The Basketball Podcast: EP107 Fergus Connolly on High Performance Lessons

RELEASE DATE : 29/07/2020
 In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, Fergus Connolly joins the Basketball Podcast to discuss applying high performance lessons for coaches. Fergus helps coaches to improve performance with evidence-based analysis and athlete-focused training.

Dr. Fergus Connolly is one of the world’s leading experts in team sport and human performance. His highly acclaimed book Game Changer is the first blueprint for coaches to present a holistic philosophy for winning in all team sports. Fergus is the only coach to have worked full time in every major league around the world. He helps teams win at the highest level with the integrated application of best practices in all areas of performance.

Fergus has served as Director of Elite Performance for the San Francisco 49ers, Sports Science Director with the Welsh Rugby Union, and Performance Director for University of Michigan Football. He has guided coaches, support staff and players in the NBA, Australian Rules Football and international cricket. Fergus has also trained world boxing champions and advises elite military units and companies across the globe.

Fergus as written two books that have impacted coaches at all levels.

Game Changer: The Art of Sports Science

59 Lessons: Working with the World’s Greatest Coaches, Athletes, & Special Forces

Fergus Connolly

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Fergus Connolly Quotes:

“There’s a lot of this data that actually doesn’t help us improve the performance of the players, doesn’t impact practices and certainly isn’t helping us impact the next game that we are preparing for.”

“What data is actually useful? . . Evidence-based analysis is really about looking at the data in context and intelligently so that you can impact practice and future results.”

“With analysis and with data there’s a rush to collect as much information as possible.”

“The biggest mistake we make in sport is we don’t identify the problem correctly. The only way to identify the problem is to look at the game to really diagnose what went right, what went wrong. And then go and say, ‘What data do we need to solve this problem?’”

“You are a problem-solver as a coach . . that requires critical thinking, that requires an ability to fail and fail fast . . it’s just a completely different mindset.”

“A player in a split-second of a game . . they are solving problems . . Our goal should be to encourage that and to train instinct in the player . . In practice, we have to recreate the same scenarios.”

“The real goal of practice is to improve the player as a decision-maker.”

“You want the player to be actively engaged and concentrating . . in as many . . small-sided games scenarios as possible.”

“The irony is the better you are, the more rich the game experience is.”

“The quality of the game and the quality of the practice must be as high as possible . . it’s the . . quality that’s going to make your team better week in and week out.”

“From the coaching perspective, [the warm-up] is a screen for you . . where you’re just watching the players. What you’re looking for is . . which players are not as energetic, which players need a longer warm-up . . “

“It’s all a low-level, fun warm-up. Guys are just playing a game and they’re far more engaged but more importantly, you’re developing things like peripheral vision . . awareness . . proprioception in a fun way.”

“We need to develop the person as fast and as well as we’re developing the player for them to sustain success.”

“There is a tactical, psychological aspect to recovery, not just purely physical alone.”

“You can test metrics all you want but you can’t beat film . . that’s the true evidence of how we’re performing day-to-day.”

“One of the best pieces of advice he [my coach] gave me was ‘Don’t undervalue your own experience and the learning you’re getting from practice.’”

“’Does it affect the scoreboard?’ . . is a very good starting point. You want the majority of your practice to be focused and dedicated on making the team and the player better every time.”

“One of the biggest impediments to improvement is stress and pressure . . when players are under an excessive amount of pressure and stress, they don’t feel as if they can make mistakes and they’re afraid to go up to that edge where they’re a little bit uncomfortable.”

“Have two individual blocks within practice . . where players know, in that window, I’m going to go work on a drill either on my own or with another teammate on this one area that we have both agreed, myself and the coach, that I need to work on.”

“The goal should be self-discipline . . you outline it, you describe it and you praise it and encourage it. That’s what you’re trying to reinforce.”

“There are two sides to it [playing multiple sports] . . It’s not just purely about the athletic development . . the personal development . . of playing other sports is one that is particularly important . . that’s one that people . . don’t take into account.”

Selected Links from the Podcast:


Simon Kuper


1:00 – Evidence Based Analysis
3:30 – Data Collection
6:30 – Athlete Training
9:00 – Big Gaps with Effective Coaching
14:00 – Trends in Successful Training
18:00 – Warm-Up
21:00 – Basketball Movements
25:30 – Coaches on the Cutting Edge
29:00 – Dealing with Players
32:00 – Recovery
34:00 – Static Stretching
37:00 – Building a Player Development Program
41:00 – Too Creative
43:00 – Enjoying the Game
45:00 – Laughter
47:30 – Sports Psychology
50:00 – Balancing Team and Individual Development
53:00 – There’s No Such Thing as Discipline
55:00 – You Can’t be Half-Frightened
57:00 – 99% Healthy is not 100% injured
58:00 – Sport Athlete vs Specialization
1:00:00 – Improving your Weakness vs Doubling Down on your Strength
1:02:00 – Over Conditioned as Coaches
1:03:00 – Writing a Book

Fergus Connolly:



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