Holistic Performance Coaching and Sports Science with Fergus Connolly- EP060

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Curious what goes on behind-the-scenes in elite organizations at the highest levels of sport? What do teams do to foster the long-term health of their players as well as the sustained success of their programs? How much do teams invest in sports science and how is that spending measured against their win-loss record? What lessons can be taken from performance coaching and applied to other facets of life?

Fergus Connolly is the only applied sports scientist to have worked full-time across every major field sport from the English Premier League to the National Football League to International Rugby. Committed to implementing the most innovative protocols and technologies in human performance, Fergus serves as a performance director and sports science mentor, keynote speaker, and team sport auditor for clubs all over the world. Most recently, Fergus was the Director of Performance for the San Francisco 49ers and the University of Michigan football program. He is the author of Game Changer: The Art of Sports Science, and his new book, 59 Lessons, will hit bookshelves this summer.

Today, Fergus shares his journey to becoming an elite coach and consultant for teams like the 49ers, offering advice for aspiring coaches around hard work, honesty and humility. He discusses his holistic approach to performance coaching and the most surprising health-related issues he has encountered in high-level sport. Fergus explains why teams should focus less on finding the best coaches and more on hiring the right coaches who are willing to collaborate, and he speaks to the investment teams make in the long-term health of their players. Listen in for Fergus’ take on the most important lessons he has learned in performance coaching and how those principles apply to other areas of business and life.

Topics Covered

[1:48] Fergus’ advice around becoming a premier strength and conditioning coach

  • Find best people in industry to intern with/work under
  • Hard work, humility and brutal honesty with self
[6:02] Fergus’ approach to performance coaching presented in Game Changer

  • Pulls together psychology, nutrition, strength training, etc.
  • Defines ‘winning’ as continuous improvement of own performance
[9:07] How long-term health is sometimes ignored in professional sport

  • Some teams cut corners for sake of winning
  • Unaware of proper sleep, recovery and training volume
[14:05] The most surprising health-related issues in professional sport

  • Poor quality of food available to players
  • Stress on training volume vs. quality
[18:00] Fergus’ approach to addressing overtraining

  • Best players often rank at bottom on strength tests
  • Focus on steady rate of increase/decrease
[21:13] The most challenging situations Fergus faces as a performance coach

  • Help players reach optimal performance for particular day
  • Difficult conversations around choosing RIGHT over BEST
[25:43] How teams invest money in player health and longevity

  • Best teams adopt tech as settler rather than pioneer
  • Less allocated to player development in US
  • Management of resources more important than overall budget
[31:10] The pressure to perform based on a team’s investment in sports science

  • Difficult to correlate with win-loss record
  • Tactical, technical, physical and psychological components
[34:58] Fergus’ take on the professional sports with the best balance

  • Basketball, AFL
  • Culture of organization impacts ability to be fit AND healthy
[38:55] The #1 lesson Fergus has learned in performance coaching

  • Everyone makes mistakes, must adopt humility
[40:30] How the principles in 59 Lessons translate to other areas

  • Apply to corporate world, military and elite athletics

Learn More About Fergus

Fergus’ Website

Fergus on Twitter


Game Changer by Fergus Connolly and Phil White




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