Episode 29 – Phil Merriman

Navigating Success in High-Performance Sports: A Conversation with Phil Merriman

In the world of high-performance sports, success is not just about physical prowess but also strategic management and a commitment to continuous improvement. In this blog post, we delve into the insights shared by Phil Merriman, the High-Performance Manager for the Fremantle Dockers, as he reflects on his journey in the AFL, his coaching philosophy, and the key factors that contribute to success in the competitive realm of professional sports.

Phil Merriman discusses his journey into the field of strength & conditioning, starting as a personal trainer + head coach of state Jessie hockey teams for 10 years.

Highlights from the episode:

  • Leadership can be developed but isn’t for everyone
  • Importance of curiosity and how Phill has recognized this behavior in elite athletes
  • Developing presentation skills while he was a head coach
  • Importance of having player-lead environments rather than staff-lead

Phil Merriman’s Journey

Phil Merriman’s career trajectory is nothing short of remarkable. Starting as a field hockey player, he discovered a passion for coaching after a hiatus from the game. His journey led him to work with influential figures like John Quinn and Peter Blanch, ultimately shaping his approach to high-performance management. Phil discusses the pivotal role of personal training and the importance of being adaptable, citing experiences from his time with Melbourne Football Club and Hawthorn’s strength conditioning team.

The Intersection of Hockey and Football

As a former hockey player turned high-performance manager in AFL, Phil draws intriguing parallels between the movement patterns in hockey and football. He shares insights into the tactical and technical aspects of both sports, highlighting the commonalities that contribute to success. This unique perspective adds depth to his coaching approach, allowing him to integrate strategies from different sporting arenas.

Curiosity and Continuous Improvement

One recurring theme in Phil’s narrative is the importance of curiosity in athletes. He emphasizes that successful players never lose their curiosity to become better, and this curiosity manifests in various behaviors, from extra training sessions to intelligent and strategic workout routines. Phil explores the delicate balance of coaching players to push boundaries while ensuring they understand the importance of timing and smart training.

Educating Young Athletes

Phil sheds light on the challenges of working with young athletes entering professional clubs. Many of them lack knowledge on how to train effectively and be curious about their development. Phil discusses the educational role that coaches, strength and conditioning specialists, and medical staff play in shaping the behaviors of these young players, setting the stage for their successful transition into professional sports.

Leadership and Team Dynamics

Transitioning to leadership, Phil outlines key points that make a good leader in the context of high-performance sports. He stresses the importance of always keeping the group’s intentions at the forefront, highlighting the need for selflessness and a deep commitment to the collective goals of the team. Phil reflects on his experiences working with leaders in various clubs and the diverse approaches to effective leadership.

Transition to Fremantle Dockers

The blog post concludes with Phil Merriman’s transition to the Fremantle Dockers and the unique challenges posed by the global pandemic. Phil shares insights into his role as the High-Performance Manager and the collaborative efforts required to navigate the uncertainties of the AFL landscape.

Key Takeaways:

  • Phil Merriman’s journey from field hockey to high-performance management.
  • The intersection of movement patterns in hockey and football.
  • The role of curiosity in the success of athletes.
  • Educating young athletes for a successful transition to professional sports.
  • Leadership principles and effective team dynamics.
  • Phil Merriman’s role at the Fremantle Dockers amidst the challenges of the pandemic.


Phil Merriman’s story is a testament to the multidimensional nature of success in high-performance sports. From the hockey fields to the AFL arenas, his journey provides valuable insights for aspiring athletes, coaches, and enthusiasts alike. The commitment to continuous improvement, the integration of diverse sporting experiences, and the focus on effective leadership underscore the holistic approach required for success in the competitive world of professional sports.

People mentioned:

  • Doctor Peter Brukner
  • David Misson
  • Darren Burgess David Hale
  • Alastair Clarkson
  • Andrew Russel
  • Anthony Fernon
  • Andrew Lambart
  • Luke Boyd
  • Hal Marsden
  • Chris Hink
  • John Quinn

Listen: Itunes | IGTV | Spotify



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