|In this case, you can judge a book by its cover.|
Anyway, on to the review of a book written by my sport
psych colleague and all-around swell guy, Dr. Rob Bell. In fact, there are a few individuals who I have interacted with as that have been my own set of "hinges" in my young career, and Bell is one of them. That being said, I wanted to give a quality review of his second published work.
"The Hinge is the one moment, event, or person that makes all the difference. It connects who we are with who we become."
Athletes are by nature a group who respond well to instruction and example. After reading Rob Bell’s first book, “Mental Toughness Training for Golf” I was looking forward to following up with reading his second, “The Hinge”. I will begin by prefacing that as someone who practices applied sport psychology, I find Bell’s writing to be very practical and he provides tools to athletes wanting to improve upon this aspect of their mental game. What the reader won’t find is an academic treatise (or at least it is cleverly hidden) in the book’s 108 pages, but a balanced look at real stories grounded in precedent.
Bell’s approach in “The Hinge” is similar to “Mental Toughness Training for Golf” where he lays out a specific principle, provides a real-life example (usually involving a well-known athlete), and provides a few key points to simplify the message he’s trying to deliver. Mental Toughness, at its core is a simple concept; yet many surprisingly struggle with accurately nailing down its meaning in the real world. This is where “The Hinge” excels.
Essentially, Bell’s latest book can best be described as a collection of narratives focused on the intersection of sporting life, seeming coincidences, and our role in it all as performers and, well, human beings. Just like a coach delivers a halftime speech, Rob Bell delivers a collection of messages in a number of ways. An initial reference to legendary UCLA coach John Wooden (which made me want to read further) sets a nice stage for explaining some of the meanings behind Bell’s central thesis.
In “The Hinge”, Bell expands using multiple sports and athletes as case studies involving key moments in each athlete’s life (as symbolized by “The Hinge”) and how applying mental toughness (symbolized by “the door”) enables us to grow and change. The running theme involves the consequences of the “doors" that open and close and what happens next is up to the individual. References and stories range from golf (one of Bell’s areas of specialization); to football to track and field and swimming (two of my key interest areas) so there is basically something in this book for athletes of all types at different stages in their sports. “The Hinge” also makes a few spiritual references-which I personally appreciate- and hope it does not deter a small fraction of readers from the book’s message. Even if a given reader does not agree with every precept found in “The Hinge, if one reads with an open mind, there is something for everybody in this book. Also, various pop culture references are also included within its pages. Rob Bell does a nice job of balancing between a number of different sports, narratives, and viewpoints in “The Hinge”.
As a consultant, I am always looking for new, useful material to share and use with the athletes in my practice, and “The Hinge” will provide an easy-to-read and relatable work that I would be comfortable presenting to both my high school and professional athletes. I feel that Bell captures a relatability factor in this book that will lend itself well to applied sport psychology circles. He even goes as far as using a few personal examples to get his message across, suggesting a substantial personal connection with the subject matter. Besides as a reference and tool for sport psychology professionals, I would recommend this book to athletes who may be struggling with finding meaning in what they do or to those may be at a crossroads in their careers. Tough times teach toughness, and “The Hinge” provides insight in a simple but powerful message.
Proponents of positive psychology will likely enjoy “The Hinge” and its foundational principles. There are several examples of random events that have had pivotal roles in athletes’ lives. Some may argue the objectivity of “The Hinge”, as the book contains mostly case study information and does include citations come from Wikipedia; however, the research that is discussed is scientifically sound.
Bottom line, I found this book thought-provoking and written from the heart. It may raise as many questions as it answers, but I found “The Hinge” enjoyable and informative. While other factors likely contribute to who we are and how we get there, I believe that the hinge connects, and the hinge is real. Lastly, a special ‘thanks’ goes out to Dr. Rob Bell for providing the opportunity to review.
Stay the course ~ you may just be a moment away from greatness.