A Personal Insight on the ‘Leave Your Mark’ Podcast

Leave Your Mark Podcast

Here’s link to a Podcast I did recently with Scott Livingston

It’s probably one of the more in-depth and personal interviews I’ve ever done and Scott has a unique style.


Enjoy – I love Scott’s style – and he has many other great interviews to listen also!


Lessons from a Legend – Ruud Van Nistelrooy

Learning from Van Nistelrooy

Six Lessons from a Legend

I was in Amsterdam last month presenting a Masterclass to soccer and cycling teams when a hand when up from the back of the room.

“Do you think it’s best to be a coach who is very methodical or a skilled people person?”

I knew my answer, however when I noticed the question was from Ruud van Nistelrooy, the fifth-highest goalscorer in Champions League history I paused for a second.

“Always a skilled people person first” I replied.

I followed up asking Ruud what he believed.

Ruud’s reply was very enlightening

“I agree completely, that’s why I like your book Game Changer so much, because you present both methodology and art of coaching. There are too many coaches now who have very complicated schemes, but they cannot communicate or get people to play for them.’

But what Ruud said next was most important for coaches and leaders to hear.

“I’ve played for both Alex Ferguson and Bobby Robson and they were the best coaches at getting the most from me”.


In sport and business there has been a trend very recently to a more data-driven decision-making process at the expense of people skills. It’s a good reminder that people respond to people. Hearing it first-hand from one of soccer’s greatest players is all the reinforcement you should need.

Old Fashioned Values

During a break I later asked Ruud about a story I had heard from some of the United coaches many years ago and wanted to know if it was true.

Alex Ferguson wanted to sign Van Nistelrooy in 2000 from PSV Eindhoven. Van Nistelrooy had just scored a remarkable 29 goals in 23 games during the 1999-2000 season. However, Ruud failed the medical and the transfer, then estimated at $25 million collapsed.

Shortly after returning home to PSV tragedy struck, and Van Nistelrooy tore the ACL in his right knee. Not only had the deal collapsed, but now he was facing surgery and a career threatening injury.

But the story didn’t end there.

As Ruud Van Nistelrooy came to terms with the injury and faced the reality of a long rehabilitation, his phone rang. Alex Ferguson had heard the news, and was calling him to support him, encourage him. But Ferguson went further. He assured him that if he got back to full fitness, United would come for him again.

Van Nistelrooy worked harder than ever and the following summer Alex Ferguson kept his word. Manchester United signed him for even more than they initially had offered.

Van Nistelrooy repaid the loyalty, belief and faith Ferguson and Manchester United had shown in him and scored 150 goals in 219 games for the United.

Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but I was still amazed why Alex would give his word and take such a gamble. Van Nistelrooy explained to me that it wasn’t a gamble – not for Ferguson.

Ruud explained Alex Ferguson met him in person, came to his apartment, saw how he lived. Noticed it was tidy, that he was dedicated, a professional and was composed. Ferguson was investing in the person Ruud Van Nistelrooy, not just the player.

Alex Ferguson, underestimate him as a coach, but his ability to understand people can never be questioned.


What lessons can you take from this?

  1. – Methodology is important – but develop people skills if you want people to excel
  2. – Values matter. Keeping your word still matters in sport and business
  3. – As a player – never give up. Injuries and set backs are temporary.
  4. – If you’re a player – remember good coaches see everything!  
  5. – Encouraging others when they stumble will reward you – perhaps more than you realize. 
  6. – Never bet on the capability alone. Bet on the person. Character.


As I left that evening Ruud stopped me one last time.

“Fergus, you know the story you told earlier this evening about losing to Manchester United 3-1 when you were starting out on your career at Bolton Wanderers?”

“Yes”, I replied.

“I scored in that game.


Ruud Van Nistelrooy smiled, winked and walked away.


’59 Lessons – Working with the world’s Greatest Coaches, Athletes, & Special Forces’ 

Insights into what makes winners truly great.

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Go to the Source – Louie Simmons & Charlie Francis

Disciples Differ

Leaders Agree

The following is an extract from  

’59 Lessons – Working with the world’s Greatest Coaches, Athletes, & Special Forces’ 

Insights into what makes winners truly great.

Get it now – HERE!

The 55th Lesson

Go to the source, not the disciples.


Exclusive extract from “59 Lessons: Working with the World’s Greatest Coaches, Athletes, & Special Forces’ by Fergus Connolly, now available on Amazon


In a nondescript industrial park lies an unremarkable warehouse outside Columbus, Ohio. There is no sign, no name, nothing to signal what lies behind it. Morning after morning for decades, the strongest men in the world have walked through the doors to train at an elite, invitation-only facility. In a small torture chamber, they lift bars and weights that look nothing like the polished colored plates or machines you find in modern college or professional NFL team weight rooms. Under a true pioneer in the world of strength, they train to move rusted battered weights, setting world records by a half inch. 25lbs is always 25lbs – polishing it doesn’t make it lighter.


Louie Simmons owns and runs this gym. He has trained and prepared more record holders in powerlifting than anyone in the world. Louie developed his Westside Barbell method over many years of study, theory, and practice. An accomplished athlete in his own right, he’s one of only five lifters to record elite totals in five different weight classes.

He has written many books and openly shares his concepts, which many have copied. But there is only one Louie and only one Westside. Having studied the Westside Method for years and trained many athletes in the methodology, I thought I knew a lot about it. But when Louie invited me to come visit I also believed that many of his approaches would be in direct conflict with what I had learned from other coaches in different sports because powerlifting is so different than team settings. But sitting across from Louie in his office, discussing many of his principles with him, Tom Barry, and John Quint, I found more similarities than differences.


This is not the first time I’ve had such a realization, but it underlined again for me the need to go directly to the source, to tap leaders and ignore advocates or second- hand disciples. When you discuss techniques with Louie, you find that he is not only a gold mine of information and experience, but also a sophisticated thinker. Delve deeper into Louie’s mind and principles and you find out how solid his logic and understanding really are.



Sitting with Louie was somewhat of a déjà vu experience. For years before I went to stay with Charlie Francis in Canada, I had read and re-read his coaching book Training for Speed and his fascinating autobiography Speed Trap many times. I’d also spent hours poring over his website forum, where people would debate aspects of his Vertical Integration system that encourages coaches to train each one of their athletes’ attributes to some degree at all times. As a result of all this reading and research, I had a pretty firm idea about what Charlie’s methods were. These informed the 20 questions I’d written down to ask him.

A few weeks later on the flight home, I pulled out the piece of paper to see if I had missed anything. Going slowly down the list of questions, I realized I hadn’t gotten an answer to a single one. It slowly dawned on me that the reason was simple: I wasn’t even asking the right questions.


This taught me a valuable lesson about the dangers of misinterpreting the written word or worse still, second- hand information. Yes, you can glean insights from what experts write or say in an interview, but you won’t get the full story unless you actually spend time with them and leave your preconceptions at the door.


Go to the source!


Get ’59 Lessons’ now – on limited release – HERE!

Recommended Reading on Psychology

Three Books on Psychology

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is about recommend reading …


Recommended Reading on Psychology

If you’re interested in understanding psychology better here are three recommendations

As I’ve said many times, I get asked about the best books I’ve read quite often. Again, in Europe I was asked, and the topic was psychology this time.

I always tell coaches, especially young coaches, to start with Brett Bartholomew’s book ‘Conscious Coaching: The Art and Science of Building Buy-In’as it gives a great insight into the application of psychology to coaching in the practical setting.

It’s probably one of the few that is both practical and by a practitioner.

The second book I really enjoy is by Dr. Steve Peters, ‘The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Program to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence, and Happiness’. Steve has worked with Bradley Wiggins, Winner of Tour de France 2012, Chris Hoy, six-time Olympic champion and many, many more.

Tame your Chimp!

Finally, I love this one – “The Brave Athlete: Calm the F*ck Down and Rise to the Occasion”by Simon Marshall and Lesley Paterson. Simon Marshall is a sport psychologist who trains professional athletes and Lesley Paterson is a three-time world champion triathlete and coach and – as you can guess from the title – they deliver psychology in a very, lets say, ‘common sense’ manner for you to digest.

You’ll find this will speak to you!



Learning from a different domain has the effect of avoiding any preconceived bias you might have


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Performance Mentoring MasterGroup

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The Mastergroup is aimed at bringing like minded coaches, sports scientists, performance directors and strength coaches together to learn in three main areas:

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