soccer. Besides training and competing in various sports soccer would definitely have to be my utmost favorite sport to play and compete in. Thanks to my older brother, who played professionally, I was always encouraged to pick up the sport and eventually did when I was sixteen years old. Despite starting at such a late age, my coach at the time was instrumental in my development as a player and athlete with my passion for the sport growing infectiously. Playing soccer was so addictive that I trained and played it almost every day. Soon enough my hard work at training provided me with my first taste of competitive soccer as I began representing my high school soccer team as a freshman. From that first competitive experience I simply fell in love with the sport. Even though I competed and captained a men’s club hockey team for several years, I always found myself gravitating to playing soccer and currently still compete as much as time permits me.
Tell me about your absolute favorite moment in your athletic career.
If I had to pick it would be winning my universities indoor and outdoor soccer tournaments during my freshmen year of college after having spent the previous year rehabilitating from a severe back injury. During my senior year of high school I suffered a severe back injury that prevented me from competing for my high school soccer team and men’s hockey club. It was a really difficult time for me as I spent that year on the sidelines, with doctors misdiagnosing the cause of the pain leading me to seek the services of an orthopedic surgeon in Miami. After finding out the root cause of the pain it took me several months before I could even run without pain and even though I was told that I may never be able to play a contact sport again, it was a reality that I could not face at such a young age. The road to recovery was long and strenuous but I was very motivated to get back onto the field and was able to start back playing during my freshman year. Being back on the field and winning those two tournaments were truly memorable for me after a really difficult year of not knowing if I was ever going to be able to play far less compete in sports again.
If you could have lunch with any athlete, who would it be?
That is a tough question, but if had to choose it would definitely be one of my role models growing up, Zinedine Zidane. Despite Zidane playing on my favorite football (soccer) team at the time, yes Real Madrid, the way he carried himself on and off the field always seemed so humble even though he was probably one, if not the best football player ever to grace the game. He was such a fantastic professional to watch, who was not the most athletic but his intelligence and technique was incomparable making everything he did look effortless on the field. Being able to meet and hear the journey of an athlete who won every individual and team award possible in professional soccer would be a great experience.
Do you have a favorite mental skill to work on with clients?
There are many mental skills I particularly enjoy working with clients on such as communication, leadership, relaxation, visualization and imagery, but my upmost favorite would definitely be confidence. I truly believe that in order to be successful in anything you apply yourself in you have to be confident in order to achieve the desired result. I learned through my personal and professional experiences that being confident is the biggest asset anyone can have especially when you have to work or compete on an individual basis. It’s amazing and rewarding when you see your client excel in various arenas after they learn how to improve or manage their self-confidence. Working with someone on improving and managing their self-confidence can be one of the more difficult tasks as a consultant, but once that individual learns the necessary skills, everything else you work on with them becomes so much easier as they have begun to believe in him/herself and their abilities.
How do you want people to remember you?
I definitely want to be remembered as someone who was hardworking, fun, engaging, successful, motivated, passionate about helping others, and most importantly, spent a lot time with his family and close friends.
What do you miss most from Trinidad and Tobago?
Besides my family and friends, I definitely miss the food and weather the most. Chicago’s summers get pretty hot so that nice, plus I live close to the lake where the beaches are really alive during the warmer times of the year. But the food, hmmmm nothing beats Trinidadian food. I always have a list of all the dishes I have to eat when I fly back home during the Christmas or summer holidays. The food is so fresh and tasty I feel euphoric every time I eat home cooked meals back home. Ranging from curry to shark and bake, to pelau and stew chicken, the food just isn’t the same.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Besides making this company into a million dollar consulting company? I always had the desire to become a clinical sport psychologist working within a Division I college and/or professional team so that's the goal I am working towards right now. On another note, I see myself continuing to follow my passion assisting others achieve their goals, thoroughly enjoying my job everyday, providing for my family, and living life to the fullest surrounded by my family, friends, and loved ones somewhere where its warm for most of the year.