The Unintentional Genius
"Walking the extra mile and do more to become better."
Stokki aka The Beast aka The buddha aka The Psychologist. He is called by many names and known for his famous powerplay. He’s all in or all out, in life, in hockey, in everything he touches. And always in for a good conversation.
A nice coincidence
Stockbroekx: ‘It’s rather a by coincidence that I rolled into hockey. I come from a football family, so football was my play until the age of eight. My mother was a good tennis player and my father loved sailing. They are both very sportive, so I got a competitive mindset from the cradle. My best friend Melchior, a Dutch kid, played hockey and begged me to try hockey training. That is where I met sports. It was fun and cool to play along with my best friends, but nothing more than that. From my parents, there was not the least pressure, so I could discover hockey in a totally free way without any expectations. At some stage, I had to choose between different sports. That must have been around the age of twelve. Because I enjoyed it so much, hockey it was.’
Stockbroekx: ‘Everybody could see that the talent was there. So around the age of fifteen, I was asked for the real thing. To play ‘provinciaal’ and that was a league higher, from that moment, the game was on. Before that point, it is just a hobby. From the moment it gets more serious, it begins to feel like ‘a sport’. Of course with sport there comes responsibility. So for my senior years in school, it got very difficult. I always felt I had to choose between hockey or school. I was so tired after training that there was no energy left for homework. And with an all or nothing -mentality you just can’t be the best at both. I must say this was a very difficult period for me. I decided to quit hockey and go full force for my studies. But that didn’t work either. I decided to stop school and get my diploma by home study, and that I would be an athlete.’
"At some stage during a game, I find a flow, an invisible power that arises and everything gets possible."
Stockbroekx: ‘After the decision, my powerplay kicked off. Powerplay is significant for how I am on the pitch. I found my energy on-field and became laser-focused on hockey. I could bring passion and conviction in my play and most importantly, the pain became my drive. In a Dutch interview, they once called me the accidental hockey genius. This is because at some stage during a game, I find a flow, an invisible power that arises and suddenly everything gets possible. The game changes. At Bloemendaal, where I played for a few seasons, they always said.: ‘If Stokki has a good day, the win is ours!’(laughs) Of course, I was part of an amazing group of players, staff and club people. Those were some of the best years in my hockey career, playing for Bloemendaal and the Red Lions. The downside of everything was that I left my school friends there. So I was at home isolated and missed teenage social life. I took a different path than ‘normal’ and that has been a very big challenge for me.
My world became ‘the hockey world’. With a lot of guys older and tougher than me, it wasn’t always easy there. But total focus became also my thing. Food, training, training before training and training after training. Walking the extra mile and do more to become better.’
Stockbroekx: ‘My teammates jokingly call me ‘The Psychologist’. That is because I’m always drawn to the psychological side of the game. At the top that is what makes the difference. It is far harder to improve mentally than physically or technically or even tactically. It means going deep in yourself and discovering some dark parts that hold you back to give it your all. Loving yourself when you strive for perfection is something difficult to do. At least so it was for me. I always feel attracted to good conversations and things with a deeper meaning in life. After the next same joke about me, it is not always funny anymore, although I have to say that I am a quiet absent-minded professor from time to time. They have even said that I can disappear from time to time.
Before my first Olympics, I was casual. On food, on training, on health and dedication. That changed a lot with a change of mentality we went through with the whole team. The team made a click after the London Olympics that with more training, more sacrifices and more focus, we had a very big shot at winning a medal. This mentality was awesome to be a part of. Everybody in together. All in. No excuses. In my family, we are very open, everything is to be discussed and we have no taboos. We speak about religion, beliefs, feelings, relationships. In a group of men, hockey men, you don’t talk about feelings so often. Why should you? Sports are about winning, hard training, hard competition. Getting better, beating the opponent…
Creating a space where you can be open and honest is a challenge. And within the Red Lions it is possible to be open. That culture was mainly created by our coach Shane. He was great at creating such an open environment. Also, Michel was good at that in his own way. He says what he thinks directly in your face. Good or bad.’
Holland vs Belgium
Stockbroekx: ‘I played in both leagues and there are some significant differences. After a bad game for example, there is often a lot of frustration. I would say there is this general stereotype opinion in Belgium that Belgians don’t talk so easily and frankly like they do in Holland. It is a little bit more complex in my opinion. I would say that the difference lies in the systems in place or the culture in place that makes it difficult to speak up. In Holland these systems are more advanced. In Holland you also have more successful teams than in Belgium. We simply don’t have that culture yet. But we can make a change in this. As you see more and more teams in Belgium are heading for the top. You feel that people are making a difference. And this makes me even more proud to be part of the Red Lions.
When we can give the example and take up our roles, others may follow. As Ghandi said: ‘We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our bodies. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.’
The winning mindset
Stockbroelx: ‘At some stage in my hockey career, I felt burned up like a candle. On both sides. Any athlete will understand that keeping the balance is one of the hardest things to do. At a certain stage, we did everything right with the Red Lions, we trained hard, ate well, we were fit and more than ready, but still we couldn’t win. This was very frustrating. A lot of guys in the team had made so many sacrifices and not being able to win was tough. Yes, we were the second, the third, but never number one. This was a huge challenge I had to overcome. I became very negative and was not able to be with the team anymore. It was just too much. I couldn’t take it anymore. So I decided to take a break and decided to follow a course for writing a book. It was an online course with a mentor, Raymond Aaron, who is an author himself, and he guided me writing my book which was an amazing experience. He made writing that book very easy!
The book was all about my frustration of not winning. I did a lot of soul searching regarding what to do and how to live up to your full potential. My book is called: The winning mindset. Not saying that in my book you will find the magic formula to win. It was the process of writing it that was very interesting and the experience of it that made me look at myself more. The book gave me the mirror I needed. What do I believe? What do I do? What is it I want? What regrets do I have and don’t want to have? It gave me also peace of mind to continue hockey.
When I returned to the team, all my doubts, fears and frustrations were transformed into this book. I was free from all the negative feelings. And believe it or not, that is when we won everything there was to win. I was writing about winning and we won! Apparently not only me, but everyone in their own way made the click. It seemed like a team we were mentally ready to win. With the Lions we won the European- and World Cup. With Bloemendaal we won EHL and the playoffs.
Literally a golden period!
Stockbroekx: ‘I did a lot of soulsearching regarding what to do and how to live up to your full potential.’
The circle of trust
Stockbroekx: ‘Shane has built a circle of trust with the team. To get us to really know where everyone has a superpower and can play to their full potential in a team where everyone is ‘the best player.’ But how to become the best team? I was reading a lot about trust and getting out of my comfort zone. Man, that is extremely difficult. Yet easy once you have done it.
Sometimes you feel tension with one of your teammates. At other times you start to compare yourself with others. You are in a team where everyone is a star player. All players are good. However, some players get more attention than others. Feelings of jealousy and frustration come up. You want more playtime, you also want attention. Why does he get more interviews and sponsors? Sometimes you think the world is against you. But then you need to count your blessings. Be grateful and see what you have and make the best out of it. And be nice and happy for the other who is doing good. The only thing that is dangerous is when you hold those negative feelings in you. Especially as a player, you very quickly feel the difference in performance. When you don’t feel really good, you might also not play at the level you could. Here again that mental side of yourself is very important.’
The 5 AM club
Stockbroekx: ‘The more you worry, the less you are in sync. So I am constantly looking for ways to grow. To become a better version of myself. And I love to experiment with new things. Where somebody would never even think about it, I go: ‘Let’s try it!’ And that is where I found Robin Sharma and his 5 AM -club through a friend. It comes down to this. You wake up at 5 AM in The morning with the 20-20-20 formula. 20 minutes of exercise, 20min meditate, 20 min learning/reading. Why?
Because an amazing start of the day will make an amazing day. You put your mindset on the following stuff: less screentime, deep sleep, learning and reading, oxygen, vacation for the mind, and exercise. To say it in his words: ‘Own your morning and elevate your life.’ I want to have an amazing life. Start by having one amazing day at a time. I have made some Instagram videos about this topic and as you can see I am really having a hard time doing this. But don’t give up is one of my mantra’s. Get it done. Even when it has to be in an ugly way. (haha)
A lot of people tell me I have coaching abilities. I also enjoy inspirational speaking in front of a large group of people. So maybe one day…The game changed me. So much that I want to reach out to people who are facing challenges of any kind to serve them, to help them and to watch them grow. A lot of people have helped me as well throughout my life and do the same is the least I can do.
Because no matter how hard the circumstances are, keep going and never give up. Everything is temporary (I learned that from the meditations) the good is temporary, the bad as well. Take a deep breath… Don’t get attached to anything and keep surviving!’ (MK)