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How to embrace struggle and successfully mentor future NFL stars – Flowgrade Show Episode 45 with Nick Winkelman

In this episode, Nick Winkelman shares his most effective methods to coach professional athletes, handle difficult players, grow with adversity and embrace the daily struggle on the path to perfection.

I lead them to the water but I don’t force them to drink it.” – Nick Winkelman

As a young and ambitious athlete in the NCAA Division I, the highest level in collegiate basketball, I had a reputation to be quite a hot head. I routinely got in elbow fights with opponents, shouting matches and more, sometimes even my own coaches and teammates.

At this point in my life, this was the method I knew to deal with high pressure situations. Of course, it didn’t really help most of the time. I then even went to see a sports psychologist to deal with my anger issues but it still took me quite a while before I learned to control my temper and remain calm under pressure.

Back then, I never gave much credit to all the help I had received coming from coaches, teammates, physical trainers, and also my girlfriend. I never thought about how much effort it took to coach a player like me.

If you are under the impression that coaching an athlete is easy, then you might think differently after this podcast episode with Nick Winkelman, a former NFL Draft Combine Coach and the current Performance Coach for the Irish National Rugby Team. Nick is a natural learner and highly curious about the newest research and methods to deal with his athletes. I was amazed by the diverse amount of information he employs to get better as a coach and a person.

Blog FT Nick Winkelman

In this episode, we dig into his coaching process and what methods he uses to assess his athletes. We talk about dealing with difficult players, the psychology of learning, how to deal with struggle and which two qualities he values most. Moreover, you will find out how to separate good from bad research, which books and podcasts Nick recommends and the one advice he would give to all young trainers and coaches.

As a former athlete, I greatly enjoyed this episode but even if you’re not from the world of sports, you will be able to take a bunch of insights away from this very inspirational episode.


Show Notes

  • 2:50 – On the difference between implicit and explicit learning
  • 7:30 – The four Ps to successfully coach an athlete
  • 11:10 – How Nick deals with difficult NFL prospects
  • 19:10 – Humility and Resilience: Two qualities that predict a successful athlete
  • 25:00 – Inspirational podcasts, blogs and books
  • 31:20 – Where coaches get most of their information and how to identify good research
  • 39:00 – How to build friendly and professional relationships between coaches and players
  • 41:00 – Nick’s favorite morning routine
  • 43:30 – One advice to young coaches


  • “Drills that make someone aware of the error gives them the possibility to self-correct.”
  • “I lead them to the water but I don’t force them to drink it.”
  • “If you don’t focus on something, you can be distracted by anything.”
  • “Why would I potentially throw an amazing opportunity away by not giving my best?”
  • “One of the most important qualities for an athlete is humility.”
  • “People who don’t think they have control, bring up the term “luck” quite a bit.”
  • “Struggle needs to be re-contextualized as opportunity.”
  • “Self-awareness is the substance of learning how to learn.”
  • “Don’t judge your emotions, notice them.”
  • “Only 1.8% of coaches get information from scientific evidence and over 90% from Facebook.”
  • “Perfection is not an end state, it’s a process.”
  • “Embrace the struggle because the struggle is a stepping stone on the way to perfection.”

Blogs & People

Maria Popova – Brain Pickings

Richie McCaw


Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman

Mastery by Robert Greene

The obstacle is the way by Ryan Holiday

The score takes care of itself by Bill Walsh


The Tim Ferriss Show

Revisionist History von Malcolm Gladwell

The Joe Rogan Experience

More Links

FMS – Functional Movement Screen

Nick Winkelman – Irish Rugby

Nick Winkelman Twitter

Audio / Video, Mind, Mindset, Podcast, Stress Management
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