Peak training: St Kilda players go through their paces in Colorado. Photo: STKFC
AS A kid, Trevor Hendy would race home from school to watch the new hit TV show of the day, Mork and Mindy. ''It was so cool trying to get that different perspective, this alien who's just arrived on the planet, what he thought of it, how it all worked,'' Hendy says.
The Australian ironman legend last week found himself in the very place Mork from Ork came to call home - Boulder, Colorado. His journey is no 1970s sitcom pilgrimage, rather a mission St Kilda hopes will bring a different perspective on elite sporting activity. Just as Robin Williams' manic Mork came to enrich Mindy's world, the end goal is positive change.
''Really it's just me coming in from the side with different ideas, something that can be symbolic for them about pushing yourself beyond your limits, challenging your own mind, redefining what you can do,'' Hendy said from the US on Friday. ''It's what I'm passionate about - getting the most out of yourself.''
Mental discipline: Trevor Hendy is sharing his knowledge. Photo: STKFC
The 44-year-old certainly did that through the late 1980s and '90s, when he won six Australian ironman titles and became his sport's all-time great, before a successful switch to kayaking, a sudden retirement, and a decade of deliberate retreat from the spotlight. He emerged as a life coach.
Hendy has worked with a range of elite athletes in tennis, golf and various football codes, and from the corporate world through to mums and dads. Now he finds himself cast as St Kilda's ''high-performance ambassador'', taking up the search for that special something that has been ongoing since 1966.
''He's a very spiritual sort of guy, loves nature, is a real gentleman,'' midfielder David Armitage said. ''To get advice from a guy who sees the world differently, it's been really beneficial. He makes you think.''
Armitage says having Hendy in Colorado, where the Saints have been in high-altitude training for the past week, has been awesome. Their one-on-one chats have emboldened him to take more of a leadership role, to be for a young list what the likes of Lenny Hayes and Stephen Milne once were for him.
Hendy's work marries the physical to the mental aspect of elite performance, teaching the athlete to identify when they ''clap out and give in'', when the battle with their mind is lost. As a starting point he draws on Albert Einstein: ''You can't solve a problem on the same level of the mind in which it was created.''
In other words, you have to change your mind to fix something. ''That's how I approach everything - if you can change your mind, everything else will follow.'' The ethos is all about an organisation's culture, a word that has become a veritable football club cliche.
Hendy always loved Australian rules. His family left Melbourne when he was three and travelled for two years before settling on the Gold Coast, and as the beach took his sporting focus, the dream of playing footy remained just that. Until he pulled on the boots, aged 41, in an over-30s competition. ''It was good with that experience to come here - I know what it feels like to run around, I know what it feels like to be tired near the end of a game.''
He spent time in the ruck and at full-forward, but took most advantage of his fitness base playing as a tall wingman. ''Third and fourth quarters I'd be running around, and all of a sudden I was finding a lot of space.''
A cousin, Ron Moylan, played for Collingwood in the late 1960s, and he describes himself as a Magpie fan with a St Kilda soft spot. Other family members are Saints, and upon learning of his new role implored him: ''Go on! Go and help them!''
Armitage says he has already done so in myriad ways, like the techniques that have improved breathing capacity when swimming, and taken the mind to another level when ploughing through the water.
''He's training your body to actually do more than you think it can in regard to physical exertion,'' Armitage says. ''Swimming underwater, you do one lap and think you're stuffed, but it's only your mind - your body has a capacity to still keep going.''
Respond rather than react is a Hendy mantra, a fine line to straddle for footballers who might see a scoreboard on which the desired result isn't coming, and react rather than respond. To some clients he might preach the value of celebrating the mere ''doing'' over the end result, but he knows AFL football is a results business, especially at a club in a 46-year premiership drought.
''While it's great to be a strong club that never gives in, and it's not all about the premiership in one way, in another way it's also being tough enough to say, 'That's the ultimate prize, if we really want it, why not? Let's go out there and get it'.
''I think that's a really powerful thing to challenge. You've got to let these young guys who are out on the field define what St Kilda is all about, rather than just history. What do you want to be now, at this moment?''