Archive for the Championship Psychology Category

Championship Psychology/Realism

Posted in Championship Psychology on June 6, 2009 by bethleasure
Becky Conzelman was a truth seeker

Becky Conzelman was a truth *seeker

Brutal Facts

32“The hard reality of top sport…” Dutch Judge’s ruling re: a rider contract dispute

One surprising trend discovered in 33recent organizational research on what it takes to sustain greatness is the necessity of embracing paradox. The scholar refers to this as the “Genius of AND.” One such paradox embraced by the great is: face brutal facts AND have faith that the best is yet to come. The great ones don’t shy away from facing the brutal facts; in fact, they run right into reality and continue to face it as they work and believe in a better future.

A culture of discipline maintains staunch adherence to facing the realities of current performance while a clearly defined purpose guides what to do with those realities. Cycling for many is not about facing reality. Many participate in order to manage stress from other realities in life. A professional doesn’t have this luxury, and lower-level pro racing is rife with truth-dodgers. These are the guys who year after year accomplish little more than aging and do so mainly with self in mind. Youthful years that could be focused on other areas of life pursuing another unique greatness with larger influence is instead pedaled away on the cranks of irresponsibility. Not that mediocrity in bike racing and meandering through life don’t have value for a time but this profile of rider isn’t at the head of the race or the roster.

A champion is looking at all the facts all the time and adjusting, improving, tweaking, stretching. Limits are analyzed critically and goals adjusted accordingly. If performance doesn’t bear out the goals, either different goals are set or new strategies are employed. Little time is wasted on mystical methods of achievement. A mindset that accepts reality in all its glorious hardness is able to suffer in that winning 10th Percentile. Realistic winners know they belong there. Champions are utilizing hard feedback because they know that nurturing the truth saves AND rewards.

Prayer for Realism

“…to understand what life means and where it’s going… and give…a grasp on reality…to learn fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate…” 34Proverbs 1:1-3 

We are grateful for data AND determination. We pray for courage to probe facts AND penetrate faith. We ask for help in viewing limits and what to do with the knowledge gained. 

Ponder Are my cycling goals indicating that I’m in a dream world? strong>Affirm I act in cooperation with reality. Watch especially what’s difficult for clues about championship considerations.

32″Hard reality for Veneberg,” Latest Cycling News for December 5, 2007

33The “Genius of AND” is another concept from Good to Great by Jim Collins published by HarperCollins Publishers Inc., NY Copyright © 2001 by Jim Collins. Collins cites James Stockdale’s philosophy. Stockdale has been referenced in other end notes as a POW from Vietnam. Collins based this concept on something Stockdale said in conversation that Collins dubbed the “Stockdale Paradox.” It’s worth reading this book and Stockdale’s books for incredible inspiration toward championship thinking and endeavor. Both camps outline the hardships associated with true greatness.

34The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


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Championship Psychology/Instinct

Posted in Championship Psychology on June 5, 2009 by bethleasure

Bird’s Eye View

30“I had the instinct and it worked.” Jens Voigt, One of the Heroes

In addition to sensory perception, champions possess a remarkable intuitive capability that incorporates both what’s happening AND what does the gut say to do? Much is made of animal instinct or killer instinct in sport. Human instinct is much better as it invites reason into its hasty processing. If probed about the basis of instinct for a spontaneous attack for instance, the victor will reveal reasons why gut feeling powered a podium result in statements like, “I knew I was too far out but my competitors were eyeing each other.”

Inside & Outside Yourself

Inside & Outside Yourself

Some champions are tuned to sense the dread of their competitors and can benefit in nasty weather, for instance. Sprinters can detect hesitancy in a competitor even while looking for opportunities to advance in gaps. The conscious and subconscious work together to form strong impressions. These urges are meant to be acted upon quickly. If you think, it’s too late is the mantra of some winners. Automation is considered the highest form of skill mastery. Yet instinct also takes over when a lack of knowledge or inexperience is present.

Champions seem to be born with an abundance of winning instinct; learning and improving this package of championship characteristics is necessary. Insight is a psychological and a spiritual experience and as such has room to develop since it’s as good as the information it gets. We are champions as much with our hearts as with our minds. The use of intuition is often developed in sports psychology by a visualization technique which takes you outside yourself. Like video of the peloton from a helicopter, this bird’s eye view senses the movements of prey and swoops at what may prove to be the right time. It reads the horizon.

Prayer for Ride Instincts
“…more or less by instinct…not imposed on us from without,but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within…” Romans 2:14

“But the wisdom from above is…open to reason…” 31James 3:17 

We are endowed with ability to make judgments based on intangible as well as tangible indicators. We confess we suppress this inner voice at times. We ask that our instincts be guided by reason.

Ponder Do I listen to my gut? Affirm I teach my body to follow my gut with a quick OK from my brain when appropriate. Watch from without and from within to know how to make winning moves.

30“Voigt wins on instinct,” by Gregor Brown in Varese, Giro d’Italia feature, May 30, 2008

31The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson and Revised Standard Version of the Bible Copyright © National Council of Churches of Christ in America

Championship Psychology/Situational Awareness

Posted in Championship Psychology on June 4, 2009 by bethleasure

Sensual Cycling

27″In a sprint I don’t look for my rivals…just for gaps.” Robbie McEwen, Sprinting Champion & Generous Domestique

Eyes Forward

Eyes Forward

Another aspect of winning thought concerns concentration and where focus is directed – situational awareness. Situational awareness is key in every discipline of bike racing. For mass start events, focus must be directed internally and externally, as well as broadly and narrowly. Within this quadrant of focal points, a nearly infinite amount of scenarios can represent each type of awareness.

There is the 28geospatial genius of the sprinters – a narrow external awareness at race end. To win a road race, you may have to move between each type of awareness. For example, broad external to attack at right time; broad internal to work in a break while keeping the competitors’ movements in mind; narrow external to separate from the break; and narrow internal to solo for the win.

One thing winners do better is to perceive information using heightened senses at times when one may feel the dullest – during hard effort – and to switch among the types. They may or may not be suffering as much as everyone else, but even so, they stay focused on what’s happening around them utilizing sight, sound, touch, even unlikely senses, such as smell – to discover the possibility of rain to pre-empt a bunch split – or taste to determine the level of salt in one’s own sweat – as an indicator of exertion. It may not be pretty but it is part of sensual cycling.

The pleasures of situational awareness utilize all the enjoyable realm of physical sensation. It narrows an eye for space in an aggressive sprint. It marshals the sound of a changing gear from behind to prepare to jump on an attacker. It feels the direction of the wind. The vibrant life of the peloton is available to the champion watchman. While some of this can be learned, there does seem to be a propensity for race awareness witnessed in winning riders.

Prayer for Situational Awareness
 “…the watchman sees…hears…[acts]” 29Ezekiel 33:6

We are made alive by the infinite variety and variance of the peloton. We pray for situational awareness – the ability to sense and perceive.

Ponder Can I move among these types of awareness? Affirm I am aware of where each situation requires me to focus. Watch what’s necessary to win and don’t worry about the distractions.


27Ad banner. June 2008 Pro Cycling Magazine

 28Reference “Maillot Vert,” March: Going Green, Prayers for the Peloton by Beth Leasure © Copyright 2008, a Prayer for Sprint Fitness/Skills.

 29The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Championship Psychology/Rewards

Posted in Championship Psychology on June 3, 2009 by bethleasure
Journey & Journalists

22“I have to remain training patiently, and to…keep myself in a good mood, I will be celebrating every muscle on my legs that decides to come back and every vein that dares to show through the fat layer on my calves.”  Judith Arndt, World Champion and Generous Domestique

Celebrating Legs

Celebrating Legs

Using both the idea of big wins as well as capturing the joys of the journey enables a winner to withstand the pressure of the journalists and potentially long periods without routine pleasures. Incremental indicators that accumulate confidence and stimulus are a hallmark of a winner. From vein-popping to power-monitoring evidence that turn the rigors of preparation into reward, a personal system of accountability fueled from both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is essential for the mindset of a champion. Preparation for the championship level comes so far in advance, staying on course can only happen with guardrails and signage pointing a positive way. Mental energy to track these details is required.

Much is made of focus in sports psychology and the great ones seem to cultivate this to another level. Intrinsic focus is the inner heart that keeps one believing. This is simple love of riding and all the nuances of training, mastery, and competition. There’s also a sense of the spiritual that defines one’s purpose and actually enjoys the aspects of hardship that refine inner qualities. Faith is increased by seeing circumstances and resources provided. Affirmation of others helps fuel focus also. The external world can provide motivation in many ways through financial rewards or other forms of provision, acknowledgment and praise, or expectations or obligations owed. The world inside is also fed by the world outside you. Screen its menu carefully. To call up championship performance, protect external and internal motivation by refining it.

Prayer for Intrinsic/Extrinsic Motivation
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” Proverbs 23:7
“Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life. 23Proverbs 4:23 

Help us to both guard our hearts and give our hearts in pursuing cycling. We pray for internal and external reasons to enjoy the bike and the cycling community.

Ponder What are my internal and external motivations for riding? Affirm I refine my motivation so impetus to endure is strong. Watch and filter winning incentive for any impure elements that cloud clarity or fog up refreshing thoughts.


22“Ringing in the Olympic year,” The Judith Arndt diary January 24, 2008

23Holy Bible, King James Version public domain and Contemporary English Version Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Championship Psychology/Love Motivation

Posted in Championship Psychology on June 2, 2009 by bethleasure

Invincible Strength

24“This is the result of team work…to sacrifice their chances for me. They helped me with my morale, they helped make sure my dream came true.  Carlos Sastre, Tour de France winner


Winner Carlos Sastre is hugged by teammate Kurt-Asle Arvesen

Winner Carlos Sastre is hugged by teammate Kurt-Asle Arvesen

Superlative athletic feats happen for love of others in connection, such as team and close supporters. The relationship between motivation and emotion is a basic psychological principle. Love affiliated with others as motivator 25ranks higher than achievement, knowledge, beauty or fulfillment. Even humanistic theories for motivation rank love just under bodily comfort and safety.

Bike racing is hardly about bodily comfort or security and much effort is expended in professional development in managing and even displacing these two motivators for the sake of achievement. The key is not to allow love to also be displaced but to let it rise to the fore of cycling motivation. An inanimate bicycle doesn’t love us but it is a means to transport love.

Motivating love can look like anger if for instance, the safety of family is threatened and anger fuels a fight for protection, but anger isn’t sustainable. Love of the work of riding is an intrinsic motivator. A pro has gotta love the grind as much as the glory, and if you don’t like hours of ride time over years, then you’re on the wrong path and I pray you find another route as a rider. Love of praise through race results is an extrinsic motivator. Yet even winning can be empty if there’s no love for the work.

Further, popular motivational theory claims that love of the work is enough, but it’s not and neither is the praise of others and neither are the two combined. Championship motivation is more advanced. The kind of strength that comes only from love has to do with love from and for others. A heart flooded with love pours out for love like a consuming fire that fuels invincible performance.


Prayer for Love Motivation
Love is invincible…the fire of love stops at nothing— it sweeps everything before it.” 26Song of Solomon 8:6-8 

It has been said that no one can truly love another until first being loved. We understand that God loves each of us and we pray to be filled by this love. We ask to understand God’s love for us as cyclists. We pray to use our bikes to give and receive love.

Ponder Have I thought of riding as an act of worship in gratitude for the ability to ride? Affirm I ride as an act of love for God and others. Watch a love motivation use the bike as a connection to community, and for performances that show gratitude for the support.

24“Sastre thanks team for Tour de France success,” by Francois Thomazeau; Reuters India Sat Jul 26, 2008

25“Motivation to learn: An overview,” by W. Huitt 2001. Educational Psychology Interactive, Valdosta State University, GA. Retrieved 8/08 from

 26The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Thinking Victoriously

Posted in Championship Psychology on June 1, 2009 by bethleasure
Victory Salute

Victory Salute

Tenth Percentile

20 “Life battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man;
But soon or late the man who wins

Is the one who thinks he can.”    A poem by Walter D. Wintle


Sports psychology reveals that only 10% of anyone who lines up at a race believes they can win. In a field of 120 riders, that’s 12 who think they have a shot for victory. If you want to win then you narrow your focus like the 10th percentile or so capable of it. As you gain this strategic awareness of winning versus podium versus placing versus finishing versus participating, you should be developing all aspects of winning.

Winning isn’t magic. It’s a package of practiced thought and action that leads to an expected end. You don’t do the same non-winning things over and over and believe that suddenly a win will come. You must target the tools in the package that lead to a win and then utilize those tools over and over until winning is mastered.

This is one reason why you see the same riders year after year who win and the same riders year after year placing 2nd and 3rd behind them. A winner masters the skill of winning and stays consistent in its practice. This isn’t some ephemeral intangible like luck or chance. It is 1st place preparation from mind to body to technology to strategy to spirit to lifestyle. Providential opportunity does play an important role no doubt but at least some aspects of opportunity we create. Few can take the many steps that lead to that top step.

I don’t believe everyone’s purpose is to be the winner of a bike race. It’s important to determine if your purpose includes finishing first. All are meant to win but not all are meant to finish first or capable of it on the bike. Facing this reality may not occur quickly, and some winners are made over time. Some will never finish first and adjusting accordingly to this reality sets you up to be a winner in life. However, here’s a strong urging to those capable of winning bike races: start thinking and training like a conqueror.


Prayer for Victory

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?
Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 21Philippians 3:14


We are glad that we have a heavenly mandate to strive for winning! For those called to win bike races, we pray for victory in bike races. We ask for victorious lives for all.

Ponder Do I have what it takes to win races or is my effort best spent in another activity? Affirm I am where I can win. Watch for the win when your purpose and your pursuits line up.

20Excerpted verse from the poem, “The Man Who Thinks He Can” by Walter D. Wintle from Best-Loved Poems 1997 by Ideal Publications, a Guideposts Company. Little is known about this poet yet he distinguished himself because of positive thinking.

21The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society