FIM World Trials Champion and Scottish Six Days Trial winner, Bernie Schreiber shares his winning attributes with Trials Guru. Schreiber is the co-Author of the renowned book “Observed Trials” with Len Weed.
Photos: Eric Kitchen; Mauri/Fontsere Collection
Excerpt: Motor Cycle News 1977.
TG: Everyone would like to win, but most don’t. Why?
BS: To win, you must prepare yourself to be the winner – not simply “do my best” mentality. During 40 years of off-road motorcycle Trials coaching, I continually see riders under-performing due to a lack of proper preparation. Many have plenty of potential, talent and skill, but they are often performing best at a time when it is not necessary or not focused when the big day comes along. The performance transition from skills to victory is complex in the sport of Trials even when you’ve got it right physically. Many athletes fail to get the result they could because they have not prepared themselves to be the winners but merely to ‘do my best’. This attitude might work once, but usually only once. The bigger and more important the event, the more likely the win will go to someone who has been expecting to win and who has trained him or herself to cope with all the demands that winning entails. This clearly involves mental as well as physical preparation.
TG: Can you elaborate on the transition from skills to victory?
BS: The performance transition phase depends on your level of challenge, but the higher you go, most likely the less you know and this applies to most sports athletes. If you compete at a clubman level, a National Championship or World level it’s very important to clearly understand your goals. The sport of Trials has changed over the years, along with bikes, skills and section design, but the transition to winning is a mindset, that needs very fine tuning. The nature of competition is that the unexpected will happen. A great competitor will expect the unexpected, have anticipated how to manage it effectively, know how to overcome it completely and have planned and prepared to deal with whatever challenge comes along. If your training plan only deals with what can reasonably be expected – what statistically is most likely to occur, you may be competitive but you will rarely win. Winners expect to win regardless of what happens on the field of battle. Not only that, but they train to be the unexpected: to be the competitor who does things that no one thought possible and in doing so give themselves a clear winning advantage.
TG: How important is confidence?
BS: Nothing gives an athlete confidence like winning, but knowing with absolute certainty that they have consistently out-prepared everyone they will face in their targeted competition. You can talk it up, you can tell them how great they look in practice, you can try to convince them they have improved and that they are ready for anything, but for the most part the only person getting motivated from your motivation talks is you. Athletes need evidence, real evidence that they can be successful and the only currency they will bank on is knowing that their preparation has been absolutely perfect in every detail. The cheap talk and bullshit will not help you on competition day. Competition tactics need a plan like training, you must also have a winning plan for each event and the Championship. This means that you must know the opposition and what they are likely to do when and where. You must have a response to deal with each situation, know your own strengths and weaknesses and when you have made your plan you must be able to carry it out under pressure. It always comes down to a battle of wills, and you will be the winner if you have built yourself to a point where you will not accept defeat.
TG: What are the emotional aspects of competing?
BS: If competition was only about being physically ready, then coaching would be easy. But it’s not. The emotional aspects of competition are what determines success or failure. In professional sports and among the serious competitors, physical preparation, techniques and training methods are remarkably similar the world over. The real competitive advantage comes when athletes can maintain control and calm during competition and do their “job” regardless of the situation, country, weather, rules or opposition. The capacity to do this in competition comes from practicing to do this in training. All sports have a strong technical aspect, but being able to execute good technique at training is not enough. Winning in competition means performing with technical excellence under fatigue, under pressure and doing it repeatedly. If you have only practiced executing the technical elements of your sport during the first 50% of your training session – then you are not practicing to execute the skills of your sport under competition conditions. It is important to practice techniques and skills in conditions and circumstances which simulate and even exceed the demands of competition. The athlete must execute skills accurately and consistently when they are fatigued and under emotional pressure. Performance practice makes for perfect performance.
TG: How important are Trials skills?
BS: Trials skills are very important when used correctly. The transfer of technical skills learned to competition skills and to actual winning skills are major steps at the highest level. The best skill and most difficult is to “perform well, under fatigue and under pressure consistently in competition conditions.” You’ll often find trials schools promoting a list of trick techniques to learn, but most of them are not really applicable in competition consistently and therefore results are often not achieved. It’s important to work on every basic aspect of the sport to reach your potential and do it with consistency. Most improvement strategies are based on the “more” approach: more effort, more practice, more techniques, more hours and work. Unfortunately, experience has proven that simply adding more techniques or more hours is not the answer to winning. Real performance improvement is a result of critical actions on key variables that help you take action by removing obstacles that stand in your way. As a result, you will be able to use your knowledge and skills more effectively. Each training phase must be a built-in structure of progress. In the build-up phase, this should be both in the overall quality of the training and in the proportion of high-quality competition training.
TG: Did you give your opponents a chance to win?
BS: There are two types of people in sport. Those passionate about participation and all the great, wholesome, healthy, community enriching aspects of sport and those who are just as passionate about winning. Those passionate about winning is a very low percentage of athletes. Those in the participation group will tell you that sport is all about fun, community, kindness, peace, love, happiness and about people enjoying the weekend. The reality for this passionate winning type is that sport, if you want to succeed is ruthless. For winners it’s about winning and being dedicated to and single minded about winning. It’s about consistently competing to the very best of your ability without excuses. It’s about realising that your opponents do not care how you feel, they don’t want you to enjoy the competitive experience, they don’t give a shit about your dreams, they want to beat you and if possible, beat you badly. That’s why tough training is so critical. You must prepare to a level that does not give your opponent, regardless of their talent, their resources, their training programs or their coaching support, any possible chance of victory. If you want to win, make your training more challenging and more demanding – physically, mentally, technically, tactically and every other possible way harder than the competition you are preparing for and more than your competitors.
TG: Is Trials a Sport that can prepare you for winning in life?
BS: I believe sports competition prepares individuals to challenge themselves and Trials riders are a smart and talented group of people. They are ready to go face the obstacles head on and evaluate themselves on a scorecard. Trials is measured from the ears up and very frustrating sometimes, but it can teach a person to be brave, strong and resilient. I’ve always liked individual sports like trials, golf, tennis, skiing and others. You learn to observe things differently and stay focused on your personal results without team excuses or mistakes. It is a sport that gifts its participants with the knowledge they need for the rest of their lives. A sport that can provide you the keys you need to unlock your future. Without this sport, I would have never become the person I am today.
Copyright: Bernie Schreiber/Trials Guru 2022