Grant Downie on Recruitment, Success and Selling the Dream in Sports

Grant Downie is a consultant in medical and performance solutions for elite sports.

In his childhood days, Grant saw how physical therapists worked on the playing field, treating athletes and their injuries. The role appealed to him as it posed an opportunity for him to improve a person’s quality of life.

He soon became a chartered physiotherapist in 1984, volunteering in sports like rugby and football as he worked for the UK’s National Health Services.

Later, Grant’s love of people enkindled in him the passion to develop personal and soft skills that make an impactful difference.

His distinguished career at the heart of professional football and elite sports spans over 34 years and includes full-time and advisory roles at Manchester City FC, Hamilton Academical FC, and others.

And in 2013, Grant received the title Officer of the British Empire from the Queen in recognition of his work in sports physiotherapy and service to youth.

Grant joins me today to discuss what it takes to be a great high-performance director and how anyone can succeed in any leadership role.

He illustrates how leaders can “sell the dream” of an organization to its staff and reveals the role of recruitment in elite sports.

He describes the difference between talkers and reflectors and discusses how leaders can manage both to focus on athletes’ needs.

And last but not least, he highlights what it means to train an injured athlete, and underscores the value of connecting with the person behind an injury.


Being a high-performance leader is not only about how you leave a mark on your staff. It’s what you leave on the organization and the systems you leave behind. – Grant Downie


This week on the Physical Preparation Podcast:

  • The beginnings of Grant’s career in elite professional sports
  • How the physical therapy profession in sports has evolved over the years
  • The dangers of limiting oneself to one sport and how sports professionals can broaden their horizons
  • The importance of remembering that children are not “mini-adults” and letting them have fun in athletics
  • The primary role of performance leads in a large sports club
  • Traits and skills that separate great high-performance directors from good ones
  • Why academic intelligence is essential to strength & conditioning professionals
  • The role of emotional intelligence and intuition in the performance lead role
  • The need to ensure that every individual in an organization has development plans
  • The value of showing authenticity as a leader
  • The factors that indicate the success of a performance lead
  • How high-performance directors and leads can get everyone in the same direction of growth
  • Why the setting of expectations in an organization is critical to its performance
  • The role of high-performance leaders and directors as educators
  • Cultivating psychological safety and how to work with reflectors and talkers
  • The most challenging part about being a performance lead or high-performance director
  • Why Grant thinks being a high-performance director can be lonely


Connect with Grant:


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