50: Simon Clifford – CEO at Integer Football, High Performance Coach and Futsal Pioneer

June 14, 2021

An incredibly open, honest and vulnerable conversation where Simon shares in his calm and humble way his story from being a passionate sports person and having an early career as a sport teacher right through to bringing Brazilian style football principles to the UK as well as influencing football worldwide, consulting on films and working with some of the most famous footballers the world has seen.

In his own words he was a ‘man with a mission’.  This brought its highs as well as its lows. In my mind Simon is a student of football as well as life and gives great insight into how you can rise from hitting rock bottom. He gives living proof you can change the way you approach your life if you take responsibility and action.

It is a heartfelt story that will definitely make you think about who you are, what you do, how you do it and ultimately what success is in life and sport.

It was a real privilege and honour to have Simon as the 50th Sport Stories Podcast guest. A must listen!!!

 

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Success quotes or sayings:

Middlesbrough and football were my love at a very early age.

Due to an experience of being ‘dropped’ I decided to take up something that was just reliant on the watch (running)

My hero was Terry Cochrane  – as a footballer he liked to run at people and take them on.  I therefore saw football as running at people and taking them on was the way to play football (not everybody liked this!)

I decided to take up Athletics – but wasn’t very good or by any means the fastest.

After a knock back of not being included in the school cross country team – I become very determined.

At times I wish I had carried on with football but Athletics taught me a life lesson – implementing key performance principles consistently and routinely irrespective of talent will get you somewhere.

Stoics and Spartans

I enjoyed reading from a young age and finding out about people and their lives

My edge for training dropped at university but I threw myself into my studies

I applied the principles developed in my early years and gained a 1stt in my degree. If you apply yourself to things you find hard and work at them – you can be successful.

I became a teacher – a bit by default. I re discovered my interest and passion for football (and coaching) by taking the U8,9,10, 11 in the school I worked at.

I became great friends with Juninho when he played at Middlesbrough due to a shared love of football.

I was not satisfied in ‘dishing up for them’ what everyone else did. I wanted to find out the best way and provide it where I could

I wanted the absolute best. I hunted here there and everywhere for those children

Being the best was my attitude to sport for many years – it wouldn’t be today.

I looked back into the history of sport. I really liked working hard and winning. This view has changed as the years went on

It was an amazing 5-6 weeks in Brazil….

The detail and work ethic in Brazil was clear to see and was not what I was led to believe it would be (people just playing on the beach)

Coe had intrigued me as he was an early user of sport science and built a team around him. Brazil had better psychology services as far back as 1958… then we have had up until 2014 ish World Cup.

When I started on the Brazilian journey I was a school teacher/ good person. I was though a man on a mission when returning.

My character changed and my ego got in the way.

I had to win and dominate …..but it was never enough really!

All the business success – not of it is any good if you are not happy with yourself

I set up a preschool programme, and also bought a football club.

Nothing exists in vacuum and things changed

I then went on a mini adventure with Sir Clive Woodward working at Southampton FC

My why wasn’t a healthy one – it was to show I could achieve

I took on the establishment of football

I had some big ‘ding dongs’ with the FA. I fronted it ok but it had an effect on me (negatively)

I had some real highs working with Garforth Town

Towards the end of 2000’s my mental health was deteriorating

The things I had enjoyed in the beginning I had stopped doing – the coaching!

I wrote a few books and consulted on Movies, and things were going off on different tangents. The scope and level all become too much for me.

I had stopped enjoying it and started drinking to self-medicate. It was a long spiral down.

At my lowest ebb in 2012 – sold everything to Rupert Lowe

My health and family life were not good at the time.

I wasn’t in a rational state of mind for quite some time.  I wasn’t sure how much longer I would live!

In recovery – 18 months not working. Took stocked of everything. Where I had been and what my priorities were.

In many cases in life – from some of the worst times of your life – come the best.

Strategies I used – taking help and listening to other people (which I hadn’t done before)

Ego had become my enemy – the more successful I had got the less I listened.

I was at ground zero. I had to recognise and come to terms with the fact my own thinking and actions had got me to the position I was in.

It’s been 8 yrs or so since ground zero – I have had the happiest and best years of my life in every respect

Proudest moments – I beat Seb Coe before I packed in (over 100 meters), Overcoming challenges within my degree, Taking 53 kids from Leeds out to Brazil (1998)

Winning football matches is intoxicating and see players that you work with – play well!

I really value being part of the Coaching chain ot many players.

Things I enjoy most today is continuing to work on myself and my learning as well as encouraging others in their development and learning.

I don’t want to get caught in the highs and lows anymore.

My personal philosophy is that football is a game for fun.

We could lose the essence of the sport itself and the history and traditions.

I would love to engage with some working-class communities or areas with less provision. They seem to be getting distanced and disenfranchised with the sport. I would love to do something alter in my life if I could.

I am a pupil myself. My passion for football came back after a year or so.

Initially I blamed football for some of my problems. My problems were all of my own making.

Almost every life lesson you can get out of sport. Sport is amazing!!

Take the harder and longer route. Don’t cut corners, You will learn more!

There are so many factors involved in achieving success.

Learning in wonderful. For me learning is linked to happiness.

I didn’t intend to be an entrepreneur.

How could I get more people playing this way. More focus on the ball. More creative. More imaginative.

I used to turn to old biographies for business tips. For example, Walt Disney. Do what you love and what you are passionate about.

If I had my time again I would get business mentors and people around me to keep me in check and good order.

Get older and more experienced people around you – particularly people who don’t say what you want them to and will challenge you.

Based on Jim Rohn quote – ‘Spend more time working on yourself than working’

I spend a lot of my time writing informally as well as journaling.

Quote by Elbert Hubbard: Self-discipline is – ‘The ability to make yourself do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not’

Success is…

Number 1 – Make a list each day of the things that must be done. 

Number 2 – Do the things on that list

Don’t make footballers – make good people.

If ego is the enemy – continue to work on yourself, practice self-awareness and reflection. Taka counsel of those around you – how are you doing and how are you behaving. Have a mentor that is comfortable to challenge and possibly fall out with you.

 

Quick fire questions:

The books that you would recommend are?

 

Holy Bible by Collins

Success: In Sport and Life by Percy Wells Cerutty

The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People: Revised and Updated by Stephen R. Covey

7 Habits Of Highly Effective Families by Stephen R. Covey

The Law of Success: In Sixteen Lessons by Napoleon Hill

How do I prepare to be the best version of myself…

 I mediate and pray each day

I think and listen

I write a journal each day

I write a plan for the day

 

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

Stick in and with sport – there is enough in it for a lifetime of enjoyment

Who has made a big impact on you?

My dad.

Sir Clive Woodward

The Brazilian footballers – Juninho and Socrates

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

Sir Clive Woodward

 

Coaching questions I would like to pose:

1

What ingredients do you have in your life to ensure you gain and maintain a good mental wellbeing? What are the connections of these ingredients and your behaviours to your definition of happiness and success?

2

How could you plan and prepare yourself more purposefully in order to live a more fulfilling life?

 

Contact info:

T – @simondclifford

W – integer.football

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