A coach looks at his team of young men and women as they sit in a classroom for a scheduled meeting. He has a marker, a whiteboard, and a question that will teach a valuable lesson to his athletes. He asks his team, “What are the qualities of a champion?” The group begins to think for several moments before throwing out words they think would accurately describe their idea of a champion.


“A good attitude.”
“A willingness to work hard.”


The coach signals to the group that they can stop answering his question. The group could have kept blurting out qualities, but he decided to keep the list on the board at ten, and for good reason. He wrote these words in big, capitalized letters, numbered one through ten. He looked back at the group and asked them, “Do you notice anything odd?” There was a long, drawn out silence. No one noticed anything strange about the list that they had just compiled. Why would they? They felt confident that they hit the nail right on the head with their answers to Coach’s question.


The coach finally broke the silence by saying this:

“I want you all to look at this list one more time. I want you to read these words and look deep inside yourself to see if they describe you in any way. They don’t even have to be related to swimming. They can pertain to any part of your life. And then I want you to find what almost all of these words have in common….”


“All but one are mental traits. The only quality in this list that can be related to physical appearance, body composition, or athletic ability is strength. That’s the only one. So, based on your answers to my question, you all believe that becoming a champion is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. Would you agree?”


“The point I’m trying to make is simple: the first step to becoming a champion is to think like one. Everything else doesn’t matter. If you allow yourself to develop these qualities and change the way you think about your sport, your training, and yourself, there is nothing that can stop you from becoming a champion. If you do this, the strength and physical parts will come. Just trust the process and work as hard as your body will let you. I believe in you, but that won’t matter until you start believing in yourself.”




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