Tony Fretwell – FA Women’s Super League Academy Manager

June 7, 2021

In his usual, passionate, and engaging style Tony covers many important and often debated topics in this must listen Podcast. We cover late developers; talent identification; imposter syndrome; mental wellbeing; importance of great people skills; dual careers for all …. and so much more.

He is straight talking. Tony openly shares his mental health struggles and challenges as well as offers many gems to those looking to maximise their impact in work and life.

Tony said “he is a ‘100 cap international’ at thinking and doing what he does”.

Dedicate an hour of your time and invest in yourself to become your own ‘100 cap international’


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Success quotes or sayings:

Talent pathways need multiple opportunity points.

Through my own experiences I have an interest and passion for talent development and especially late developers

I was surrounded by people who knew more than me – so wanted to know more!

I developed an obsession with the sport.

 If couldn’t get the experience then I would make it

I sent my CV to every Rugby League club as I wanted a job in development.

Don’t worry about being cheap (not being paid a great deal) at the start [of your career]. It will change in time

Go where you can get the opportunity.

There have been many times I have sat their and gone ‘how have I got this (job)?’

There were time I felt desperately out of my depth

Your qualification may say you have the ability to get you through the door – but its not that, that gets you through the door. Its all the other stuff that you are willing to do

Sport is a pastime that millions love – so it becomes competitive.

You have to make yourself stand out from the crowd through your own efforts.

My work ethic stood me out – nobody was working harder at it than me.

The better you get the more chance you have of being lucky

Imposter syndrome has always been and issues and is still and issue now.

Be confident in what you do know – put forward what you know and don’t blag or lie.

Develop great people skills

He frames it as ‘he is a 100 cap international at thinking about what he does’

Listen to people you don’t agree with and develop an understanding of why they think ‘that’

You have got to be really comfortable with mistakes and let them happen

If you try to stop every mistake you are killing learning left right and centre.

Courtesy of David Faulkner – Fail Fast.  Try something, recognise when it’s not going right and change it.

Make mistakes with the best of intentions.

Talent development is like ‘Indiana Jones trying to find the Holy Grail’.

There is no single answer to how to produce world class athletes.

The questions I always ask is -Why (the rationale) and how you going to do it? Never you cant!

Much more important than the rules are the KEY/CORE PRINCIPLES

Will what we do make the player better or the environment in which the player sits better?

I build a philosophy around happiness and contentment.

He opportunity at the Women’s FA was a ‘miss it and miss out opportunity’.

I left with no bridges burnt at the RFL – as I may need or want to go back at some stage

I found out about people – do my reading. If there is a source of knowledge then I know to ask lots of questions.

I work to a core principle – you are either ALL in or you’re not. If you are all in then give everything you have got.

Do what makes you happy – we all want to jump out of bed in the morning with a spring in our step.

Some of the stories I can tell and experiences I have had are astonishing – go an make them!

My work ethic is getting me somewhere – possibly beyond what I thought my talent deserves. I will take it though.

Talent development and Talent Id is like panning for gold. A lot of sifting is required to find what you are looking for

The vast majority of the academy managers job is to manage disappointment as 98% of the players in the system will likely not fulfil their dreams

I hurts me when I hear about broken players – I see it as the journey has not been managed very well

Be open to how your story ends – write your own chapters.

As soon as you are not happy you have to look at what is your next step

If you get everybody using their skill sets and everyone is happy then that is when the organisation or team will really start to fly

Happy people work well – constrained people never do

I have a notebook where I write down peoples names and details about them, so when I speak with them I have something to speak and connect with them on.

I have been known to wear my feelings on my face – it has caused me problems in the past.

Enjoy yourself along the way because when you get ‘there’ it might not be what you’d though it would be.

Happier now than I have ever been but 10 years ago couldn’t see as far as next week – it was a deeply difficult time.

Back then when I hit the ‘bottom’ I put my hand up and asked for help

Mental Health challenges – Trying to be something for another reason


Quick fire questions:

The books that you would recommend are.


The Way of Zen (Vintage Spiritual Classics) by Alan Watts


From Hull to Hell and Back by Lee Crooks

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

Don’t worry

Enjoy yourself

Be happy


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

Flt Kerry Bennett from the RAF ( Mum on a programme to be an Astronaut)


Coaching questions I would like to pose:


What efforts do you take or could you take to ‘make yourself stand out from the crowd’


What are you a ‘100 cap international ‘at? What would you like to be a 100 cap international at?


What would you do if there was no such thing as money?  How would you fill your time?  (Based on the work of Alan Watts  – Do what makes you happy!)


If none of us are ‘getting out of this alive’ then we want to look back on some great experiences. What are the great experiences you would like to have and what do you need to do to make them happen?


Who is your role model and how do they help you learn and develop?


Contact info:

@tonyfretwell  on Twitter

 Or at The Football Association

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