Berkhamsted’s Sarah Cooke on how her life has evolved from playing lacrosse for England to becoming a best-selling author and High Performance Business Coach
Were you a sporty child?
For as long as I can remember I’ve been active and have always had an interest in sports – both watching as well as participating. My parents both played sport when I was a child and encouraged me to try as many different activities as possible that were available to me at school. I competed at county level in several sports including lacrosse, netball, athletics, and swimming.
How soon did you realise you had a talent for lacrosse?
Looking back now, it was a progressive journey of me not being the best, or even considered being that good at lacrosse – I remember being told by my PE teacher at school that I’d never be good enough to play at a high level. Even at such an early age, it became a catalyst for my inner determination and drive that you can achieve what you set out to, rather than rely on someone else’s opinion to tell me what I could achieve.
I had a dream of playing for England, so I looked at what I needed to do to improve my fitness, my speed, and my skills. I was proactive about what I could control; for example I woke up early before school to do extra runs around the neighbourhood and I spent weekends and after school practising skills as often as possible. I focussed on the things I could do and started seeing incremental improvements.
I went on to become the only person from my school in my year group to be selected for England at the age of 15 and continued playing for my country for the next five years until a serious injury at university ended my lacrosse career and resulted in foot reconstruction and having to learn to walk again.
How do you look back on your England career?
Being chosen to represent your country and wearing the English rose on your playing kit is something that I am very proud of and is absolutely one of my biggest achievements from my childhood. Whilst it’s a non-mainstream sport, it doesn’t take away from the level of discipline required and decisions that have to be made in order to achieve at this level of any sport.
I made a lot of friends through playing lacrosse, many of which I am still in contact with today and I think playing any sport gives you that sense of team comradery and mutual understanding and respect that comes from training as well as from winning and losing on the pitch.
It has also instilled in me the importance of looking after yourself (both mentally as well as physically), the resilience and determination required as well as to be intentional with your actions in order to achieve the goals or results you want – this is something that I fully believe has enabled me to achieve the levels of success in other areas of my life including business.
When did you develop an interest in coaching?
In some ways, I have always been coaching others from as early as my sporting journey to supporting friends who’d come to me for advice as well as during my days in the corporate world, especially in my final job as Regional Marketing Manager where I was managing a team of ambitious people who were spread across Asia.
I’ve always sought the support from others when I’ve wanted to achieve more or do things in a different way and I have a real passion to give back and support others, especially women, to achieve the levels of success that they want and truly believe with the right focus and mindset people can thrive in business and in life.
Did you know what kind of coaching you wanted to specialise in, or has that evolved?
It has evolved, but I think to be successful everything has to evolve – the world changes, you change and so do the people you’re working with. Stagnation isn’t good for anyone.
Having lived and worked across the world, both in large scale multinational corporate environments and as an award-winning entrepreneur, setting up three successful businesses I have experienced diverse cultures, different ways of doing things as well as learnt from many pitfalls! These combined experiences together with my sporting background and personal struggles including severe injury and nearly losing my son in childbirth have enabled me to be intentional with, and focus on, the important things for me to achieve many of my business and financial goals whilst also enjoying a flexible lifestyle.
I draw on all these personal and professional experiences to support my clients today and a lot of how I work brings together the importance of you being and performing at your optimal self because I honestly believe that’s when you can skyrocket your success. There has to be an integration of life goals and business goals rather than one being at the expense of the other – sadly, I see so many people putting their health to the bottom of their to do list without realising that small simple tweaks could actually have a hugely positive effect on their business results if they were thriving personally too.
How would you sum up what you offer today?
I specialise in providing clarity and simple strategies to help people supercharge their success by growing and scaling a business that increases sales, profits and impact in ways that work for them so they can also thrive in life.
How do you tap into the mindset of an athlete to help your clients excel?
Mindset means different things to different people as does high performance, which isn’t just about achieving an Olympic Gold medal or being a high-flying executive – it’s about being the best version of yourself every day to achieve the goals you want to achieve. Those goals will be different for everyone, but being aware of your mindset is key because it affects so many elements including the decisions you make, how you show up to your clients and wider audience, how you view your accomplishments and achievements, and all of this has a knock-on effect not just on your business success, but also on your wellbeing.
We all experience curveballs and setbacks that stop us in our tracks – big or small – but for every situation, event, or comment that you encounter, you get to choose how you react to it and whether it will define you.
Recognising that there is never an end game because change is the one constant in our lives and as we grow and evolve so do our circumstances, environment and possibly the people you hang around with. As humans we like to be safe and look for confirmation and reassurance, but to see success it requires us to step out of our comfort zone, break down the barriers and reflect on what maybe holding you back.
Working with clients to not just show them what’s possible and that they CAN achieve whatever they want, but also support them as they navigate their journey to success is what lights me up. Focussing on their strengths and being intentional with their time, energy and actions means you can create a personal route to success with joy and happiness.
Who tend to be your clients?
I love to work with ambitious women who want to thrive in life and business. They know they want more, but often need support to get clarity on what to focus on and when, as well as how to turn their ideas into simple strategies to have more sales and more impact.
Through working with me they will learn how to be their best self and build a wildly successful business with ease so they can create a limitless life in the way they choose.
I bring together all my experience as a high achiever, not just in business but also in sport, combined with my Positive Psychology coaching, holistic health training and experience of living and working around the world to support women who want unstoppable business success and a freedom-based lifestyle
Is physical and mental wellbeing a real issue you see today?
I see so many people pushing hard to achieve the results they want within their work life or working so hard just to enjoy the weekend or their annual holidays, and that can often come at the expense of their health and wellbeing.
All businesses want to hit financial goals, which is obviously very important to have a sustainable and profitable business, but results don’t come from just hard work. They rely on the people working in the business to achieve those results and that requires effective and efficient working and in turn that requires you to perform at your optimal levels.
As a society we’ve been conditioned to work hard from an early age and in some ways to believe that results only come at a price – this was the premise of me writing my Healthy You Wealthy Business book because there is a different way. Working smart means you’re intentional – it’s not about the number of hours you spend working vs your home life. I’ve hit burnout twice in my working life and it literally stops everything, including being able to hit business results. Whilst I do believe an element of stress can be a good thing because it fuels our inner fire so to speak, but if left to build up it can lead to serious health problems.
Sadly, I see so many people viewing success as everything to do with their business results when the reality behind the scenes is that they are anything, but healthy and one day life and therefore business will come crashing down. Our bodies are amazing, but we need to look after and nourish them (both physically and well as emotionally) to get the best out of them.
Over the last few years, I think the pressures of the pandemic resulting in changes to work patterns and balancing business, home-schooling, caring for others etc and then the follow on of trying to “get back to normal” means many people haven’t given their minds or bodies time to re-calibrate.
Life is busy, and if you’re like me, life is for living. I like that I have a full life, but I also recognise that I can’t go 100 miles an hour 24/7 – actually no one can! There is no cookie cutter approach to health; we are all so individual, but it is about finding what works for you and doing it in a way that works for you because otherwise there will be wider and much bigger issues, which are stress, burnout and wellbeing related.
You are already an Amazon bestselling author. How does that feel and what can you tell us about Healthy You Wealthy Business?
I wrote Healthy You Wealthy Business because I wanted people to realise it is possible to create a successful life and business in a way that works for them. Being intentional and knowing what it takes to thrive isn’t about spending hours behind a desk. It’s about working smart, and that includes looking after yourself so you can best look after your business. The two are interconnected and understanding this connection is so important if you want to feel fulfilled and have limitless success.
I’d read many business books and many self-development books, but the key thing missing was the importance of combining both of these elements – the two need to work together if you want to thrive and because of my experience across both areas I wanted to share the highs and lows of my own experiences and the key areas and steps I’ve learned that you need to supercharge your success to thrive in business and life.
The first part of the book Healthy You looks at how you can thrive personally because as a business owner, you are your biggest asset and includes key elements to help you flourish, give you confidence, and work in a way that is aligned to your passions.
The second part of the book is about running a Wealthy Business. You’ll learn how to map out a strategy to help you build the business and create the results that you want.
How long have you lived in Berkhamsted and what do you love about it?
I’ve completely boomeranged! I grew up in Berkhamsted before leaving home to study a Business and Management degree at Loughborough University and have since lived in different parts of England and also spent seven years living and working in Asia before moving back to Berkhamsted for my children to start school.
In the years since I’ve returned to live back in the town, it has changed a huge amount but so have I! Leaving as a student and returning many years later as a mother to two young children I appreciate different things about it, but I love the feel of the town, the mix of independent businesses (both shops and for socialising) and the proximity to the opportunities of so many different things including access to good schools, the culture of London, airports to fuel my love of travel and of course being so close to nature.
Talking about a positive mindset, are there plenty of places in your area that put a smile on your face?
Having awareness of what brings you joy, and positivity is key. It will of course, be different for everyone. For me, being in nature is a big part of how I fuel my positivity, whether that’s going for a run on my own or being out with my family. I also love to connect with others and having a variety of places to do this on a social level as well as business networking perspective is important to me.
What’s next for you?
I love to support others. I’ve always been a giver and for me to share my experiences and support others in their journey to success so they can thrive in business and life in a way that works for them without overwhelm or burnout will always be a key part of what I do.
Continuing to share my experience not just of my success, but also how my personal lows hitting rock bottom and burnout to show people what’s possible, and also how to navigate their journey to success by avoiding some of the pitfalls I have endured is important to me.
I truly believe that people can thrive in business and life if they choose to – it all comes down to taking responsibility and combining that with positive and intentional action to move forward.
My aim is to empower and support more business owners and leaders to re-evaluate how they can get the best results using the power of themselves and their teams, which comes from creating a high performing environment and enabling people to work at the best of their abilities not just pushing hard to hit the financial results.