Dr Jozelle Miller
April 19, 2016
The psychology of champions

Do you want to be a champion? Do you want to be the greatest? If you’re reading this article, I assume that you probably do. Well, me too! Then the real question becomes, how do we get there?{{more}}

To start with, you must realize that nobody has a “champion’s mind” gene. You are not born a champion; you become one – and the empowering truth is that almost anybody can become a champion. How? You need to practise thinking like a champion; think like they do and you will act and feel like they do.

So, how do champions think? Champions think gold. They never aim for silver, nor do they settle for it. They are always on a personal mission to perform at their best. It is of great importance that we understand that mental conditioning is vital. The following are the building blocks you need to arrange in order to become a champion:

Technical: Build your mechanics, your coordination.

Tactical: Look at the strategies you use to outmanoeuvre or outsmart your opponent.

Physical: Improve strength, stamina and conditioning.

Mental: It begins with your thoughts, your feelings, and your emotions. Note that this is different from tactics – it doesn’t relate to the mental techniques you use on your opponents, but upon yourself. It’s more about psyching yourself up than psyching someone else out. Sadly, coaches and athletes focus overwhelmingly on the first three blocks. But if the mental building block isn’t in place, then the entire stack will tip over under pressure, and victory will evade you.

Tips in developing a champion mindset:

Make practice as close to the big day as you can:

Our intensity level is often too low during practice. Try to get the most out of your practice by devoting the same intensity to your practice that you do to your competition performance. Make it as close as possible to actual performance conditions.

Minimize the magnitude of the big day:

If possible, don’t even think of it as a big day. Consider it a “fancy practice”. Try to avoid the idea of ‘bringing your game face’ …Just bring your face, which should already be game-ready.

Roll with the punches:

If or when you lose, ask yourself the question: What makes a champion a champion? Not just their skill at achieving victory, but their resilience in springing back from defeat. Champions have thick skins. Are they devastated by defeat? Absolutely!!! But are they discouraged? No! Champions relish the opportunity to perform to confront adversity. They lose, they lick their wounds, they come back, and they win in style. If you practise thinking about yourself with that level of resilience, you can achieve it all.

Dr Miller is Health Psychologist at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.