The Mind of a Champion – Professional Sailor Sarah Douglas
“ When I compete at my best, I have a sense of calmness and enter flow state.”
The fluttering sensation deep in the pit of your stomach. The nervous but excited anticipation that creeps through every taut muscle. Within moments, the sudden chill of the water will surround you, and bring about the importance of this moment. The moment you’ve been training for, living for and have dreamed of since you first felt the swell of a wave beneath your craft. You push away all but the goal that hovers before you.
This is the mind of a champion.
To be a champion means heading down to the dock on those rainy days when you’d rather be lounging in the sun on a far-away beach. It’s countless hours in a gym when you’d give anything to be sipping a warm latte. It is days, months, years of practicing and perfecting your skills. When it seems that everything is perfectly aligned, life can plant an even bigger obstacle in your path. This can mean postponing – or even more devastating – saying goodbye to a dream. It is in these times that we learn about the grit and perseverance that defines us.
Sarah Douglas is such a champion. Having started her sailing career at 7, she learned early on about dedication. Born in Ontario and then moving to Barbados, Sarah was competing in North American and World Championships before the age of 15. Returning to Canada, she transitioned into the Byte Cll Dinghy class and soon after, earned 10th place in the 2010 Youth Olympic Games. Inspiration struck in 2014, and she found herself inspired by a Canadian medalist, who awoke in her a dream to represent Canada and win an Olympic medal at the 2020 Tokyo games. Over the next 6 years, Sarah endured countless training sessions, and participated in several World Sailing World Cup Series.
After winning gold at the 2019 Pan American Games in Peru, her vision of standing atop an Olympic podium seemed closer than ever. Success was within reach until the devastating news surfaced – the legendary event had been postponed.
With her dreams temporarily on hold, Sarah recognized she had to restructure her goals and aim for 2021. To her, this means more time spent on the water and focusing on the process goals which are smaller steps towards achieving her overall end aspiration. Currently, these center mainly around fitness and strong mental health.
Disappointment is a natural human tendency, especially when a dream has been in the making for over half a decade. When asked how she pivots goals to keep motivated and at the top of her sport, Sarah expressed that this is an opportunity to focus on her growth in gaining physical strength. With the new time provided by a world in limbo, she has established a firm routine to prioritize her fitness and recovery. As an advocate for a healthy lifestyle, Sarah appreciates the need for mental health and clarity – especially during periods of uncertainty.
“ Like sailing, in these current times there are a lot of things that we can’t control. I am focusing on what I can, like my daily routine and fitness. I really like journaling; I find it really helps for those tough times and writing it down helps me accept it and move forward. ”
Positivity is the outlook that Sarah has adopted, and in looking ahead to calmer times, she has some helpful suggestions:
Create a routine.
“I’ve established a good routine and when I complete the day, I am happy with what was accomplished.”
Keep healthy and active.
“Even if it’s just going for a walk, it can make a huge difference.”
Use this time to develop skills or pursue other interests.
In Sarah’s case, she is reading books and learning how to splice lines.
Despite the uncertainty, there are several constants we can look to in our lives. Remember your goals and the anticipation that surfaces with every step taken closer to achieving them. Savor those breathless feelings before a competitive moment – and in those moments, strive to cover the ground between you and that aspiration.
“I fight for every spot, every boat. I call it pac-man mentality.”
Like Sarah, recognize and accept the obstacles you’ll encounter and combat them. Embrace the rainy days and the sore muscles and be at peace with the realization that life is rarely a straight path. Now you’re thinking like a champion.
Written by Courtney Tennant. Images by Guillermo Arias, Kieran Darcy and Sailing Energy
To keep up with Sarah and follow along in her pursuit of an Olympic podium, check her out on Instagram:
For more fascinating stories about our athletes and their adventures, be sure to check out our other blog articles