Noel Donaldson

The Importance of Winning Well

Hello and welcome to another Great Coaches newsletter!

We believe sport provides a learning environment for leadership and life, and so we interview great sports coaches from around the world to find ideas to help us all be better people.

Our newsletter provides the best ideas and insights from those interviews.

We hope you find one or two things here that you can bring to your dinner table, locker room or boardroom table for discussion.

Latest Interview

From World Championship competitor coxswain to Olympic Gold winning coach, Noel Donaldson's impact on the world of rowing has been astounding.

The coach behind Australia's Oarsome Foursome's Olympic gold medals in 1992 and 1996 and five World Championships, Noel also coached Georgina Douglas to two World Championships. In 2013, he became the coach of New Zealand's Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, who went on to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals.

A serial-winning coach whose wisdom transcends sport, Noel is now the Head Coach at the Victorian Institute of Sport, continuing to help others achieve high levels of sporting performance.

During our interview, Noel shared a number of insights and points related not only to his own career, but also the characteristics and traits that have helped his rowers to reach success, including:

  • How the “Oarsome Foursome” would handle debriefing and their ability to switch on and off - a skill that he feels today’s athletes struggle with

  • Why neglecting mental health in pursuit of success leads to wins that are only ever temporary

  • The importance of setting goals that are appropriate for the current team, and aren’t simply based on historical performance

  • Why each campaign should be treated as separate from the last

Noel Donaldson is a highly respected coach whose wisdom is backed by a strong and impressive record of achievement, and the experience he holds was very clearly evident throughout our discussion.

I think that many of the points he shares will be both insightful and relatable to you, and I hope you’ll take the opportunity to listen to (and act upon) what he has to say.

Listen here on… Apple | Spotify  | Google


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Leadership Insights

When you think of Muhammad Ali, what words come to mind?

Strength? Success? Stamina?

For Nancy Lieberman, it was his love and kindness that made the most impact.

Considered one of the greatest athletes in history, Muhammad Ali’s name and legacy are known across the world. Yet one thing that perhaps isn’t as widely known is the incredible sense of compassion and love that he held for others.

Convinced that we all have our own unique purpose on this Earth, Ali strongly believed that we had to be kind to others in order to receive kindness in return.

If you like this, you can find more than 1200 other insight videos on our website, covering a variety of leadership topics such as setting up new team cultures, establishing team values, or helping others with their inner voice.

All of the insights are indexed, searchable, and can be downloaded to share. Some may require a one-time purchase or subscription - check the individual insight’s description for more information.

Leadership Skills

There’s more to listening than simply ‘hearing’.

Paying attention to what others have to say and taking the time to reflect on their words is an important skill that all leaders should actively work on - particularly when it comes to listening to feedback or opinions that they may not want to hear.

For this lesson, we’ve compiled a number of great audio and visual clips from interviews with 9 different great coaches, each discussing the importance of being a good listener both within their own career, and in regards to leadership as a whole.

There are a variety of valuable insights shared within the lesson, including:

  • How the strength of your listening skills can take you from a good leader to a ‘transformational’ leader

  • The way that humility - and accepting that you won’t always have all the answers - can help to build trust and strengthen relationships

  • Why offering the best response may require tempering your own enthusiasm and passion

…and several other points reflecting on the ‘magic’ that you can experience in your own career when you aim to become a better listener.

Want to find more content like this? You can find lessons on a wide range of leadership-related themes and topics on our website:


The world recently lost Bobby Knight, the iconic basketball coach.

In this article from USA Today, Stephen Borelli compares the legacies of both Bobby Knight and Frank Howard, contrasting their approaches to life and sport, and the lessons that can be taken from both.

One particular line that stood out from the article was that “it takes more than skill and work ethic to succeed. It takes decency”.

I hope that you’ll take a few minutes to read the full article - it’s well worth your time.


If you are looking to improve your own leadership skills, then you can reach us at

Our team of executive coaches, including The Great Coaches host Paul Barnett, bring a wealth of experience as International CEOs who have faced the challenge of stepping forward in uncertain moments.

Contact Us

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