Sam Parfitt – CEO/Founder of the True Athlete Project and former Tennis Player

April 12, 2021

How Sam has been inspired to set up The True Athlete Project and continues to make a difference in and through Sport. A genuine journey of discovery and increased self-awareness has fuelled his passion.

This is a fantastic insight from his early experiences of Tennis through travelling the world and navigating  and making sense of his experiences.

Sam is the founder and CEO of The True Athlete Project, a US and UK based nonprofit which aims to build a more compassionate world through sport. His team design and deliver a range of mindfulness and creative practices for athletes of all levels – from primary school children to Olympians and Paralympians. Originally from Norfolk, England, Sam moved to Tennessee to play division one college tennis. Since then, he has explored the power of sport through his role as a coach, mentor, athletic director, researcher and university tutor. He has delivered mindfulness to Olympians and Paralympians in more than 25 different sports, to sub-saharan African young leaders through the Mastercard Scholars Program, and to primary school children in Scotland.

Take time and listen in – you wont be disappointed!


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Success quotes or sayings:

Zen Proverbs

Dad was coach and he steered away from the sport politics.

Concept of ‘time slowing down’

The power of sport  – can be both harmful and not harmful

In and out of sport due to surgery.

The paradox of sport – the highs and lows

Explore sport through many different lenses.

Convergence of many different components – wellbeing, psych, meditation etc…

 What it means to be a young sportsperson: Introduction and exploration of mindfulness, Parkour, sport for peace, sports poetry.

Studying heroes like Mohammed Ali

The curriculum then got picked up by the Mohammed Ali centre in Louisville, Kentucky

The Tue Athlete Project was born from this work and curriculum

One of the lows – coming out from A&E

The importance of being open when meeting people to build relationships quickly

Creating conscious and intentional strategies to manage

Culture of sport in the US – very heavy!

Shift – not needing to live to the expectations of the sport

Playing with the tension of a narrow focus versus a broader sport focus. What is right?

Individual v team sport approach. Is tennis a team sport? The difference in England v the USA.

Have reflected on the transition from Tennis stepping into the world of work. I have worked hard.

As a business leader knowing when to leave people the time and space to flourish. I continue to work on.

Innovate and experiment and not worry about the result immediately – don’t worry if there is a bad day (process v outcome!)

Sustaining to work on a project where you are having an impact

Being a ‘CEO athlete’. Creating a team around you and leveraging resources

Wish I had know all this stuff at 14 and not now finding out and practising at 30 yrs..!

Using your own journey as a real catalyst

A letter I had written to my old head teacher – imagining how good I could become.

Links to Andre Agassi foundation

Underground hero – use the ordinary opportunity to make a difference to the world.

Themes of me becoming conscious about how things were in the world

TAP – an intentional way – allowing sport to unleash its power and its positive potential

3 things – making a difference, entrepreneurship, intentional/purposeful

Not accepting the status quo and the treadmill of life.

Recognising how special the moment of the day is.

Multiple Sclerosis charity – I was doing something to try help and make a difference

Its quite difficult to ‘see’ all the time

From my experiences seeing the harm of what is getting in the way

Sport for social change  – bursting with ideas and energy

The importance of embodying change FIRST rather than just using a mega phone to force other people to make a difference

The butterfly – representative of transformation of self first in order to impact on the world

The True Athlete Project strands: Performance – wellbeing  – social change

Global Mentoring Programme – 5 different topics/themes.  68 people/10 sports

TAP – Coach development workshops; Athlete classes; Retreats; Work with NGB

Compassion based approach to sport

Vision for TAP – confident in the difference we make. The feedback is so sustaining. Making a positive impact at every stage. Bring it to more people!

The power of the principles and practices ‘rippling out’ and impacting an even wider population

Primitive or simple and clear.

Climate justice efforts

TAP – Uplifting and sustaining project to be part of

Making and finding tie with wise people

Write to people and ask them questions – people like to be asked about things they are passionate about

I listen to debates – Jordan Peterson v Sam Harris was great!

Being completely with what is happening in the moment

Mindfulness classes have a very quick effect – especially as we are so saturated at the moment with advice.

The importance of slowing down and practicing this!

Don’t judge a book buy its cover



Quick fire questions:

The books that you would recommend are?

The Long Win: The search for a better way to succeed by Cath Bishop


Ted Talks and debates

How do I prepare to be the best version of myself…


Need a lot of my own time

In one sentence – What advice would you give to your teenage version of yourself?

Be less annoyed with the people that were not changing things
Recognising people are in the main not coming from a bad place

Whos’ Sport Story would you be really interested in hearing?

My Dad!

Mentees on the True Athlete Project

Laurence Halstead


Coaching questions I would like to pose:


Mindfulness – what do you need to do to slow yourself down and be mindful of yourself to aid you in whatever you do.


How can you be forgiving of your self  (without giving yourself a free pass and making excuses). Especially of things that may not have worked out or currently do not work.


How much do you know about your mother or fathers storey and how it impacts on you.


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