top of page

How to Think Like a Champion: 5 Mental Strategies to Succeed with AnnMaria De Mars

Dr. AnnMaria De Mars is the first American ever to win a world championship in Judo. Besides practicing judo, AnnMaria is President of an educational video game startup and has earned four degrees. Clearly, she knows a thing or two about being a champion! AnnMaria joined me on the Tough Girl Podcast to share her story and the experiences that taught her what it takes to be a champion.

Her mental strategies can be adapted to conquer any challenge you face.

1. Do it Because They Say You Can’t

“If people say I’m not allowed to do something, that makes me twice as likely to do it,” AnnMaria said. Plenty of people will tell you that you don’t belong. Most of us have had someone tell us at some point in our lives that we didn’t belong here, that we weren’t good enough, or that we weren’t the right age/gender/race. AnnMaria held many offices in judo associations where she was the first woman to do it. All her life people have tried to put AnnMaria in her place, and she’s still here.

Champions face challenges and roadblocks with a stubborn determination. They achieve what no one else has because they do what people say can’t be done. The next time you’re faced with an obstacle that supposedly can’t be passed, keep going. Whether it’s a small barrier or a huge problem, do what can’t be done, push a little harder, and see what you’re capable of achieving. It’s probably more than you think.

2. Let Nerves Go When the Trial Begins

Before a judo event, AnnMaria would get nervous, but once she stepped foot on the mat, it all went away. Her hours and hours of practice helped her tune out the fear and focus on the trial at hand. There’s something about doing something over and over again that gives you confidence when the stakes are higher.

It’s natural to feel fear. If you train hard enough, that fear won’t follow you into your challenge. Don’t let the feeling of fear before a big event throw you off your game. Accept it and focus on what you know. Trust yourself and your hard work to help you when you face the same feat for the 1000th time.

3. Visualize the Win - It’s a Must

So what do you do when you’re drowning in doubts before a challenge? AnnMaria suggests you visualize winning. Some beginners will attempt to put the results of a competition out of their mind completely. But AnnMaria counsels otherwise. “Don’t put it out of your mind,” she remarked. “Deliberately think about it.” AnnMaria has seen many athletes get on the floor and panic because they haven’t been thinking about what they’re going to do.

Don’t just visualize anything. Visualize what you need to do to win. Once you’ve made the commitment of what you need to do to win, the fear goes away. AnnMaria was skeptical of this approach, but soon saw its merits. Combining years of practice with powerful visualisation will help ease your anxiety on the day of the event and remind you that you know what you need to do to succeed.

4. Own Your Right

AnnMaria is known to say, “Nobody has the right to beat you.” It doesn’t matter who they are or where they’re from. They don’t have a right to beat you. In judo, AnnMaria would have people tease her about competing with people from countries where judo was very popular. AnnMaria didn’t care. She was going to win no matter what because of how hard she practiced.

Some people give themselves excuses if they go up against someone who’s already claimed the title of champion or seems to have some advantage. Champions don’t care who it is they’re facing. They always own their right to win. You can use this strategy to stay calm when you face intimidating competition in any arena.

5. Always Do More

AnnMaria’s coach would tell her, “It takes a little more to be a champion.” If you practice for 2 hours and everyone does 100 reps, go back in and do more. Champions don’t do the same practice routines as everyone else, they do one step better.

You have to be the best on your worst day. AnnMaria doesn’t buy excuses. That’s why you practice. AnnMaria admits that when she won the world championship, she wasn’t good enough to win on her worst day. But she was good enough to win on a good day and that’s how she won the championship. As a champion, you take total ownership for all of your decisions. How much you train and what you do to succeed is all up to you. Hear AnnMaria share more of her story and how she became a champion on the Tough Girl Podcast.

bottom of page