With motivational guru Lee Harper-Penman. Includes 4 things you can “copy” to influence the culture and motivation at your club!

SUMMARY: What exactly do sports psychologists do? And can they really make a contribution to your team? Recently we invited motivational guru Lee Harper-Penman to speak to the players at our club. And boy were the results surprising! Here’s a small summary of what he said. Includes 4 things you can “copy” to influence the culture and motivation at your club!


As a football coach, I have often wondered if I am getting it right, and by that I mean, am I meeting the needs and wants of my players?

Coaching is so much more than teaching someone how and where to kick, or making the match winning moves on game day.

At times, you have to not only be the coach, but mentor, phycologist, motivator and sometimes mother or father. This means wearing many hats and the more I ponder it, and the more I try and convince myself that I have got it all covered, the more I realise that the changing face of football means I have to give more of myself than I can sometimes handle.

Players today, and society in general want so much more of their leaders, and I have discovered that the more you give them, the more they will give in return.

It was these thoughts that lead me to have a coffee one afternoon with former Perth Football Club senior coach Simon Eastaugh, who in turn introduced me to one of the most amazing individuals I have ever met.

Introducing Lee Harper-Penman

Lee Harper-Penman is a seriously motivated man. We spoke for an hour on that day and it was an opportunity to look at life a little differently and as a football coach, gave me an insight on how to possibly get the best out of a group of individuals who wear the same colours every weekend.

Lee is best described as a High Performance Coach in Culture. He originates from the UK, and has worked in a variety of roles, from major sporting organisations to working with at-risk youth and is recognised as one of the UK’s most qualified life coaches.

He provides one to one consultation and coaching to sports stars, various celebrities, CEO’s, and Directors of companies, and delivers team building and enhancement activities that aim to change the mindset of participants.

He’s been featured in Today, London Metro, The Guardian, a number of Channel 4 documentaries, and has even been on the Simpsons.

Lee’s clients include the London’s Metropolitan Police, The Aston Villa Football Club, Jamie Oliver’s 15 Foundation, the Los Angeles Police dealing with gangs and knife related crime and various Local Governments just to name a few.

He has been instrumental in the creation of the Identity Applied Methodology, which he currently delivers within the corporate arena, where the focus is both on motivation of the employee and customer satisfaction.

But it was his work within the sporting arena that caught my attention.

As a coach of a senior football club, I am constantly searching for ways to improve myself, my team, and our clubs performance. And it is this quest for more knowledge that led me to invite Lee Harper-Penman to speak to our club.

And I’ve got to say, Lee exceeded all expectations.

Player Motivation and Psychology

Lee took a session with our playing group and it was then that I realised the unique tools he possesses and how valuable this would be to our players. He led the group on an hour long journey of self discovery, of what it means to play for our club and its colours, and what it means to get the very best out of yourself. Getting the players to identify values with the club was paramount to his session.

Some of the main questions he posed to our playing group were:

1. What Does The Jumper Mean To You?

Lee started by showing the playing group our playing strip. He then asked for responses on what they thought the jumper meant to them. What did it stand for? How many past players gave their all for that jumper? How many players spilt their blood in that jumper? What did the jumper mean to the community it represented?

He then talked about the “Bloods” and the “Crips” gangs in the USA, and the amazing lengths that their members would go through to protect and honour their colours. Lee then tried to relate this to a sporting sense and asked players if they were willing to go to similar lengths for their jumper and club?

He then told players that what they do on the footy field – positive or negative – reflects back on that jumper. He asked what affect poor discipline on the footy field had on the rest of the team, or on the volunteers and spectators who give up their valuable time each week to come and support them.

It was powerful stuff and you could see players immediately asking themselves the same questions. The message was really getting through.

2. What Does Your Home Ground Mean To You?

Lee then moved on to our home ground and asked the players what it meant to them. What did it stand for to the club and the community it represented? And what would the players do to protect that?

He then went on to talk about the importance of not letting opposition teams disrespect us on our home ground. And that if we were going to lose, how important it was to go down fighting and earning respect in the contest.

3. What Does It Mean To Get The Best Out Of Yourself?

Lee also told players how short the sporting journey is for football players and that their playing career only lasts so long before it’s ended by age and injury. He then asked the players to ask themselves whether they were truly committed to the team during that window, or whether they were just merely involved.

How much was each player prepared to give to become the best they could possibly be for the sake of their team and themselves in the short playing window they had?

At the end of their careers, would they look back and wonder what could have been, or will they look back proud that they gave their all for the sake of them and team.

This reminded me of an interview I read with former Essendon and Fremantle player Mark Johnson.

Johnson explained that the turning point in his career came when former Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy pulled him aside and told him that the secret to success in football was to ask yourself whether you had done everything you could, on and off the field, to be the best player you possibly could be.

When this idea “clicked” in Johnson’s head, he went and did everything in his power to become the absolute best player he could be, and his career flourished as a result.

4. What Core Values Do We Believe In?

Lee also got the players to actively participate in preparing keywords that represented our team and the way we wanted play. He told the group that when they played, these values and words were theirs and no-one else’s!


I have to say, that I was blown away by Lee’s powerful message. And I have seen a massive shift in the culture and output of the players ever since.

Whilst one session is by no means enough, our player’s response to that session gave them a look at our club from another angle and the improvement in results was almost immediate.

It made me realise that as a coach, we cannot possibly give our players everything they need to be their very best.

It also made me realise that how we motivate and mentally prepare our players is just as important as skill practice, strength and conditioning training and game-day strategy.

In fact, it opens up a whole new, unexplored side to football coaching that few outside the elite sporting circles would have thought of. And a definite competitive advantage to those that address it!

So next time you are searching for improvement, maybe it is time to think outside the square and look at how you prepare your players mentally, not just physically. How can you develop your team’s culture and thinking into that of a champion’s? You might be pleasantly surprised at the results like I have been.

About Lee Harper-Penman: Lee is currently the Project Manager & Program Facilitator (Culture) at Right SIDE Consultancy. He works closely with Simon Eastaugh, who specialises in the management area of striving to put a positive influence on effective methods of change and improved organisational performance. Simon has experienced football at the elite level, both as a player and a coach, and this experience has helped Lee understand the unique qualities and culture of our game.

From my recent experiences, Simon’s football experiences and Lee’s motivational abilities form a powerful combination that football teams can only benefit from. Together, they will get the very best out of your players, regardless of their current level.

If you are struggling to get the best efforts out of your players, or would like help to create a winning culture in your team, drop me an email here at johnno@coachafl.com and we will forward on the details on to Simon and Lee.

Posted by David Johnson

David “Johnno” Johnson is our chief football researcher and writer. With over 20 years of coaching experience in all grades of football David was also a prominent footballer himself, having played at Teal Cup level and was even recruited by the Essendon Football Club. The pinnacle of David's coaching experience saw him as the assistant coach of the East Fremantle Shark Football Club in the WAFL for a number of years.

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