24 June 2018Last updated

Healthy body

How to think like a real life champion

NLP guru Carolyn Coe says coaching a world class athlete was as much of a learning curve for her as it was for her client. Here she shares the knowledge...

By Carolyn Coe
5 Jun 2013 | 11:51 am
  • Champion

    "If there is a goal to be had, you can guarantee a world champion mind will have thought out, visualised and rehearsed every single detail."


We all make mistakes right? So allow me to share with you what must be one of the biggest faux pas of my coaching career to date.

So there we were, sipping tea, exchanging our first pleasantries, gradually building up conversation and gathering little nuggets of interesting information about each other.

My guest was a new client and, I have to admit, I knew absolutely nothing about her and on first impressions she seemed in every way to be completely ‘normal’. However, in the ensuing five seconds, ‘normal’ was about to be flung right out of the window, swiftly followed by my normally calm composure.

My client was – and still is – an athlete and she had employed my services because she wanted me to help her improve her mindset and ‘get in the zone’ before a fairly major competition. “Not a problem,” I thought to myself. “She is in good hands.”

After a few minutes of small talk we got down to business.
I said, “Let’s look at the key attributes of the world number one – the world champion. Numero uno. Let’s imagine that we can read her mind and make a list of the things that will be going through her head at the crucial moment...”

“Oh! That’s easy!” said my client. I raised an eyebrow. “I am the world champion.”

Lesson number one: world champions look, sound and appear ‘normal’. I guess I didn’t expect someone of such sporting grandeur to rock up wearing jeans and flip flops and appear quite so nonchalant and laid back – and therein lay lesson number two.

So after laughing heartily at my epic fail, rapport was gained, composure achieved and we got on like a house on fire – and I suppose that could even be lesson number three.

Since then, I have had the pleasure of working with my world champion client regularly... improving her technique and performance by honing in on every detail of her internal dialogue. And it is a partnership we have both learned a lot from. All of the champion-mindset techniques I have found out about are skills we could all benefit from.
So here they are – my list of observations on how to think like a champion.

Lesson number one – the champion mind always seeks ways to improve. They never think that they are beyond learning. By being open-minded to learning new skills, they accept willingly that there may be an even better way than the way they are already doing things. Their personal best was only temporary.

Lesson number two – a world champion is not concerned with the beliefs, actions or perceptions of others, but rather chooses purely to focus on themselves and how they perform. My client never seemed to mind what others did or what others said, she was only ever concerned with what she was doing.

Lesson number three – my client never saw anything she did as a failure. In fact, quite the opposite... she often laughs at herself when she doesn’t meet her own expectations, letting the moment pass quickly and moving on to a better thought, such as, “How can I improve on that?” Dwelling on negative feelings, like frustration and disappointment, seemed to my client to be a complete waste of time and emotion. She only ever wanted the feedback and to quickly move on to something better.

Lesson number four – Focus. Not just a little. Focus. A. Lot. My client will focus on the tiniest details. If there is a goal to be had, you can guarantee a world champion mind will have thought out, visualised and rehearsed every single detail in relation to time, feelings, thoughts and their performance before, during and after every single targeted event.

Lesson number five – have courage. My client has courage like no one I have ever met. When I think of her, I hear in my head “Let’s do it!” – her three favourite words, said on repeat with unbreakable resolve.

Carolyn Coe is a Master NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and NLP for Sport practitioner, owner of Skyrocket ( and author of The Skyrocket Sessions workbooks. For details on her coaching services, call 056 734 0585, or email

By Carolyn Coe

By Carolyn Coe