Feb 3, 2020
Matthew Young is an industry leader with over 25 years of
experience in the allied health care sector. A graduate of the
University of British Columbia, Matt put his Human Kinetics degree
and passion for health and sport to use in his first start up
company – Innovative Fitness. This body of work led to
a Canadian (2006) and British Columbia (2011) Top 40
Under 40 recognition. In early 2010, Matt turned his
focus to the not-for-profit sector where he founded a charity
focused on supporting the development of physical literacy in
youth. To date, these tools have been utilized in over 238
Matt’s affinity for all things active has led him from the
gridiron where he was a conference All Star to the Sahara Desert,
to cycling across three countries. He is a Guinness Book of World
Record holder, two-time Ironman, ten-time marathon finisher and
multi day adventure race competitor. Matt and his team have raised
over $6.25M for charity over 20 years with a lifetime goal of
Presently, Matt consults
sport organizations ranging from community to Provincial,
National and Olympic sport federations, including the NHL and PGA
on how to operationalize their development pathways
and maximize the sport value proposition.
In today’s conversation with us, Matt shares with us the current
state of youth sports, what makes kids want to play youth sports
and how to develop quality sport experiences that benefit all
stakeholders, including kids, parents, coaches and officials.
What We Discuss With Matthew Young
- Why the ‘win at all costs’ model is more about celebrity
coaches than the athletes
- The purpose of youth sports in the community
- What parents really want for their child’s youth sports
- Why you don’t want your child to specialize in one sport all
- The fundamental issues hurting youth sports participation
around the world
- How to operationalize development pathways for all
- Important elements for anyone thinking of starting a
- How to build a collective to further your movement’s
- What youth sports has become – to summarize – is the desire to
win at all costs, to focus on the win over the development.
- Competition and winning is fantastic, healthy and necessary,
but not at the cost of shortening your benches, or aggregating the
best players and then playing inferior opponents and thinking that
anyone is getting anything out of it.
- Youth sports was supposed to bring the community together. Yet
it is actually pulling the community apart – with the academies,
associations, and rush to get that next affirmation, university
scholarship, or social status checkmark for belonging to an
- Studies shows that parents want safety, fair play, friendly
competition, opportunity for their son or daughter, and they want
- Athletes want fun, friends, fair play, friendly competition,
and to finish the season with more skills than when they
- We create development pathways elsewhere, but in youth sports
we just show up, pay our money and expect that someone knows what’s
- We need to hold volunteers to a higher standard, just like we
- The coach’s responsibility is to provide a quality youth sports
experience for the athletes. Teach them the things about sport and
character-building in the confines of that sport. They will take
that into their lives.
- There are a lot of egos in the coaches who have been doing it a
certain way for a long time so it’s really hard to create a
- You have to get your first followers - that’s really important.
PGA of America is one of our first followers. When they start doing
it and show people what’s happening, then others start getting on
board as well.
- Lack of free-play (0-5 years old) – results in children not
learning how to use their body in space, and not making very
important neural-synapse connections in terms of decision
- Lack of fundamental movement skills – run, jump, kick, catch,
two-handed throw, and strike. In our increasingly automated
environment, that is being marginalized.
- Physical education is getting marginalized as well. One child
gets an A because they can run around faster than anyone else, and
another child gets an A because they are really sociable. What does
that have to do with progressing movement skills?
- Early sports specialization is turning sports into a job for
kids. That’s not what kids want.
- Costs – now sports are starting to cost a lot of money. So
you’re not getting the best players, you’re getting the kids whose
parents can afford it.
- Technology – it’s impacting where kids spend most of their
time. Video game makers are doing a great job at offering fun,
friends, fair play and healthy competition – what kids really
- When we asked Executive Directors where their time was spent,
50% was spent managing, politics and bureaucracy, 30% was spent
managing policies and procedures, 10% was spent on product
enhancement, and 10% was spent investing in people.
- If you want to make a collective impact, be intentional about
making it a collective impact.
- For any movement to be sustainable, people have to see
themselves in the leadership of the movement.
- In creating our collective we looked for diverse servant
leaders who didn’t need their flag at the top of the mountain, and
who were very skilled at their craft.
- Deep rooted behavior change is not easy. It’s not going to
happen overnight or in a year, and it might not even happen in your
lifetime. So in creating a movement you need to think long
- Get your first followers. Don’t push it on people, pull them
in. And when they come, focus on them, not on who you don’t
- It has to be bigger than you. Surround yourself with
like-minded people, and then sift through to see who actually means
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