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Canada's Pavan analyses the difference between good and great

Sarah Pavan at the Rio Olympics with teammate Heather Bansley
Lausanne, Switzerland, April 26, 2017 – What does it mean to be competitive, to have a winner’s mindset? Rio Olympic beach volleyball quarterfinalist Sarah Pavan quotes UFC fighter Frank Mir, who says: “The difference between a good fighter and a great fighter is mindset.”

Pavan may be better known as a 196-cm volleyball and beach volleyball player, but the Canadian Olympian was obviously a fighter in the classroom as well. According to Wikipedia, she has “won several academic awards, including twice winning ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American of the Year (2007–08) and earning a degree in biochemistry with a perfect 4.0 GPA.” 

On her website – sarahpavan.com – Pavan explores topics such as “Mental Blocks in Athletes and How to Overcome Them” and “Intrinsic vs Extrinisic Motivation in Sports.”

In “A Winner’s Mindset: The Difference Between Good and Great,” Pavan analyses what it means to be competitive and how the mental side of sport factors into a winning approach: 
“I find the mental side of sport to be such a fascinating thing. It is so interesting to see how players and teams respond to different situations. … Theoretically, strong teams should beat weaker teams, right? As is often the case, though, we see very good teams struggle with weak teams. … Why is that? In my opinion, it all comes down to mindset.”
What’s “competitive?” Pavan is steadfast in her view: “To me, it means seeing every single opponent as simply an obstacle standing in the way of victory. It means that nothing matters other than achieving victory. That is easy to say, but putting it into practice is something else entirely. I find that many athletes and teams place value on other teams instead of viewing every opponent equally.”

The result, according to Pavan, is that teams/ athletes compromise their competitiveness when they “place value” on opponents. Pavan emphasises taking control and worrying less – i.e., not at all – about what or who your opponents are.

She says that teams “start to focus on things that detract from what they can control. … I think an important way to start developing a winner’s mindset is to stop caring who you are playing against. … When a team just focuses on their side of the court, takes care of the things within their control, and won’t take no for an answer, amazing things can happen. Just win.”

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