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The Path of a Champion

Jeremy Boone explains the winning formula for athletic success.

Over the past four years, I have had the good fortune of working with four successful professional sports teams. Three are professional soccer teams - WUSA Atlanta Beat (2001, 2003 National Finalists), Charlotte Eagles (2000 Men's Div. Ill National Champions), and Charlotte Lady Eagles (2001 W-League National Champions, 2002 W-League National Finalist), and the fourth are the NFL Carolina Panthers (2004 Super Bowl Finalists). Coincidence has it that all four teams have either been a national finalist or won a national championship. However, playing for a championship does not by itself make players a champion. In the words of Anson Dorrance, Head Coach UNC Tarheels Women's Soccer 2004 NCAA National Champions, "Athletes do not become champions only on a game day that is just the day they are recognized."

In my work during the off-season with the NFL Carolina Panthers, year-round with the WUSA Atlanta Beat, and the Charlotte Eagles, I focused on speed and conditioning with each player. While the physical training varied between each sport, there was a common thread that every team shared. Achieving national success took more than just talent; the players exhibited three key character qualities that helped each team reach its goals.

The Winning Formula for Athletic Success: The Three D's

Athletes who achieve success have a combination of talent, mental focus ability, and certain character qualities. Each of the teams I have worked with shares the following three qualities indicative of champions: desire, discipline, and direction. I challenge you to answer the questions following the description of each quality to see if you or your athletes are on the road to athletic success.


This quality is the spark that ignites a competitive attitude. To have an impact on your teammates and players, a strong desire must be present. Every player on all four teams I worked with shared a desire to be the best in their sport and in their position. Being right was not good enough. The reality is that many athletes and coaches go through the motions of playing their sport and never achieve their goals. They are putting energy into the wrong sport. They do not think they deserve to win. They do not believe they can be the player they want to be. The good news is that whatever the reason for lack of desire, the quality can be successfully addressed.

  • What do you want to achieve most from playing/coaching your sport?
  • What specific areas are you most passionate about and why?
  • Are you putting yourself in environments to act on this passion?
  • If not, why not?
  • How can you start today to put yourself in an environment that ignites your desire?


This quality is the foundation for athletic success and is what can turn athletic ability into athletic achievement. Most often, however, discipline is associated with a negative physical outcome or doing something that no one wants to do. To view discipline positively, take a look at a different definition: Old Definition- doing what we have to do versus doing what we want to do New Definition- doing what we need to do so we can do what we want to do Jeno James, a 2003-2004 Carolina Panther offensive lineman, displayed discipline and a high-level work ethic this past season, even though he was thought to be a backup player. During the entire eight weeks offseason he was the first to arrive every day and one of the last to leave. He put in additional work on technique, conditioning, and watched films all summer long. His reward for being so disciplined? He was the starting guard in the 2003-2004 season for the Carolina Panthers He practiced like a starter, and he became one.

  • Are you willing to pay the price to reach your goals?
  • If so, how do you define what that price will be?
  • What will it take daily to achieve your goals?
  • What did you do today that took you one step further towards achieving your goals?


This quality serves as your guide map for athletic achievement. From day one, each of these teams installed an action plan based on the vision of the team and what they wanted to achieve. Vision is important because it initiates direction for success. You must know where you are, who is with you, and how to get there to get where you want to go.

Very rarely in today's athletic arena does success happen by chance. Unfortunately, many athletes and coaches do not create an action plan; instead, they coast through the season, relying on their abilities and talents. However, it is tough to coast uphill. If you do not set a direction for yourself and your team, someone will eventually do it for you, which can lead to unwanted stress and pressure. You will better your chances of achievement if you create your guide map.

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • Do you know how to get there?
  • If not, can you find someone who does?
  • What will it take to get there?
  • Who do you need to take with you?

Where to go from here

Adopting these three-character qualities are just the beginning of what it takes to be a successful athlete. Other attributes include persistence, commitment, focus, attitude, mental toughness, etc. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy your sport just as each of these players continues to do no matter win or lose.

Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • BOONE, J. (2004) The Path of a Champion. Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 17 / November), p. 2-3

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • BOONE, J. (2004) The Path of a Champion [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Jeremy Boone is a speed and conditioning consultant in the USA. His clients have included the NFL Carolina Panthers and the WUSA Atlanta Beat.