Produced, edited, and copyrighted by
Professor Brent S. Rushall, San Diego State University
Volume 1, Number 5: October 27, 1994


Coaches have often wondered if their swimmers behave in the most appropriate fashion to improve optimally. The characteristics that are universal across sporting champions and world-record holders, irrespective of nationality, sport, or gender, have been described. There were a surprising number of features that are common to at least 75% of the tested champions.

It is now possible to assess athletes and let them determine the level of adequacy of their behaviors and attitudes toward swimming. The Champion Characteristics Checklist (Rushall, 1987) is reproduced below for use by Carlile Organization coaches to have their swimmers evaluate themselves on these critical factors. It is contended that an athlete cannot achieve his/her highest potential unless the vast majority of these features are evident.

Coaches should give the checklist to their swimmers and emphasize that only honest answering is of value. A characteristic should only be checked if it is absolutely certain that it is indicative of the swimmer.

Young swimmers will score low because they have not had a chance to fully develop all the features that contribute to being a world champion. Any missing features should be improved and/or developed. A score of more than 80 would be a desirable initial target for young swimmers to eventually achieve.

Brent S. Rushall, Ph.D., R.Psy.


Copyright Sports Science Associates, 1987


This checklist contains characteristics and behaviors which have been shown to be consistent indicators of champion athletes. You are required to read each item and then decide if the item is something which is indicative of you. It is important that you answer honestly. If there is the slightest feeling that the item may not always be applicable to you then do not respond.

Answer the checklist by circling the number alongside the description that is true for you. After completion, count the number of responses you have made. That count is the percentage of thoughts and actions that you have that are required to think and act like a champion.

1. I make firm friends within the team who are serious about the sport.
2. I tolerate other athletes at all times.
3. I join fellow athletes in social functions.
4. I attempt to be liked by and friendly with other athletes.
5. I train with athletes who are cooperative.
6. I do not get upset when criticized by other athletes.
7. I offer constructive and positive advice to other athletes.
8. I accept advice from other athletes.
9. I help other athletes if asked to do so.
10. I am interested in team matters and projects.

11. I ask the coach why things are done in particular ways in my sport.
12. Unless I have other evidence, I trust that what the coach says is correct.
13. The coach and I together make decisions about my sport.
14. I usually do things as the coach says.
15. I let the coach know if I disagree with any decision or directive.
16. When asked to try new things, I apply myself fully.
17. I have asked the coach to tell me privately when I have done something wrong.
18. I can forget awkward social mistakes.
19. I calm-down quickly after being upset by something involving my sport.
20. I do not brood over sporting problems or mistakes.

21. From my mistakes, I learn to do things better in the future.
22. I accept the blame for things that go wrong with me in my sport.
23. I prefer to know the training program well in advance of the session.
24. I like training sessions which keep me busy all the time.
25. Slow-motion movies or videos help me to understand my sport better.
26. I always arrive early for training.
27. I never leave training early.
28. I try to do everything as well as possible at training.
29. I occasionally feel grouchy and want to work alone.
30. Feelings of ill-health, stomach upsets, and vague pains do not occur.

31. I organize my equipment well.
32. I have characteristics which are superior to other athletes.
33. I prefer to have someone plan trips and other forms of organization.
34. I am very enthusiastic about my sport.
35. My sport is the most important activity that I do.
36. I primarily compete for myself.
37. I could train by myself if the coach gave me adequate directions.
38. Watching my weight is important.
39. I seldom miss training through illness.
40. Before arguing on sporting matters, I wait until I am sure that what I will say is correct.

41. I do not break team rules.
42. I am conscientious about the details of my sport.
43. I make a point of not being absent-minded or forgetful of details concerning my sport.
44. I am as enthusiastic as possible about my sport.
45. I do not miss training even if some other interesting event comes-up.
46. I tell the truth when I describe what I did in training.
47. I look for reasons, rather than for excuses, to explain what happens at training and in competitions.
48. Unfamiliar arenas do not affect my performance.
49. I enjoy training and competing.
50. I strive for better performances in training and competitions.

51. I keep my equipment well-organized and ready for use.
52. I make training challenging for myself.
53. I put more intensity into competing than I do into training.
54. I plan my preparations and competitions in detail.
55. I develop plans that tell me what to do if things go wrong at competitions.
56 I warm-up by myself.
57. My warm-ups include things that will be done in the competition.
58. I do not let anyone bother me during warm-ups.
59. I do not worry about opponents.
60. I am nervous and tense before a competition.

61. If I am troubled before a contest, I can regain my composure.
62. I control my excitement by picturing what I will be doing in the contest.
63. I do not get distracted once my competition preparations begin.
64. I mentally rehearse my contest plan as often as possible.
65. I can maintain my concentration throughout the warm-up.
66. Just before the contest starts, I concentrate on how well I will start the competitive effort.
67. I set realistic goals for my contests.
68. Unusual events do not upset or distract me before a contest.
69. I do focus on the preparations for, and content of, the competition.
70. I start contests properly.

71. I am prepared to take a lead early no matter what the cost.
72. I do not save myself in order to make a good finishing effort.
73. When I am tired in a contest, I concentrate on my prepared plan.
74. I always do my best in competitions even though winning may not be possible.
75. Every competition is seen as an opportunity for me to improve.
76. I think only about my performance in a contest.
77. I do not get upset by officiating.
78. The more important the competition, the more enjoyable it is.
79. I use the information gained from a competition to modify and plan for the next contest.
80. I like the coach to tell me how well I am training and performing.

81. I like the coach to comment frequently on my techniques.
82. I like other athletes to notice and talk to me about my performances.
83. I like to compete and train with friends.
84. I like to train with athletes who are cooperative.
85. I like my parents to be interested in my sporting activities.
86. I like to be able to receive the outstanding athlete award in contests.
87. I like my friends from outside my sport to be interested in what I do.
88. I like training programs to include a lot of variety.
89. I like each training session to be a challenge.
90. I like my skills to continually improve in training.

91. I like to know my progress and improvement in my sport.
92. I want to get as much information as possible about my sport.
93. I like the travel that is associated with my sport.
94. I like my name to appear in newspapers and on radio and TV.
95. I can compete well in every contest.
96. When my competition performances improve, I train harder.
97. I like to place frequently in competitions.
98. I like to qualify for at least one final at every competition.
99. Every training item and competition is a challenge to me.
100. I want to improve in all aspects of my sport, not just my specialty.

TOTAL SCORE OUT OF 100.....................

Reference Rushall, B. S. (1987). Caracteristicas conductuales de los campeones. In G. Perez (Ed.), Proceedings of the Jornades Internactionals de Medicina I Esport. Barcelona, Spain: INEF.

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