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Leaders Of Transformation | Conscious Business | Global Transformation | Leadership Development


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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 countries. 

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 $10M.

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 experience
  • Why you don’t want your child to specialize in one sport all year
  • The fundamental issues hurting youth sports participation around the world
  • How to operationalize development pathways for all stakeholders
  • Important elements for anyone thinking of starting a movement
  • How to build a collective to further your movement’s initiatives

Key Takeaways

  1. What youth sports has become – to summarize – is the desire to win at all costs, to focus on the win over the development.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 exclusive club.
  4. Studies shows that parents want safety, fair play, friendly competition, opportunity for their son or daughter, and they want development.
  5. Athletes want fun, friends, fair play, friendly competition, and to finish the season with more skills than when they started.
  6. We create development pathways elsewhere, but in youth sports we just show up, pay our money and expect that someone knows what’s going on.
  7. We need to hold volunteers to a higher standard, just like we do elsewhere.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 transformation.
  10. 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.
  11. 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 making.
  12. Lack of fundamental movement skills – run, jump, kick, catch, two-handed throw, and strike. In our increasingly automated environment, that is being marginalized.
  13. 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?
  14. Early sports specialization is turning sports into a job for kids. That’s not what kids want.
  15. 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.
  16. 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 want.
  17. 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.
  18. If you want to make a collective impact, be intentional about making it a collective impact.
  19. For any movement to be sustainable, people have to see themselves in the leadership of the movement.
  20. 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.
  21. 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 term.
  22. 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 have.
  23. It has to be bigger than you. Surround yourself with like-minded people, and then sift through to see who actually means collaboration.

Episode Resources

Connect With Matthew Young