Characteristics of a Sporting Champion

The are plenty of examples of champion athletes around the world in each & every sport. They are the best of the best, the ones that seem to “lift” or win when the odds are against them. There is also a large number of “almost champion” athletes – those who have reached a high level but more likely at a junior level without being able to progress to the elite ranks or more prestigious competitions. The key difference? How they respond to adversity.

Responding to Adversity

Champion athletes view adversity as something positive, a challenge and an opportunity to grow. Although never satisfied, they gain strength from failure for themselves and others.

In comparison, “almost champions”, often blame setbacks on external performances, became negative and lost motivation.

The champion athletes were often internally driven. Self-improvement is the primary goal and comparisons made against previous versions of themselves rather than national rankings or competitors. By focusing more on external motivators, “almost athletes” often became discouraged when faced with adversity.

Finding Good Mentors

Establishing a long-term mentorship or coach is a common characteristic of champions. This long-term approach is beneficial as both coach/mentor & athlete develop an in-depth understanding of each other to help achieve a common goal. “Almost athletes” have a tendency to swap coaches/mentors regularly in search of immediate results rather than looking at the long-term plan.

Never Give Up

Champion athletes simply never give up, against the odds & in the face of adversity. The will to win, the willingness to exert consistent effort, extend beyond your comfort zone can often be influenced by the neurochemical dopamine. Those with a lower sensitivity to dopamine need for to feel satisfied. Dopamine is released when we are pursuing a goal, not when we have achieved it. This means “champions” remain eternally hungry to succeed & achieve their goals.

Application for Amateurs

Most of you reading this will be amateur athletes, not aiming to be champions of your sport. However, you can employ some of these characteristics to improve your own performance. Focus on:

  • Positive attitude to your performance.
  • Avoiding comparing yourself to others, only your previous self
  • Establishing a relationship with a trusted coach or mentor & developing a long-term goal to achieve together
  • Work hard & never give up in pursuit of your goal


What Separates Champions from Almost Champions

The Seven Secret Traits of Enduring Champions

Additional Reading:

Applying Mindfulness to Performance

Athlete Expectations

Self Compassion to Improve Performance