The Mind of a Champion

by | 17th Aug 2020

FITNESS MEANS DIFFERENT things to different people, and the bottom line is that fitness is not just physical health, but emotional and mental health too.

This plays a pivotal role in enhancing an athlete’s performance and ensuring a successful outcome. A good fitness coach will help an athlete cope with the pressure that comes with competition and to overcome problems with motivation and focus. They also help with emotional qualities; concentration, confidence, mental control, and commitment.

18th August 2013 marks the day that British boxer Darren Barker beat Daniel Geale to win the World Middleweight boxing title by a split decision in a sensational fight at the Revel Casino-Hotel in Atlantic City. Previously, in 2011, Barker had travelled to Atlantic City to challenge World Champion Sergio Martinez for his crown and was knocked out in the 11th round.

Barker’s victory in 2013 was a performance of strength and focus that saw his dream come true in an inspired performance. It was the 6th round those who watched the fight will remember most. It saw him somehow summon up the emotional strength to get off the deck from a brutal body shot that nearly ended the fight.

Barker’s promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport, said “It was just a great fight, as good or better than anyone expected.” He went on to say, “Darren really showed so much to come back from that crushing body shot. At [the count of] seven, I wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to beat the count. But this time he was not going to take ‘no’ for an answer. He showed so much physical strength. To come back like he did after that, what can I say? But I did feel like we won it. It was the right decision. When they said, ‘And the new …’ I just couldn’t believe it.”

Probably one of the few people in the arena that night who believed that Darren Barker had the physical and emotional strength to get up and win was his Mind and Body Coach – Wayne Lèal – the creator of Super-A.

Almost 6 years had passed before anyone knew the part that Lèal played in Barker becoming a world champion. In an interview for Sky Sports he was asked if at any time during the fight build-up if he felt nervous. Barker said: “No, he felt that everything was on his side.” The interviewer interjected saying; “Until fight day”. Barker nodded and said that he had a wobble and started to believe that he was not going to win. Then revealed that he did guided mediation with Wayne Lèal, and it was this that got him through, and enabled him to see himself as a champion.

I asked Wayne how it felt to not get the recognition at the time when Barker was psychologically lost. He said: “Most trainers are unassuming characters, and our contributions tend to go under the radar. So, it was disappointing but not surprising that I didn’t get a mention until last year. That said, the evening of his epic fight will forever be etched into my memory. I was as nervous as Darren when it was me – not his boxing trainer, promoter, best friend, or a family member – he called to his room only hours before the fight to say how nervous he was feeling.

With hindsight, I think you would have to be a very psychologically odd person, not to feel what Darren was feeling before the fight of his life. It was my job to calm his pre-fight fear and anxiety and get him to redirect the emotional pressure he was feeling. I got him to do what we had done in previous self-meditation sessions by getting him to visualise himself as a champion. Because when you believe that it can happen, it will happen.

It may have taken six years, but it’s out there now. Who knows – if I had got that recognition then the Super-A project may never have existed…..”


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