The Championship Triangle: What Every Coach and Player Must Know to Be a Winner

There are many benefits to sport, but the main objective is to win, whether the competition is with oneself or with an opponent. If one is to win, there are three critical keys to being a consistent champion. These three keys comprise The Championship Triangle. They are: 1. Intelligence, 2. Strength, 3. Skill. Simply stated, champions are smart, strong and skilled.

1. Intelligence

Champions must be smart. They must think. The fight is between the ears, i.e. in the head, the mind, the brain. A warrior with strength and skill but no intelligence will lose to a more intelligent adversary. Champions win not so much by brawn but brain. An army without a command center is no army at all. How many times in the world of competitive athletics, either at the amateur or professional level, have players or teams lost solely because of a stupid, bone-headed act in the waning moments of the contest? The annals of sport are awash with teams who lost because of a lack of intelligence.

Sun Tzu, the famous Chinese warlord of 2,500 years ago, in his epic work, The Art of War declares: War is a grave concern of the state. It must be thoroughly studied. First, notice he says war (peaceful or otherwise, as in competitive athletics) must be studied. Studying means using the mind and all its faculties. Notice Sun Tzu does not say war is based on physical characteristics primarily, i.e. muscle and brawn. It is based in the mind. Notice, too, he makes the adamant point that war must not just be studied but thoroughly studied. Think of all the great coaches in any sport. They were thinkers first and foremost. The same is true for great players. They use their minds, their intelligence to insure victory, and they use it before anything else. Therefore, to be a winning coach, player or team, championship laurels begin in the head with the use of an active and imaginative intelligence.

2. Strength

Many athletes may equate strength to physical prowess only. Not so. What good is it to have physical prowess and not be able to control it. To have strength means to have discipline and self-control as well as physical strength.

Strength comes in three types: 1. mind, 2. body, 3. spirit. We’ve talked about the mind. Bodily strength involves not just muscular power but physical endurance and stamina. How many contests have been lost in the final phase of a game because one team was in better shape than another? A team may have great athletes, but if they’re not well-conditioned, they will not be consistent winners. Lastly, players must have strength of spirit, an indomitable will that refuses to die, refuses to be defeated, refuses to buckle under the pressure of the contest. A person may have a strong body and mind but if their spirit is weak, they will eventually crumble. Likewise, an athlete may have a strong will and mind but if his body doesn’t have the physical strength to endure the contest, he may well fall prey to an opponent who is physically stronger and better conditioned. Therefore, as far as strength is concerned, The Championship Triangle of intelligence, strength and skill has an internal strength triangle of body, mind and will.

Another aspect of strength is the control of one’s emotions. Once again, how many championships have been lost by amateurs and professionals alike because they were too weak to control their emotions and they “lost it” – their self-control and the game – by engaging in some idiotic action guaranteeing their demise. One has to have passion and fire to be a champion, but that passion and fire must be controlled. If players don’t control themselves and coaches don’t train their players to control their emotions, they’re all headed down the road of defeat. Warriors contain and control their emotions in the heat of battle… to the end of the battle because they know if they lose their control they lose the fight.

3. Skill

Needless to say, without skills relative to a particular sport, one can’t even play the sport, let alone win. Champions must have skills. Such skills take time, effort, discipline, control, blood, sweat, tears, struggle and a relentless will to perfect to championship status in order to separate themselves from the “also-rans” and “runners-up.” Those skills are not simply technical skills, but also include the mental and physical skills of The Championship Triangle.


The Championship Triangle consists of 1. intelligence, 2. strength, 3. skill. In other words, champions must be smart, strong and skilled. These three components must work together in harmony. Two are not sufficient to create victory. Coaches and players alike must imbue them… to the end. Champions exude these three characteristics to the highest level and all the rest, well, they’re just the rest, at least until they also imbue these three critical components of the ultimate winner. In any sport there is only one true champion during a season. To appease people’s sensitivities, some people say everyone is a champion just because they competed. Such sentiments not only diminish and disrespect those who truly excel and are #1 in their sport, they also reflect a growing delusion that all competitors are champions. Not so. Champions are those individuals and teams whose skill and ability to execute surpass all other competitors. This is the way it is and it is the way it should be. To do less, to be less, is to deny and disregard what it is to be a true champion.


Anna C. Knight

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