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Small Town to Big League with Exercise Science

A degree in Exercise Science from the University of Tasmania has led Wynyard lad Mat Young to the highest level in professional sport analytics in the United States.


He’s just been on the phone to a world top 20 tennis player (he’s not able to reveal names!), dashed out of the office to grab dinner from his local delicatessen in Boston, Massachusetts before checking his calendar to see whether he needs to be in Los Angeles or New York next week, and yet Mat Young has made time to take a phone call and reminisce about his university days in Launceston, Tasmania.

You never know where a degree in exercise science from the University of Tasmania will take you.

Mat works for global sports performance analytics company, Catapult Sports. The business provides technology to 2970 teams across 39 sports in 137 countries to help them perform at their best. He’s the business development manager for AMS (Athlete Management System) and MLS (Major League Soccer), based in Boston.

It’s a long way, both literally and metaphorically, from Wynyard, Tasmania where he grew up.

“I played a lot of sport; footy on a Saturday, basketball on a Sunday," said Mat.

“It’s what you did in a small community.

“It was a big move to head to Launceston for university after completing year 12 at Marist Regional College in Burnie, but it opened up a world of opportunities.

You might not know what you want to do before or even while you’re at uni so don’t pigeon hole yourself because your career can go in so many different directions.

Mat was a student in the University of Tasmania’s first Bachelor of Exercise Science cohort, studying from 2007-2010 on campus, full-time.

“There were 25 of us and we became really close; many I am still in contact with, including my lecturers.”

During his time at university, Mat was a primary research assistant working with Dr Scott Pedersen on a motor learning project in adolescents for the School of Human Life Sciences.

“We were able to find that mid-line crossing movements, that is, bouncing a ball from the right hand to the left hand, improved reaction time, especially in adolescents with learning disorders.

“This meant that we could work with the kids to help them get back up to speed and join in playing sport and games with peers, which is huge for their social framework in primary school.”

Practical placements with the Tasmanian Institute of Sport (TIS), Coastal Physiotherapy and Diabetes Tasmania provided Mat with real-world learning and led to future employment in workplace occupational rehabilitation.

The transition from exercise science into business development occurred following a move to Melbourne in 2012 to work for CGU Insurance in injury management, and later led to starting up a consulting division for a corporate health company called, Cogent Thinking.

“I’ve had an interest in business since I was a little kid; my parents owned and operated a bookstore in Burnie for more than 25 years, and Dad holds an MBA from UTAS.”

In 2016, Mat secured an account management role with Catapult Sports in Melbourne focused on driving the growth of the company throughout Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He moved to the United States to take on the business development role in August 2018.

It’s a world foreign to most; Mat works with some of the globe’s highest paid pro sports coaches and athletes.

“You can’t be star-struck," said Mat.

“We’re often speaking with performance staff, sports medicine staff and coaches, and can be fitting wearable devices to athletes at training, or right before a game.

“It’s a heightened atmosphere and athletes are often superstitious, so you can’t be a distraction to them ahead of the big match.”

The original ‘dream’ was to work as a team performance manager, but Mat says a degree in exercise science has opened even more doors.

Most of my competitors come purely from a business background, but I definitely feel that the strong and diverse understanding of human performance that I learnt during my degree is a huge advantage.

Mat’s a self-declared average student (“Are you going to ask me my marks?” He laughs!), but that hasn’t stopped him pursuing further formal education qualifications. He’s currently studying for a graduate certificate in strategic management through Harvard Extension School.

It’s a busy life, but Mat is planning to come home for just a few days this Christmas. It’s at least a 23-hour journey from Tasmania to Boston but one he is keen to make, as it brings him closer to family and friends, and he can also catch up on the local footy news.

A former strength and conditioning coach with Aussie rules outfit, North Launceston Football Club, Mat is passionate about seeing Tasmania have it’s own side in the AFL in the near future.

“When Tassie finally gets the side that we all deserve, I'd love to move back and use the skills and knowledge I've been lucky enough to pick up across the globe over the past ten years and help start up the team.”

Mat, we might just hold you to that!