July 07, 2021

Discussing Leadership and Coaching with Martin Rooney

Dana Safa

1Huddle Podcast Episode #1

On this Bring It In podcast episode, 1Huddle’s CEO and Founder Sam Caucci sat down with Martin Rooney, Founder of Training for Warriors and best-selling author (12 books). He has trained Olympic medalists, Fortune 500 leaders, military organizations, and 130 athletes that have been drafted to the NFL, including #2 pick overall, Chris Long.

His newest book, Coach to Coach, discusses how to be the best coach you can be. And, on this episode of Bring It In season one, Martin sat down with Sam and discussed leadership, coaching, and change.

Audio available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. 


Below are some of the insights Martin shared during our chat, edited for length and clarity. You can find more Bring It In podcast episodes here.

  • “Leadership does change and it changes with the people that are in front of you.”
  • “I think that the biggest mistake would be that they have not done the deep work on themselves and people are going to see right through it when it’s time to leave.”
  • “A leader unfortunately thinks it’s about sending information down the chain to be a great leader. But, you’ve got to bring the information up the chain.”


Sam: Martin, let’s say we wave a wand and now automatically you’re the head of sales or your favorite team The New York Yankees. What’s the number one thing when it comes to coaching and developing others that you would say leaders today should stay away from? 

Martin: The first thing would be, see how it’s like if I was the head of sales for the Yankees, and it’s almost like we got to change the pronouns, see if it’s on the head of sales, all of a sudden I’ve aspired to this position. It’s about me, me, me, the biggest mistake is I just see that people aren’t focused on everybody else and developing them that that person will be more concerned about always promoting that they’re the head of sales of the Yankees versus working with everybody else to make sure that the Yankees sell more tickets than anybody else.

So again, I think it’s very interesting that you got to really work on yourselves first before you can develop anybody else. And it doesn’t come overnight. Like it took me everything that I just talked about took me 30 years to learn, but you gotta start doing the work now or it’s never going to happen.

So I think if anybody right now was thrust into that position and they’re not really prepared for themselves, they’re going to have a really, really big problem. So I think that the biggest mistake would be that they have not done the deep work on themselves and people are going to see right through it when it’s time to leave.

Sam: That’s great, Martin. I think when I think about coaching, one of the things you do at a very high level very well is you connect with athletes. How do you approach breaking the ice with someone that you coach? Think of it as breaking the ice where you align interests. What are the things that you do so well that you think people can take away from?

Martin: Listening is one of the greatest leadership skills of a coach. Take them to coffee and you pay for it. And then sit there and say, who are you? What do you believe? What do you like? Where are you from? A leader unfortunately thinks it’s about sending information down the chain to be a great leader. You’ve got to bring the information up the chain.

And it’s a big part of the book that I wrote. In the story, it’s a coach and he thinks he knows what everybody wants. And then he realizes when he starts meeting with them, man, that’s not what they wanted at all. And then when he was able to help them get closer to what they wanted, AKA close the gap, then they started to have success.

A leader has to listen. It’s a way harder skill than you think. I wasn’t always a great listener. And whether it’s really looking at eye contact, verbal postures, really taking in the information, clarifying, and then being able to use that and then help somebody with that, there’s a lot that goes to that. That would be my biggest advice: you would have to find out what your people want and then figure out how to help them get it instead of you just telling them what you want, and that doesn’t align with the language they are speaking.

Sam: So Martin, I’ve got a lot of coaches that inspired me over the years. Who’s the coach that inspired you the most growing up?

Martin: My mom was the phys ed teacher, so that’s probably not a big surprise. She was always like, you get enough sleep, you eat right, you exercise. So she hammered that into me when I was a kid. 

In seventh grade, they made the decision that, because I went to something called junior high,  all the seventh graders weren’t going to get to try out. So there was just no baseball that year cause they already had enough eighth graders and ninth graders. And I was just crushed like no sports, what am I going to do? And this track guy was standing outside the room because he knew that was what they were telling everybody.

And he was standing outside the room, every kid that walked out he told them, Hey, you look great for track. I said the only thing I could think of at the time, I said “track?”. And he goes, yeah, yeah. And I said, well, what’s that? You know, what is it? But it sounds great, I want to try it. And I went out to track the next day.

Seven years after that, that was the scholarship to college that changed my life. And I’m a track coach today and I’m still in touch with him. He still comments on all my Facebook posts, almost 40 years later. And that was the guy I dedicated the new book to. And that was a really cool thing. Cause he didn’t know that until he got the book and, guys, sometimes you don’t know how good of a job you’ve done as a coach until maybe 30 years later when something like that happens. But yeah, to answer it, that was the guy. And he showed me so much of what it meant to be a great coach and leader.

And now looking back, those are still a lot of the lessons that I’m trying to use today.

Sam: Martin, there’s been a lot of talk about generation gaps. We’ve got millennial this, generation Z that, boomer this, gen X that. What’s the biggest change as a leader that you’ve seen as a coach today versus maybe back in the day?

Martin: Leadership does change, and it changes with the people that are in front of you. You got to lead the people in front of you, leadership isn’t a cookie-cutter, say this, then do that. It’s who’s in front of you. Age, male, female, type A type B, whether we say millennial, generation. But what I will say, what has changed in my coaching now, it has definitely become way more about engagement.

And everybody gets a little more autonomy and a choice, than it was about me just like you go run laps and you do what I say, you’re weak. I’m tough. And Hey, I grew up in that, right? Like I grew up in the seventies and eighties, you got smashed by your coaches and you just took it, but they wrecked a lot of people.

That’s not how it works. So just like our nutrition has changed. They used to deprive us of water and give us salt tablets. We don’t do that anymore. We’re smarter. They used to make us do what we’re called nutcracker drills, where we’re knocking each other out. Like now there are concussion protocols. Things have gotten better, right?

And our leadership has to get better too. And that’s because things change. And what’s interesting though, is this book was the answer to that where I show people what I believe is the new stage of leadership. And that’s about making an engagement and making a connection and really understanding. That doesn’t mean you can’t still know the X’s and O’s, but you got to know who the X’s and O’s are and coach that person for what they need.

Topics Discussed: Leadership, Coaching, Work, Jobs, Future of Work, Training

Dana Safa, Manager of Digital Marketing at 1Huddle

See Our Policy Plan

Check out our plan that outlines a position that we at 1Huddle fight for everyday; for every worker. 


RAISE Every Worker