Trusting Second Half – Hells Angel Thought of the
“Hoka Hey” – The War Cry of Clutch Performers
("Hoka Hey" dog tags available to any interested staff members - Contact Bernie if interested)
Crazy Horse is regarded as the greatest Sioux warrior in Native American history and “Hoka Hey” was his famous war cry. Crazy Horse led his people’s struggle against the overwhelming odds of the U.S. Federal Government who invaded the Sioux territories and drove the Sioux people from their lands. He gained widespread respect of the people he led through courageous fighting and cunning leadership in battle. He was revered for riding ahead of his warriors and charging directly into the thickest of fights where the weapon fire was most concentrated. His greatest victory occurred at the Battle of the Little Big Horn where his greatly outnumbered tribal protectors outfought and outmaneuvered General Custer’s U.S. Army (this battle is also known as Custer’s Last Stand). On the day of the battle, he encouraged his warriors by shouting his customary war cry –
“Hoka Hey! It is a good day to fight…It is a good day to die!”
“Hoka Hey” translates to “It is a good day to die.” Interestingly, this concept extends far beyond the Sioux territories. It’s been discovered to be a key quality of elite warrior civilizations throughout history regardless of race, religion, or geographic location – a universally recognized attitude that enhances high stakes performance by prompting warriors to fight freely without fear of consequences. This mentality has found a lasting home in high stakes competition as well. Professional baseball players and athletes from countless other sports have adopted a more contemporary “Urban Dictionary” translation of this war cry – “Fuck it!” This self-statement helps generate the reckless abandon needed to unleash their best stuff when the game is on the line. Good things typically follow the pairing of quality preparation with this risk-taking attitude.
“Hoka Hey” embodies the Trusting Mindset qualities of conviction, reckless abandon, and absolute acceptance…
Lastly, “Hoka Hey” is an attitude, a choice, and a paradox that defies conventional wisdom. It means to seek out what others avoid, to embrace what others fear, and to fight when others retreat. Hoka Hey is truly a paradox. Great baseball is also a paradox – In baseball, less is believed to be more; letting it happen works better than making it happen; “effortless power” trumps “powerless effort”; trying less produces better outcomes than trying more; not thinking about results generates the best results. It’s important to remember that conventional wisdom leads to conventional results and normal thinking results in normal levels of performance. Great baseball requires an uncommon mindset and a paradoxical perspective that defies conventional thinking – “Hoka Hey! It’s a good day to fight…It’s a good day to die!”
Trusting Second Half – Hells Angel Thought of the Week
What I learned from Tony Gwynn and John Smoltz: “Take Inventory” and “Hunt the Good Stuff”
Last week, we distinguished between the “Training Mindset” that brings skill in (work hard, try hard, think carefully about everything) and the “Trusting Mindset” that lets skill out (conviction, reckless abandon, and absolute acceptance). We also painted the picture that today’s player is brought up more Boy Scout (Training Mindset) than Hells Angel (Trusting Mindset).
The Training Mindset is not a bad thing. In fact, this attitude is absolutely essential to honing the game’s fundamental skills. However, all strong medicine has its side effects. While athletes are earning their merit badges and getting better at their fundamentals, they’re also getting better at working, trying, and thinking – these are the side effects of a Training Mindset addiction. Consequently, work hard/try hard/think carefully about everything become the habitual by-products of the Boy Scout lifestyle and these default tendencies override instinctive genius at the worst possible times. With the tying run in scoring position late in the game, it’s the Boy Scout that cautiously steps into the box prepared to try hard and ready to give 110% which leads to “powerless effort” when what’s really needed is the Hells Angel’s reckless abandon and “effortless power”!
Peak performance is a balancing act. The Trusting Mindset attitude (conviction, reckless abandon, and absolute acceptance) must make up the majority of an athlete’s thinking so that this becomes his habitual default response under pressure. This means, a player must spend 60% of his day as a Hell’s Angel, while devoting the remaining 40% to the Boy Scout – 60% constitutes a “majority” with plenty of the day left over (40%) for thoughtful, effortful, critical, careful, quality work.
Don’t be fooled though – Increasing the percentage of time players spend in the Trusting Mindset does not mean reducing the amount of time spent training – Athletes should never stop working to improve things. It does mean bringing a different attitude to this work and looking at the training through a different lens – one designed to build confidence more than competence. Here are two stories that highlight the Hells Angel lens we’re talking about…
Hall of Fame hitter Tony Gwynn earned the nickname “Captain Video” because he was one of the first players to systematically use video to improve performance. However, the way he used video might surprise you – “Gwynn will take back to his hotel a tape he has made of the game on a small VCR he carries on the road and hooks up to clubhouse monitors. Then, with a second VCR he totes, he will transfer his at bats to another tape. He will actually edit those at bats onto three separate tapes -- one for good at bats, where he might have worked the count, fouled off tough pitches, just generally not gotten embarrassed; one of at bats with hits; and one of the swings that actually produced the hits. ‘If there are bad at bats on the tapes, I just click them out,’ he says. ‘Watch 'em once, click 'em out. You don't want to watch yourself looking like an idiot, waving at some curveball.’” (Sports Illustrated, September 18, 1995).
Jeff Locke recently shared a similar conversation he had with former Braves pitcher John Smoltz at Braves 2008 Spring Training. Jeff watched the way Smoltz went about business during big league camp and often noticed Smoltz stop and pause for a moment of reflection during flat ground and side work. Jeff later asked him about this reflective pause. Smoltz explained that after throwing a good pitch, he took a moment to mentally file it away so that he could later access the image and recall the pitch whenever he needed to throw it again. Further, he refused to allow himself to get too frustrated or discouraged following bad pitches. Instead, he told himself “erase” and mentally deleted the corrupt file from his memory which helped him get back to work and stay on task.
These two stories highlight the Trusting Mindset skills of “Taking Inventory” and “Hunting the Good Stuff”. Warehouse managers take inventory for two reasons: (a) they must know what they DON’T have on the shelf so they can be sure to place an order for it, and (b) they must know what they DO have on the shelf so that when the job calls for it, they can quickly and confidently supply the demand. Baseball players are a lot like warehouse managers in that they tirelessly take inventory. Their Training Mindset calls attention to what’s missing, broken, or in short supply and prompts them to work to fill these voids. Their Trusting Mindset brings attention to what’s available, working, armed, and ready and authorizes them to trust it and let it loose with conviction and reckless abandon. At the end of the day (each day), peak performance is a balancing act, and the Gwynn and Smoltz stories highlight two great athletes’ efforts at balancing their Boy Scout self-criticism with their Hells Angel self-confidence. As coaches, we can borrow from Gwynn and Smoltz and provide our athletes with a more confident lens through which they can view themselves; their work; their game; and ultimately master this balancing act.
Trusting Second Half – Hells Angel Thought of the
Is Today’s Player More Boy Scout than Hells Angel?
Three Golden Rules: Mac Wilkins, who won the Olympic gold in 1976 and the silver in 1984, told Christine Brennan of the Washington Post that he has always gone by three rules...“Dream and be creative like a Hippie. Be crazy and take risks like the Hell's Angels. Have the discipline and perseverance of a Boy Scout. To me, those are All-American virtues.”
If there were a Hall of Fame for premiere mental game coaches, Bob Rotella would certainly be in it. As a teacher, Bob has been selected as one of the "Top 10 Golf Teachers of the 20th Century" and has directed the leading graduate program in the country for over 20 years at the University of Virginia serving as their Director of Sport Psychology - one of the nation’s foremost programs for applied sport psychology. Bob has worked extensively with PGA champions including Hall of Fame players Nick Price and Tom Kite and Major Championship winners Davis Love III, Padraig Harrington, Trevor Immelman, Paul Azinger, Hal Sutton, David Toms, and Jeff Sluman, to name a few.
As I reflect on my own path of mastery and how its twists and turns brought me to 1701 27th Street East in Bradenton FL, I feel fortunate to have been mentored by two of Bob Rotella’s most talented disciples along this journey. Many of my own philosophies come directly from their teachings. One teaching in particular transcends the rest, so much that it’s become my mental game “Hedgehog” Core Conviction:
The psychology that brings skill in is different from the psychology that lets skill out.
In other words, there’s a style of thinking termed the “Training Mindset” (a.k.a. the “Boy Scout”) that builds skill and ability through working hard, trying hard, and thinking carefully about what you’re doing. But there’s a different style of thinking called the “Trusting Mindset” (a.ka. the “Hells Angel”) that unleashes this skill and ability during high stress moments. Ironically, what brings it in – work hard, try hard, and think carefully about what you’re doing – is the very thing that keeps athletes from unlocking and unleashing their best stuff when it matters most – during crucial moments in games, many players work hard, try hard, and think carefully about what they’re doing at the plate or on the mound and consequently end up getting in their own way. Conversely, ask any ballplayer what it’s like to be in the Zone, and you’ll hear the opposite – “It felt easy, almost effortless.” “I didn’t try to make it happen, I just let it happen.” “I wasn’t thinking at all, just sensing and reacting, just playing the game with my eyes and not my head.” So, this Zone-like “Trusting Mindset” style of thinking is characterized by conviction, reckless abandon, and absolute acceptance.
Most of today’s athletes come to us having already spent the majority of their baseball lives practicing and competing in Training Mindset ways (work hard, try hard, and think carefully about what you’re doing). Today’s player has been coached 24/7 from the moment he first played tee ball at age five, and well-meaning volunteer coaches and high school educators have relentlessly reinforced the misconception that working hard, trying hard, and thinking carefully about everything are the keys to success. In truth, these are the keys to acquiring skills and developing fundamentals, but they make up only part of the success equation. Today’s player no longer hones instinct, learns risk taking, and accepts the consequences of his actions by meeting up in a vacant field, picking teams, drawing up some agreed upon rules, and playing until exhaustion like previous generations once did. So, it comes as no surprise that today’s player is more coachable than ever and highly adept at structured practice, but is regarded by veteran coaches as “in his own head”, “lacking instinct for the game”, and “not performing to his potential” during high stakes competition – the consequences of an overriding “Training Mindset” and an underdeveloped and/or atrophied “Trusting Mindset.”
Under stress, human beings don’t “rise to the occasion”. Rather, they fall back on their training. They naturally revert back to their dominant habits – The same holds true with thinking habits. If a work hard/try hard/think about it attitude describes the upbringing of today’s player, and a work hard/try hard/think about it attitude dominates the work day of today’s newly drafted professional player, then work hard/try hard/think about it becomes the habitual and unavoidable approach taken by today’s player when dealing with stressful competitive situations - even with the baseball world cautioning that work hard/ try hard/think about it acts as the Kryptonite to instinctive genius. Simply put, this is why players can’t get out of their own heads even though they know better!
So, is today’s player doomed to play out these “Boy Scout” patterns of the over-motivated underachiever? No, but these patterns are likely to be the initial default tendencies we’ll see in our newly drafted players and we’ll have to be purposeful (and counter-culture) in developing more of a Hells Angel default mentality towards competition. I will be contributing to our Trusting Second Half mission by sharing some weekly “Trusting Mindset” ideas aimed at (a) cultivating the Hells Angel qualities of conviction, reckless abandon, and absolute acceptance in our players, and (b) providing another lens through which players and coaches can view their work days as opportunities to train-the-trust and practice the “Trusting Mindset” style of thinking that lets skill out.
By Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld
Originally posted to Arizona Airspeed's website on September 28, 2002
Visualization is the ability to create clear, detailed and accurate images in your mind, of events that you want to create as physical reality. We cannot possibly stress enough the importance of positive visualization. Every sports psychology book or peak performance book contains extensive chapters of the benefits and value of visualizing. This holds true in all areas of life far beyond sports.