Kevin Nicholson – Head of Coaching at Exeter City Football Club and former professional footballer

January 25, 2021

A winding and wonderful journey through football. Gain a fantastic and realistic insight in what striving to be a professional footballer has been like for Nicho. He openly shares some of the highlights and lowlights (as well as some great tips!) from turning professional in 1997 through to developing players and coaches for the future.

He played at all levels of the game over a long period of time and has also experienced the game of football through the perspectives of Player, Coach, Head of Coaching, Manager and Parent.

Nicho is currently Head of Coaching at Exeter City where they are doing some great work in developing young footballers and people.

This is a great listen if you are a young player, parent, teacher, coach or leader. Nichos story will make you think and consider your philosophy, values, beliefs and ultimately what is important to you and how do you get there (or help others get there!)



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Key points and success quotes:

Didn’t get selected at first trial

Advice from mum….

  • Don’t celebrate goals because the game is not over.
  • If you ever go down when not injured, I will run on an make sure you are

Careers adviser not believing and supporting a career in football – parents supportive as long as school work done

Standards were ingrained into me….and it came from my parents

It is unacceptable to not be on time – it turns me to cold sweats.

The football environment also gave me the structure and routine.

High school to Lilleshall National Sport Centre (Lilleshall is the blueprint for Academies now days!)

Everything came through my childhood

I grew up very quickly and at an early age had to be the man of the house when my parents split

Played against Ronaldinho in Brazil as a youngster

‘Old school’ discipline and standards versus now days.

Learn about how people learn now.

I have played through 3 ‘different generations’ of footballer.

Old school values v current…you earnt your stripes!

What about the Old Blacks!

The power of your culture and environment

Back then – it you could not take it you didn’t make it!

Unacceptable to rule through fear now days

As a manger – I got best results when people had a say and involvement in it. They want to know why they are doing what they are.

One of my strengths and weaknesses is that I am incredibly patient and calm/composed.

The difference between players who want it and need it

Just get better today – focus on ‘next practice’ (stay in moment)

Concentrate on what you can control and don’t focus to far into the future

Asked myself – did I do everything I could do to be the best I could be?

Don’t be that guy who says…if only I had….?

I did the best I could do with the knowledge I had at that given time – no regrets!

700 games experience   – league 2 and National League

I was told I was not good enough so intrinsic drive to show them they were wrong

Play as long as you can play – cant think of anyone saying ‘pack it all in‘ when you realise you are not good enough

I get pleasure in helping people develop.

Become the best version of you as a coach.

I learn so much along the way. I don’t see where I am at now as being the final place.

I am role modelling – open mindedness, learning and taking things away and doing.

I have learnt to just do it – make the mistakes and learn

One person might take one thing from it and actually that is what is important and makes the difference.

Be more present while you are present.

The intention meant often differs from the intention felt

I can live by my moral code…

You’ve got to know your own moral code is first

Can honest be a weakness?

I’ve been told at times you are too nice!

You don’t have to sacrifice your morals o drive performance and standards

Emotional intelligence is really important – emotional relationships, trust and report are also really important in addition to knowing about the ‘x’s’ and ‘o’s’

The more I learn the less I realise what I know

Why not just have a go..!

Continuing to ask curious questions

Being open minded.


“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

― Lao Tzu


Those things that sound so simple aren’t simple – you have to practice them and work on them and  become more self-aware


Quick fire questions:

The books that you would recommend are?

The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness by Dr Steve Peters

Who Moved My Cheese: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Dr Spencer Johnson


Key advice to somebody wanting a career in sport

‘Next Practice’ – only worry about the next thing you can effect.

Don’t get too high – don’t get too low


In one sentence – What advice would you give to your teenage version of yourself?

 Enjoy it – it gets too serious at times.


Who has made a big impact on you?


Wife  (Really grounding as doesn’t know about football)

My Strength and Conditioning coach

Jocky Scott and many others

Whos’ Sport Story would you be really interested in hearing?

Tiger Woods

Tom Brady



Coaching questions I would like to pose:


What is the key attribute you have that is both your main strength as well as weakness?


Positive Learning Mindset – what one thing have you learnt today and what one thing are you most appreciative of ? (ask yourself everyday!)


Contact info:

Twitter – @kevnicho3

LinkedIn –

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