About: Matt works for a youth project that exists to support, encourage, provide new opportunities for, and grow confidence in local boys aged 11-18. As part of his role he leads various mountain biking activities at Leeds Urban Bike Park, providing boys and young men with a physical and emotional outlet.
Working within inner South Leeds used to mean that a sports session was bringing a football and goals to a field, or a basketball to a concrete court. This all changed when an abandoned golf course was repurposed to become a state-of-the-art mountain bike trail centre. As a youth worker who loves mountain biking, I knew this was a brilliant opportunity to help young people access a new sport as well as support them with their emotional and mental wellbeing.
Off the back of our core sports sessions we offer young people mentoring programs and various group sessions to help boys with the issues they are facing in their lives. That might be: anger problems, anxiety, or risks of criminal exploitation and grooming.
Sport is a fantastic way of dealing with a whole host of issues and I’ve worked with a whole range of boys. From cocky and cheeky chappies who can wheelie for hours, to nervous, quiet and anxious young people who barely say a word when you first meet them. Despite the differences in young people, we have never had a young person who by the end of our six-week program, hasn’t grown immensely in their confidence to ride as well as in their confidence within themselves.
There’s something freeing and disarming about going through a shared experience where adrenaline and a small touch of fear are involved.
As a youth worker, I’m passionate about building effective relationships with young people that go beyond the activity itself. When riding a bike with a group of young people, it’s never been easier than to talk to them, to ask questions and to know them on a deeper level. There’s something freeing and disarming about going through a shared experience where adrenaline and a small touch of fear are involved.
Mountain biking offers these young people a unique setting to overcome obstacles, push through fear and see a direct improvement to their abilities week after week. Having the opportunity to fly around berms and fly high over jumps gives our young people a real outlet for fun and accomplishment that they’re not necessarily experiencing in other areas of their lives.
The combination of a physical outlet through mountain biking and an emotional outlet through talking and sharing parts of their life has proved to be a really effective formula in helping boys deal with some of their emotional strongholds, such as deep-rooted anger issues and anxiety. Helping them see that they are capable of learning a new skill, and that they can work to overcome problems that they are facing, whether that’s a rocky section of riding or a rocky patch in their life, can have powerful long-term implications.
Helping them see that they are capable of learning a new skill, and that they can work to overcome problems that they are facing... can have powerful long-term implications.
Everyone needs an outlet and everyone needs the opportunity to talk to someone they trust. Mountain biking has provided the opportunity to support local boys in our area in a way we’ve never been able to before.
Thanks for sharing your story Matt
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