Scotland & Doncaster Belles Christie Murray Interview

Christie, tell me a little bit about yourself:

What age did you start sport and what sports did you participate in?

I’ve always played sport particularly football for as long as I can remember, I used to drive my mum crazy kicking a football about the house, I always had one with me wherever I went. I loved PE at school and did Taekwondo up until I was about 11 years old before deciding to focus solely on football.

How would you describe a typical day at Doncaster Belles? 

It varies but typically it looks like:

Monday: Recovery & Gym

Tuesday: Individual pitch session and team session.

Wednesday: Weights

Thursday: Individual pitch session and team session.

Friday: Afternoon team session

Saturday: Off

Sunday: Game

What are some of your career highlights so far?

Playing for my country has given me a few special moments. The one that sticks out to me most was when I scored my first senior international goal in 2012. We played Republic of Ireland in a crucial Euro Qualifiers match at Tynecastle and right into the second half we were 1.0 down and needed to win it to still be in with a shout of making the play offs. I came on as a substitute with 20 minutes left, we equalised from a Rhonda Jones header and then won the ball straight back from their kick off, Lisa Evens passed me the ball and I scored the winner from about 25 yards out. It was an incredible feeling and one I will never forget!

Other than training and competing, what do you like to do away from the football? 

I love reading particularly around fitness, business and personal development. I’m also a personal trainer so I enjoy doing that when I have a bit of free time. Other than that I love spending time with my family and close friends, because I live away from home I do try to make sure I spend as much time with them as I can, usually we will go for food or out for a coffee and cake!

How do you feel you have progressed in the last few years as an athlete and as a person?  

Both as an athlete and as a person I think I’ve grown a lot. Physically I feel that I’m the fittest I’ve ever been and thats come really from a lot of hard work doing extra sessions and playing regularly for my club.

Has your outlook on football and life changed?

As I’ve got older my focus in life and in football is to be fit, healthy and happy whilst being surrounded by good people who help and challenge me to be the best version of myself.

What motivates you to push yourself further each day, and how do you measure success?

Not dissimilar to many of my peers, I’ve faced a number of tough times throughout my career; long-term injuries, not getting game time, the stress of trying to find a new club. These types of situations have all made me stronger, kept me grounded and made me more determined to be the best footballer I can be. I want play at the highest level, on the most prestigious of stages, both at club and international level.

I endeavour to make every training session count. I’m also a big believer in goal setting – smaller goals and targets to focus on each session, as well as bigger goals in terms of my career. For me it’s about continual improvement, there’s always something new that I can learn or work on.

Who would you say are your role models in sport and life, and why?

My parents, they’ve given me everything I’ve every wanted or needed in my life, they’ve supported me and help me to follow my dream of playing professional football. In terms of sport I grew up mesmerised by Henrik Larsson. I was fortunate enough to be a season ticket holder at Celtic park, and was able to watch him tear defences apart every week. He was such a talented, humble player with an amazing work ethic, which also allowed him to go on and play at two world class teams in Manchester United and Barcelona.

If you could give one tip for each of the following what would it be?

Mindset: Control the controllables. Take care of the things that are within your power, such as your work rate, your attitude, being a good team mate, the intensity and application that you bring to your training and matches.

Movement: Learn to push and pull your own body weight under control and continue work on areas that you find need improving.

Nutrition: Learn how to cook. As an athlete it’s important to fuel your body properly and by learning to cook you will be able to take ownership over how you recover.

Recovery: Get a good nights sleep, it’s the best form of recovery.

And finally, what advice would you give to female players looking to break into elite women’s football?

Be relentless in the pursuit of being the best person and footballer you can. Work hard, set goals, ask questions, have an open mind and put yourself out your comfort zone.

Thank you Christie for your time, and all the best for the upcoming season.

You can follow Christie via Twitter: @christiemurray7

Tips for coaches to create a learning environment.

As coaches we have an opportunity to create a learning environment where our players think for themselves and find solutions to the tasks we give them. It is a great opportunity but it is also our responsibility to create this environment.

“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago”

Warren Buffett

How do we learn?

For players to remember anything, an emotion must be attached to the incoming stimuli. If this information is deemed irrelevant by the brain it is disregarded and lost, its not regarded worthy to the player. Depending on the emotion attached to the stimuli the brain can filter this information, if deemed important, and send to it to different memory centres where this information can be recalled when needed.

The autocratic coach bellowing instructions at the top of his voice or the abstract coach who is caught in the jargon trap (spends more time talking than observing) run the risk of scaring their players into learning. When the player views this learning as having to compete with other players or family members by pushing them into situations where they feel hopeless the player will only learn what they need to survive in that moment or they may learn nothing at all.

Even if the player does remember what they are told, the next situation similar to what they have “learnt’, they will have only learned to act in one way. When fear is the prime method of learning the memories are sent to the primal brain. This memory reacts when at threat is perceived, there is no rational thinking it just reacts.  Anytime the player faces a similar situation to the memory they have created in the primal brain, they will just react in the same way. Their behaviour will be parallel to the what they have learned in order to survive this scenario.

If we are to create a learning environment for our players then we must allow them to be part of the process rather than fear it.  We want our players to be creative and express their talents to the best of their abilities , and to do this we must refrain from coaching fear into the players and use emotions that players can relate too.   When people experience laughter, compassion, gratitude, pride, dignity, joy, love, social connection, achievement, contribution, insight and personal breakthroughs, the memories are not only stored in long-term memory (which is associative rather than  reactive) more connections are created in the brain, which gives the brain greater flexibility to access many neural pathways at once, which leads to a more creative learning environment where players can express their talents without fear.

I believe that creating a learning environment is fundamental to coaching success and we must allow players to take ownership of their not only their learning but their training and lifestyle too.

“As a leader you have to create a culture where everyone feels confident to learn and flourish”

Brendan Rodgers

Tips for Creating a Learning Environment

Tip #1: Coach with stories.

Prof. Damien Hughes writes about his Stories as one of his steps in his book “Five Steps to a Winning Mindset”

With stories we can trigger the positive emotions of our players by using the power of stories. A story provides two things: stimulation (how to act) and inspiration (motivation to act).

This short video by Prof. Hughes explains how storytelling can be powerful for coaches. Click here.

The facts may be lost, but the stories and the message will live on. Get the why across in your story and the how will look after itself.

Tip #2:  Develop the person.

People don’t forget those who have helped them, and our brains will remember events that have left them feeling cared for or involved in a process. As coaches we can serve our players and give them every opportunity to develop not only as a player but as a person too.

Tip #3: Use guided discovery. Engage people in dialogue. Ask questions. Coach at every opportunity. Coaching is something we do with people, not to them.

People don’t resist change; they resist being changed. If they sense that someone is trying to force them into learning something, they naturally put up a barrier that says “hang on, what’s this all about? Why is this person threatening me?”

If the players senses judgment along with the lesson (the teacher or leader must think I’m stupid, inadequate, or slow), then they will act defensively or completely dismiss the message that is trying to be forced upon them.

This is where as coaches using questions is powerful. Allow players to think for themselves by asking them questions. The associated pleasure that goes along with guided discovery sets off a wave of brain activity, which is positive for all involved. We are involving players in the process.

Tip #4: Praise effort as well as results.

Praising players for their hard work and effort rather than their ability or innate talent inspires them to take risks, learn from mistakes, and move on from setbacks, encouraging the growth mindset.

Tip#5: Set Clear Expectations.

Establish expectations for and with your players early on. By including your players in the process of setting expectations, it ensures that they are aware of what is expected of both you as the coach and them. Clearly define the course of action for when expectations are not met. Be consistent with the expectations and immediately address any instances in which they are not being upheld. Involve the players in this process and collectively agree on your values and standards for both the individuals and team.

You Win in The Locker Room First.

The 7 Cs to Build a Winning Team in Business,
Sports & Life.

Coach Mike Smith lead a remarkable turnaround at the Atlanta Falcons around in 2008 and in his book with Jon Gordon, Smith outlines the 7 C’s for building a winning team.



  • Organizations with sustained cultures have sustained success
  • Culture drives expectations and beliefs:
  •      Expectations and beliefs drive behaviors
  • Behaviors drive habits
    • Habits create the future
  • Know what you stand for – put it into process
  • Focus on the Root, not the fruit
  • Built it up and down – everyone creates culture
  • Live it, value it, reinforce it and fight for it

“Culture is defined and created from the top down, but it comes to life from the bottom up.”


  • Make a decision to be positively contagious.
  • Leadership is a transfer of belief – share a powerful vision and mission with your team
  • Fill your team with positively contagious team members
  • Remove energy vampires
  • Adopt a no complaining policy

“There is never a bad day, only bad moments.”


  • Be the same leader whether you are winning or losing
  • It’s not okay to be moody – people don’t know what to expect and lose trust in you
  • Consistently remove any seeds of complacency
  • Commit to consistent improvement
  • Be humble – life-long learner; headlines become fish wrap
  • Be hungry – push yourself and your team to be great

“To build a winning team, you want to be consistent in your attitude, effort, and actions.”


  • Communication begins the relationship developing process – relationships are key to winning teams
  • Voids in communication are filled with negativity
  • Take the temperature – listen and learn from your team
  • Reiterate and reinforce your critical messages – make sure the leaders are sharing the same messages
  • Communication fosters collaboration

“What we think matters. Our words are powerful”


  • Creating a connected team is one of the most important things you do – Team beats talent
  • Use team-building exercises to build relationships
    • Hero, Hardship & Highlight
    • Defining Moment
    • If you really knew me, you would know this about me
  • Create opportunities to connect outside the building
  • Connection is a continuous process

“The connection you create today will be the bond that strengthens your team tomorrow.”


  • Not just involved – your commitment has to be greater than anyone else’s in the organization
  • It’s not about you, it’s about the team – commit to them
  • Focus on making your team better
  • Lose your ego and own the problems
  • The ultimate commitment is sacrifice

“A team feels a leader’s commitment when the leader takes the time to serve them.”


  • A leader who cares builds a team who cares
  • Make caring a strategy
  • Value team members as individuals
  • Develop and share a caring trademark

“To build a winning team it’s essential to build a culture of caring.”


  • True leaders don’t create followers…
  • They create more leaders
  • Coach with optimism and positivity
  • Help people become the best versions of themselves
  • Ask people to share their goals and help them get there

“Want to create sustainable success? Focus on the root, not the fruit.” 


  • Don’t just settle for talent without character
  • Character drives talent to greatness
  • Leaders are developer of characters as well as talent

“The character you possess during the drought is what your team will remember during the harvest.”


Scouting is an age old art form – Legacies are built on the stars found.

Francis Cornejo, is the Argentine scout who recruited Diego Maradona after seeing him play at 8 years old while Mark Anderson is credited with unearthing Raheem Sterling. Meanwhile, former PE teacher Steve Walsh played a big role in capturing Riyad Mahrez

While Maradona, Sterling and Mahrez are big footballing names, the scouts remain side notes in the footballing books of history

With the ever-increasing influx of money into football, the pressure on academy managers and heads of talent identification, not to mention the scouts to find the next global star. Advancements in technology means that hidden gems are not hidden for too long, we are just a viral Youtube video or Twitter post away from seeing future heroes.

One woman, Dr Jag Basra, is doing her best to bring technology to the world of scouting and adding science to gut feelings. The Canadian born psychiatry doctor is the main founder of Profile 90.

Profile90 is a smart talent identification tech platform that integrates scientific insights taking traditional scouting to a new level. It gives a 360 view of a player covering tactical/technical, psychological and social in the most objective way possible. The platform will offer a solution that no other app or club currently has; it offers psychometric testing and social testing for players to create a base line assessment on a player’s mental fitness, identifying key areas for the player to work on.

While Dr Basra is looking to bring more science into talent identification and scouting, she isn’t out to replace scouts.

“Scouts are the most key people in a club and many times undervalued. To know a player is the most important thing for a club before signing. You want to know as much as you can before signing them to your club. Scouts are instinctive people, but even they need the right tools. Right now current systems of talent ID really just look at an individual’s tactical, technical and physical attributes and almost as an afterthought, an opinion on their psychological condition is given from visual observation from the sideline, and of course hearsay.

Studies in various sports have shown that the mind-set is the most important determinant of athletic success. It makes sense because no matter how talented you are tactically or technically, if your head isn’t in the right place you can’t endure the endless hours of practice, the stress of competition and have the ability to perform in a highly pressurised environment. “

Dr Basra has come across and worked with some of the biggest names in football. As an educator on the Pro license and A badges for the Irish FA she has worked with some of the top names in the games, including multiple title and champions league winners.  Her workshops focus on the importance of maintaining their own mental health and how much ones mind-set can influence the game.

In a world where mental health is a stigma, it is refreshing to see footballers embracing her ideas.

“The new age coaches and footballers are different. They know how football is a results driven world and are always looking to gain extra skills to give them that edge. If that means going out of their comfort zone they do.  They want to be the best coach, manager possible and are willing to go to great lengths to do it.

These guys love the game but just as they did as players, they are always looking for ways to improve themselves and push themselves to become better coaches/managers. It’s fascinating to see as they come up with some pretty challenging questions sometimes and even I get stumped! “

While the world of banking and technology have embraced psychometric testing, football and sport has yet to widely adopt it. “Basically psychometric testing is another tool to give you extra insight into the mind of an individual, it goes back to knowing as much as you can before signing them to your club. Talent identification is key to bringing clubs value. It helps bring more fans in, ticket sales, and advertising revenue. The players identified are the heart of the club. So why do we not put more value in our recruitment teams and make it more scientific driven with business intelligence? Scouts are the most key people in a club and at many times undervalued. “

To learn more about Profile 90 and the work of Dr Jag Basra, visit

The Gift of Self-Efficacy & Mindfulness

Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments (Bandura, 1977, 1986, 1997), and it plays a major part in determining our chances for success; in fact some psychologists rate self-efficacy above talent in the quest for successful performance outcomes.

In his brilliant book The Mindful Athlete, George Mumford describes the ‘gift of self-efficacy’ as the ability to know ones limits and develop expertise even after making a mistake during a game, setbacks or injury.

Mumford’s story is remarkable. A former heroin addict in the early 1980’s he discovered mindfulness meditation and after originally being invited to work with the Chicago Bulls by Phil Jackson found himself using mindfulness techniques with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Scotty Pippen and Shaquille O’Neill amongst many others who have spoken of the benefits on and off the court.

The practice of mindfulness as form of mental training is becoming increasingly popular with athletes. (Buhlmayer et al., 2017). Defined by John Kabat-Zinn (1994), mindfulness is a structured mindset to being aware of the present-moment experience in an accepting, non-judging, and non-avoiding way. and the first intervention of mindfulness in sport was indicated by Kabat-Zinn et al., (1985) in rowing.

A recent meta-analytical review by Buhlmayer et al., observed the following key points on mindfulness:

1) Mindfulness practice consistently and notably improves mindfulness scores among various sport disciplines.

2) Physiological and psychological performance surrogates improved to a meaningful extent following mindfulness practice.

3) Based on available evidence, mindfulness practice can be considered as a performance-enhancing complementary training approach in precision sport disciplines such as shooting and dart throwing.

4) More high-quality studies measuring the effect of mindfulness practice on performance in various sports should be conducted.

Bernier, et al., (2009) investigated mindfulness and acceptance approaches in both elite youth golfers and elite swimmers and observed that the “flow” states described by Csiksgentmihalyi (1990) were found to share similar attributes to mindfulness states, however it must be noted that the sample size was pretty small (10 swimmers, 7 golfers).

Personally I am a big fan of mindfulness practice (I try to do at least 10 minutes a day of practice) especially in the high performance world which can be incredibly pressurised at times with very high stakes, I am also a big fan of yoga for my athletes for a variety of reasons – mindfulness being just one.

In his book Mumford describes how the gift of self efficacy in the hard knocks world of sport allows us to see these occasional setbacks as blessings in disguise, an opportunity to learn where injuries and extreme circumstances are a chance to make us stronger. Having the gift of self efficacy, through practising mindfulness, helps us realise that no matter what happens on the pitch or in training we take everything as a challenge and not a curse and we will rise to the occasion of the challenge or challenges by having the ability to see ourselves as capable no matter what is thrown at us.

“If you change the way you look at things, the way you look at things change”

Mumford describes how the self-efficacy is the galvanising force behind what he’s has observed in the elite athletes he has worked with, who possess the “3C’s”:

  1. Commitment to your own growth & development.
  2. Control over how you respond to stressors.
  3. Crisis = Challenge.

These “3C’s” are mental and emotional pillars of wisdom that help us increase performance, and effectively deal with the chaos thrown at us on the field so that we can stay in a state of “flow”.

Combine these “3C’s” with self-efficacy, you not only see crises as an opportunity to grow and develop, you also create challenging goals for yourself that help support this quest for growth. This keeps us in a high state of awareness, meaning we incrementally push ourselves out of our comfort zone.

Throughout the book Mumford uses the analogy of a hurricane and sport/life, and how finding clarity in our mind during games enables us to be in a state of flow, or the ‘zone’, this in turn leads to better decision making, especially in the world of elite sport with its fine margins.

” Think of the eye of a hurricane. No matter how intense the storm or what’s swept in its gale-force winds, that calm, blue centre is always there. We all have that quiet centre within us”

Mumford’s book is a great read for any athlete or coach and there are plenty of apps available to help you with mindfulness practice if you wish to explore this area further.


Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191-215.

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-Efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: W. H. Freeman

Bernier, M., Thienot, E., Codron, R. and Fournier, J. (2009) ‘Mindfulness and Acceptance Approaches in Sport Performance’. Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology, 3(4) pp.320-333.

Bühlmayer, L., Birrer, D., Röthlin, P., Faude, O. and Donath, L. (2017) ‘Effects of Mindfulness Practice on Performance-Relevant Parameters and Performance Outcomes in Sports: A Meta-Analytical Review’. Sports Medicine.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: the psychology of optimal performance  New York: Harper and Row.

Kabat-Zinn J, Beall B, Rippe J. A systematic mental training program based on mindfulness meditation to optimise performance in collegiate and Olympic rowers. Poster presented at the World Congress in Sport Psychology, Copenhagen, Denmark;1985

Kabat-Zinn J. Wherever you go there you are. New York: Delta;1994.




Why? Values Based Coaching.

The best coaches I have ever worked with have many things in common but something particular stands out. The understand why they coach.

When I work with players I am as clear as I possibly can be with them so that they understand why they are doing something in particular. Understand the why and the how will take care of itself.

As a coach clearly defined values and a purpose will guide you during your coaching journey,  your coaching career will be in a constant state of change and your coaching strategies will be continually having to adapt and change during the season – thats the nature of coaching. However, your values and purpose should remain relatively constant and drive you in your decisions.

Coaching from a values perspective rather than from the ego will ensure you make better decisions based on what is at the heart of your coaching, what drives you as an individual but for the benefit of the team.

As coaches we set the standard and knowing your core values and purpose is critical for not only building successful programmes and relationships with your players but in helping you establish your standards to which you attain yourself.

“It is foolish to expect a young man to follow your advice and to ignore your example.” 

Coaches gain credibility and build a culture of collective accountability when they demonstrate to their players that they will not sacrifice core values for short-term wins. (1).

I have been lucky enough to hear Brendan Rodgers present to our International Partners at Celtic FC on his CORE values acronym for young players, which has been adapted from British Cycling.

Commitment (to the plan)

Organisation (of the plan)

Responsibility (to carry out the plan)

Excellence (in everything you do).

But what do you stand for as a coach? What drives you? How high do you hold your standards and what do you demand of yourself and your players? Do you coach from a values perspective or from the ego perspective?

The following exercise (adapted from Peak Performance by Magness & Stulberg) will help you identify both your values and your purpose:

  1. Select Your Core Values

Your core values are your fundamental beliefs and guiding principles, what matter most to you and they help guide your actions and behaviours. From the list below (by no means exclusive and feel free to add more!) select 5 core values.

Achievement   Autonomy   Commitment    Community    Consistency   Courage  Creativity

Desire  Dedication  Education Efficiency   Enjoyment   Enthusiasm  Excellence   Expertise

Honesty  Health Independence  Inspiration  Integrity  Kindness   Leadership  Loyalty

Motivation  Observation   Optimism  Positivity  Pragmatism   Relationships

Responsibility  Security  Self-Control  Spirituality Tradition  Reliability   Reputation

Respect  Vitality

2. Personalise Your Core Values

For each value you selected, write a few sentences that ‘personalises’ that value to you & your coaching. For example for ‘Inspiration’ it could be: “Lead young players to become the best they can be in football and life”

3. Rank Your Core Values

Once personalised your core values it’s time to rank them with number one being the most important to you, your most deeply held value.

4. Write Your Purpose Statement

Now that you have selected your core values and reflected on them, it is time to write your purpose statement! The purpose statement should reflect your personalised values and be anything from 1-4 sentences.

For example:

“To lead and inspire the new generation of young players and help them discover how to be in peak condition mentally and physically to improve not only their game but in life too”

It’s a simple as that! 

In the words of distinguished championship basketball coach Don Meyer,

“Your program must have an overriding purpose which is clearly visible and which teaches lessons beyond winning



(1) Gilbert, Wade. Coaching Better Every Season: A Year-Round System for Athlete Development and Program Success (Kindle Locations 369-370). Human Kinetics. Kindle Edition.

Further Reading

Peak Performance (Stulberg & Magness)


10 Books For Any Football Physical Preparation Coach

Along with scientific literature I read a lot of books in my spare time. Personally I can’t get on with ebooks and kindles, when it comes to a scientific paper I need to print it off to read it and when it comes to reading books I need the hard copy in front of me.

Here is a list ( in no particular order) of some of my personal reading over the past 12-18 months and certainly books I would recommend for any coach, not just those in sports science and the physical preparation of players.

Peak Performance  (Stulberg & Magness)

The only book on this list that is not in paper copy and the reason for this is that I had heard so much about the book that I couldn’t wait any longer to experience it so I downloaded as an audiobook. I have found the book a brilliant resource not just in a coaching / sporting environment but in life as well. The book has allowed me to look into my lifestyle away from work and assess how much time I dedicate to rest and relaxation. Coaching is a physical vocation in most respects and an area that is often disregarded is the mental element of coaching – how we as coaches also recover from work.

Without giving too much away,  Peak Performance is broken into 3 sections based on Stulberg & Magness key principles of:
* The Growth Equation (stress + rest = growth)
* Priming – the power of developing optimal routines and designing your day
* Purpose – to keep you focused and motivate

It’s full of handy tips that can be instantly actioned, and backed by some fascinating  scientific evidence – this book gave me the idea for my previous blog The Mindset Milkshake

Ego Is The Enemy (Ryan Holiday)

This book does exactly what it says on the tin. Ryan Holiday puts across some fascinating stories of both those who have made it all and lost it all due to their enemy – the ego. The book is full of stories of those who conquered the ego by not believing their goals to be linear in the quest for success. Holiday writes about the value of trusting the process rather than focussing on the outcome of a goal. An excellent read for any coach.

Athletic Development (Vern Gambetta)

This was the first S&C book I ever read after a recommendation by a mentor. In this text Vern Gambetta combines years of practical experience with scientific theory which allows the coach to plan effectively when working with athletes. One of the stand out messages that Vern gets across in the book is that of simplicity, something that has been a key part of my personal coaching philosophy from the start.

Football Conditioning – Books 1 & 2 (Adam Owen PhD)

A double header here from Adam Owen – because I think both these books are a great read. Simple and practical both books cover topics such as Periodisation, SSG’s, Injury Prevention, Speed and Agility all supported by evidence and with fantastic illustrations of coaching practices that can be implemented in sessions. The books give a great overview of the underpinning biomechanincal and physiological principles when considering the planning and structure of training whether that is through SSG’s or targeted speed and agility training.

Soccer Science (Tony Strudwick)

Tony Strudwick (Manchester United) has done a brilliant job putting together an evidence based publication that covers a wide spectrum of science in football from biomechanics, nutrition, psychology, talent ID, systems of play, injury prevention, skill acquisition and match analysis. Tony has pulled together some phenomenal contributors to the book including Jens Bangsbo, Dave Tenney, Gary Curneen, Sam Erith, Anthony Blazevich and Greg Dupont amongst many others. A real gem of a book.

Five Steps to a Winning Mindset (Prof. Damien Hughes)

I have been a fan of Prof. Damien Hughes for quite some time after first hearing him speak at an event over 10 years ago in Leeds. Damien recently gave the opening talk at the Football Medical Association and I was so intrigued bought this book immediately after.  The book is a quite brilliant piece of work from Prof. Hughes who has based his writing on his studies and his travels around the world observing the best coaches at work. Damien himself is a former coach at Manchester United and continues to practise as boxing coach in his native Manchester.

The Five Steps that separate the best coaches and teams from the rest are:
S – Simplicity: Keep Your Story Simple
T – Thinking: Provide easy tripwires to trigger positive reactions
E – Emotions: Play on Your Audience’s Emotions
P – Practical – Be Practical in how your deliver your message
S – Stories – Harness the Power of Stories to best communicate your message

A brilliant read with some great stories from top level coaches.

Quiet Leadership (Carlo Ancelotti)

Carlo Ancelotti is a coach I have always admired and is one of the best coaches in world football having managed Parma, AC Milan, Chelsea, PSG, Real Madrid & Bayern Munich and has not only won the title in every country he has managed he has won the Champions League five times (3 x as manager and 2 x as a player).

The book gives an excellent insight into Ancelotti’s coaching philosophy and practice with some excellent anecdotes that can be applied not just in coaching but in life and business too.

The Score Takes Care of Itself (Bill Walsh)

This is one of the best books I have ever read, if not the best, when it comes to leadership. Walsh transformed the worst performing NFL (the 49ers) team of its era to the best performing team. The book talks about changes he brought in as well as his philosophy of leadership.

Walsh’s coaching philosophy extended beyond X’s and O’s and permeated the entire San Francisco 49’er organization from Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Jerry Rice to the coaching staff to the office secretaries to the locker room custodians.

A pivotal area in Walsh’s success was his famous “Standard of Performance” which can be summarised in the following 10 points:

  1. Ferocious and intelligently applied work ethic directed at continual improvement.
  2. Respect for everyone in the program and the work that he/she does.
  3. Be committed to learning.
  4. Demonstrate character and integrity.
  5. Honor the connection between details and improvement.
  6. Demonstrate loyalty.
  7. Be willing to go the extra mile for the organization.
  8. Put the team’s welfare ahead of my own.
  9. Maintain an abnormally high level of concentration and focus.
  10. Make sacrifice and commitment the organizations trademark.

Quite simply a brilliant read for any coach who has an interest in building a winning culture and maintaining it.

Legacy (James Kerr)

I really don’t know much about rugby we rarely played it at school and if we did I was just the quick kid they gave the ball too and said “run fast”. However, this doesn’t mean I don’t know about the All Black’s and when we think of culture within an organisation this book epitomises what culture is all about, how it’s built and how there is no room of ego’s.

Kerr spent some time at the heart of the All Blacks and talks extensively about how the team stumbled and struggled, but got back on their feet, stronger than ever, by returning to their core value – that individual character and dedication to the team are their most important virtues.

Each chapter is one of these lessons. Some of the chapter/lesson titles include; Character, Adapt, Purpose, Authenticity, Sacrifice, Responsibility, Expectations, Ritual. 

A few of the many many great and inspiring quotes from this book include:

  • Aim for the highest cloud;
  • be a good ancestor – plant trees you’ll never see;
  • the strength of the wolf is the pack;
  • if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain;
  • leaders create leaders;
  • ritualize to actualize;
  • leave the jersey in a better place;
  • when you’re at the top of your game, change your game;
  • sweep the sheds – never get too big to do the small things that need to be done.

A fascinating read with many, many lessons for rugby fans and non rugby fans alike.

Mindset (Carol Dweck)

Carol Dweck’s finest work has sold over one million copies and still stands the test of time.

Dweck is a leading psychologist in the field of personality and social psychology.  Essentially in her book she argues that there are two beliefs about intelligence: either that it is ‘fixed’ – you have inherited it and there isn’t much you can do about it – or that it can ‘grow’ given the right circumstances.

“It is what you believe about your own intelligence that will determine how you approach a problem or a setback, and ultimately determine whether you fulfil your potential. “

In many settings, there is a one word difference between the Fixed and Growth mindsets. When the Fixed Mindset faces a challenge it will often say “I’m not good at this”.  The Growth Mindset person faces the same challenge and adds the word “yet.”

I originally read the book in 2011 when recovering from serious injury, and the book has recently been updated by Dweck with more finding from her continuing work. Having re-read the book again after I can certainly relate to the value of a growth mindset especially in high performance sport.

One of the reasons Mindset is a great read is because it’s solutions-oriented and offers many key points that can help the reader shift that mindset (we can’t always be in a growth mindset!).

Dweck herself has admitted that she has oversimplified her findings for the purpose of the book and that most of us are not purely fixed-mindset people or growth-mindset people. We’re both. That made me look at somethings that I have approached some with a growth mindset while other things I have looked at in a fixed mindset.

However, the book will certainly force you to ask yourself questions about your own (and others!) mindset and offers practical solutions so that you’re almost guaranteed to approach life with a growth mindset.

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