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What does it take to become a champion? (long & philosophical)(12 posts)

What does it take to become a champion? (long & philosophical)Slipstream
Apr 19, 2002 6:47 AM
empacher6's post, "Let's hear some success stories," got me to thinking what are the qualities that one needs to become a champion.

I have distilled years of experience at racquetball into three qualities: outplay, outthink & intimidate. Does any of this apply to cycling?

Behind that experience is hours and hours of practice, working on the fundamentals, repetition until you have an instantaneous and broad set of responses to any given situation. This I call, "reflexive" response. It means that you don't have to think about what you do. Because, in the fast paced game of racquetball--as in other sports--you need to develop an instantaneous response, an automatic response. This only comes with a ton of practice and experience in real situations. This is where, over time, you are able to outplay your opponent. In cycling, this would mean to outride them under any condition, I suppose, but doing it over the course of the entire event--knowing where to relax and where to attack based upon your own capabilities and your particluar skill & strength match ups with your opponent.

Reflexive response needs to be combined with "awareness". It is knowing where you are in relation to what your opponent is doing; it is also continuously testing your opponent as well as yourself. It is putting yourself in the most advantageous position to counteract what your opponent is doing as well as giving yourself the opportunity to strike with an offensive parry.

Outthinking your opponent means you are able to immediately adapt to any situation and gain (or regain) the edge. It may mean a bit of deception or a feint, it may require a gamble, it may mean doing just enough to make them think about what you are doing as opposed to you thinking about what they are doing. It means having confidence in yourself and patience over the entire match when what you are doing isn't working, knowing that success often comes in increments. It also means learning from your failures, going back and learning from the lesson a better opponent may have taught you that day.

It is not unlike a chess match. One of my favorite books is, "Chess Traps, Pitfalls and Swindles" that I read as a kid. Outthinking your opponent often becomes the edge, if and only if, you have thoroughly trained, practiced and developed the reflexive and awareness skills. It is what allows you to beat a superior opponent.

Intimidation comes when you can combine all of this and your opponent doesn't have a clue what you are doing, even though they may be a stronger or faster athlete. It does not mean disrespecting your opponent; it is paying them the highest respect because you are prepared for them. It is playing a complete game taking the physical, mental and skill levels into a second order of play--that is the zone--where your play becomes an art form and pure poetry. It is where you feel as if you are flying and everything else is in slow motion.

A personal satisfaction is going into a match against an opponent who has an attitude and seeing how he reacts over the course of the match. I am constantly probing, testing, challenging, deceiving--trying to find a weakness or opening. When I find it, it may only last for a couple of points, because he will adjust, but by then I will have moved on, again, trying to keep him slightly offguard. And often, that single point at a crucial time may make all the difference.

What is enjoyable for me is coaching and to see someone mature from a pure physical player into a complete player who masters all aspects of the game. It is also nice for a player to come back to me years later and tell me, "You know, I finally understand what you were saying, but it took me this
continued (short)Slipstream
Apr 19, 2002 6:50 AM
"You know, I finally understand what you were saying, but it took me this long to finally figure it out."

Sorry for the long post. I can go on, but I would like to hear from others what they think it takes to become a champion.

ride hard; have fun; be safe.
continued (short)netso
Apr 19, 2002 7:28 AM
I was a Professional Athlete. What I felt made me good or better than others was not genetics, even though this is a factor. I was very prepared, I studied my opponents (particularly their weaknesses), I studied my weaknesses (this is hard to do). It also helped to be a little obsessive and compulsive with a tremendous will to win. I left intimidation to others!
a coupla things actually.....Spirito
Apr 19, 2002 7:34 AM
needn't be actual - can be metaphoric!
You got sooo much wit...Slipstream
Apr 19, 2002 7:45 AM
now that you mention it--it does take balls of steel to ride like a champion. and where does that leave the fairer sex since you are so literal, er, graphic? go figuroto, Spiritoto
Balls of steel.Ahimsa
Apr 19, 2002 7:59 AM
Or ovaries of iron.


Just happened to have that picture laying around, eh? (nm)Sintesi
Apr 19, 2002 7:46 AM
was planning a how to post on the topic of shaving ;-) NmSpirito
Apr 19, 2002 8:01 AM
Focus, good peripheral vision, and corporate sponsorship. nm128
Apr 19, 2002 7:49 AM
Focus, good peripheral vision, and corporate sponsorship. nmnetso
Apr 19, 2002 8:53 AM
I forgot the sponsorship (Money). If you worry about money, it is hard to be a champion. I was fortunate that someone aided me along the way financially.
Apr 19, 2002 2:10 PM
I believe you hit right on the head

First of all, it takes preparation, know the course, know the opponents. While you're driving to the race course, think about it, focused on who's to beat, where do you make your move.

Then be prepared and mentally trained to change your game plan on the spot, cause you never know whats going to happen, if you don't react to a changing situation, you'll loose (you try to follow plan, but rarelly, thing goeas as planned). You got to be witty and outsmart the others, look for obvious opportunity to attack, and not so obvious, learn some general weeknesses of people and force yourself to become better at those.

Your mind gives you much ability to perform at high levels. I wont say its all in your head, cause if it was, every Joe Sixpack could win a race if he believes he can, but once that you are trained to a certain level, and race at your level (you know a cat5 will not beat a cat1 racer, you got to be logic in your aspirations), you can win, and get better.

Pain, learn to master the pain. you got to be able to forget the pain and concentrate on what's happening around you. When it hurts, don't worry, your not the only one hurtin, push some more, if you want it bad enough, don't stop.

If you want something bad enough, I sincerly think that you can get it if you put your mind (and body) to it.

I say this very humbly (is this a word?) because my best result was second place in all of my races, but that is how I approach racing, training, and sometimes other stuff.

And sometimes, just don't try to be the champion, just have fun....after all, you got to enjoy life, don't be so serious all the time ;-)

you forget one thing....peloton
Apr 19, 2002 6:28 PM

You can have all the training, skills, genetics, and mindset in the world. If you don't have the luck and then the opportunity to perform you don't have anything. Lots of great athletes are around that you will never hear of.

That said, mindset is HUGE. I've had the opportunity to make my living doing my sport in the past. Still involved at a different level now. If you don't believe you are THE BEST, than you are NOTHING. Cocky, but true.

A lot of professional athletes are also compulsive/obsessive types too. Drives them in training. Also the same qualities that lead to drinking, drug, and gambling problems.