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Ollie Watkins: The Road from Rejection to Glory

Ollie Watkins: From Non-League to Champions League – A Journey of High Performance


Ollie Watkins’ journey from non-league football to the Champions League epitomizes the essence of high performance. In a recent episode of the High Performance podcast, Watkins sat down with hosts Jake and Damian to share his story. This blog delves into Watkins’ experiences, challenges, and triumphs, reflecting on his insights and the contributions from the podcast hosts.

Consistent Effort and Humility

Watkins defines high performance not by the outcome but by the daily efforts and consistent actions. “I think high performance isn’t the outcome; it’s the things that you do daily to achieve where you want to get to,” he shared. This mindset has been crucial in his rise from playing non-league football to qualifying for the Champions League with Aston Villa. Reflecting on his journey, Watkins mentioned, “I did dream about it but didn’t think it would become real.”

Humility has been a constant companion for Watkins. He reminisced about his early days at Exeter City, where he faced rejection at nine years old. “I couldn’t concentrate… I was looking past the coaches, seeing what everyone else was doing,” Watkins admitted. This early setback fueled his determination to prove himself, a drive that has persisted throughout his career.

Adapting to Different Environments

Watkins’ career has been marked by adapting to various footballing environments. His time at Weston-super-Mare was particularly transformative. “It was one of the best things I did… going out to play football on loan, fighting for three points,” he reflected. This experience instilled in him a sense of responsibility and resilience, which he carries to this day.

One of the key lessons Watkins learned from his non-academy route was humility. He recalled playing against Manchester United’s academy, where the pristine facilities seemed “like another world.” This contrast made him appreciate his journey even more. “I would choose Exeter all the way because I feel like it’s made me the person I am today,” he stated.

The Impact of High-Performance Mindset

Watkins’ high-performance mindset is further exemplified by his approach to dealing with setbacks and maintaining focus. He discussed the importance of having a life coach, especially before Unai Emery’s arrival at Villa. “Since I’ve been working with him, he’s definitely helped me… the mind is probably the most powerful thing,” Watkins explained. This consistent mental training has been pivotal in his development.

One notable moment that showcased Watkins’ resilience was his hat-trick against Liverpool. “It was a special night… I hadn’t scored previously, and then I got three,” he said. This performance not only boosted his confidence but also set a new standard for himself.

Watkins’ Aspirations and Influence

As Watkins continues to excel, his aspirations have grown. Winning a team award, such as the FA Cup or the Premier League, is a major goal. “At the end of your career, you want to say you won something as a team,” he emphasized. His ambition extends to the international stage, where he feels ready to represent England in a major tournament. “I’ve had my best season… there’s no better time for me to go into a tournament,” Watkins declared.

Watkins’ journey serves as an inspiration for young footballers, especially those from non-league backgrounds. He hopes to motivate them by showing that perseverance and hard work can lead to success. “It would be a big inspiration for them… people look up to me and want to use me as their icon,” he expressed.


Ollie Watkins’ story is a testament to the power of perseverance, humility, and a high-performance mindset. From his early days facing rejection to his current status as a Champions League player, Watkins has consistently demonstrated what it takes to succeed at the highest levels. His journey, insights, and reflections shared on the High Performance podcast offer valuable lessons for aspiring athletes and anyone striving for excellence.

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