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In the Ring Unafraid: Wrestling with Your Dreams with MMA Fighter Matt Lindland

by | Mar 20, 2019 | Competing with Character, podcast, Season 1 | 0 comments

Every time you challenge yourself you get less fearful.

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About This Episode

Matt Lindland always dreamed of competing at the Olympic level, but maybe not in the sport you’d expect. Having grown up in the country, his notoriety as a athlete was in equestrian events, not mixed martial arts. Matt was one of the best riders in his state and desperately wanted to compete nationally, but his family could not financially swing such an involved sport. When one of his high school gym teachers encouraged him to wrestle, he decided to give it a try. He finished his first season and had fallen in love with the sport. Soon after, he was invited to compete in a Greco-Roman Invitational and, with no experience in that style, enrolled in four different categories. He finished 0-8 that weekend and walked away knowing that he would need both a coach and a lot of work if his dreams were to come true.

Matt found his way to a local club where it just so happened that the 1984 Olympic Wrestling team coach worked. Lindland wasn’t heavily recruited after high school, so took time to attend a junior college and continue his training. The hard work paid off, as he went on to win Nationals and soon had a contract with the University of Nebraska. He made a name for himself his first year as a Cornhusker, going 38-0 through the regular season. Despite his stellar record that year, he lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Whether it was due to dropping too much weight or training too hard, he didn’t peak at the right time to snag a podium spot. After his eligibility was up, he returned home to Oregon with his wife. He trained and coached in the Portland area before accepting an offer to move to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs just two weeks after his daughter was born.

He spent the next four years getting a diverse training experience with the other 24 wrestlers at the center. They traveled internationally and competed around the world – something Matt credits with expanding his style, tactics, and relationships in the wrestling world. After four successful years at the center, he was invited into a coaching position by the University of Nebraska. Excited about the opportunity to pour into younger athletes while continuing to train himself, Matt accepted the position. He was a coach, mentor, competitor, and father during his years in Nebraska. Doors began opening for him to pursue MMA fighting, but he put those on hold to focus on the Olympics – one of his ultimate dreams.

His road to the Olympic team wasn’t easy, however. A misjudged match during the Olympic trials led to a long, drawn out legislative battle. After he was given a re-match and defeated his opponent 9-0, he was finally appointed to the Olympic Team by a Federal judge at the Supreme Court level. But the controversy was not over. Even as he walked into the Opening Ceremony at the 2000 Olympics, the case was being re-arbitrated in International Court. Through the entire process Matt could have been removed from the team at any moment, but continued to train as though he was headed to the mat in Sydney. His hard work and focus paid off as he was not only given the green light to compete, but walked away with a silver medal at the games. His nickname “The Law” was born from the unprecedented judicial intervention required.

On the heels of a successful Olympics, Lindland went on to medal at the World Championships in Japan. Knowing what he was capable of and with the pressure removed, he was able to simply enjoy competing. He transitioned to Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) with the UFC and navigated the ins and outs of a sport that was developing and implementing new rules as well as growing rapidly. Seeking to make a career out of wrestling, Lindland expanded to stunt driving and coordinating fight scenes for movies, opened his own gym in Portland, and continued coaching on the side.

Matt has never been one to back down from a fight, even outside of the ring. In 2008 he discovered that no one from his district was running for the seat in the State House of Representatives. Committed to his community, he stepped up and registered as a candidate. Though he lost in the general election, he appreciated support from his district and the opportunity to invest in it.

As if he couldn’t diversify his talents anymore, while in Oregon a white water rafting team approached him about using space in his gym to train in the off season and invited him to try out the sport sometime. What began as an adventurous outing became “my favorite sporting experience,” Matt confides. The team went on to win seven tournaments and went to the National Championship. Through juggling multiple professional sports, a business, coaching, a horse ranch, and a family, Matt credits his wife with being his steadiness through the storm. “Whatever you want to achieve, you need someone who is a partner with you to navigate the rough waters,” he says.

In 2014 he welcome another new opportunity: coach of the National Greco-Roman Wrestling Team. At this stage in his career, more than anything, Matt appreciates the privilege and responsibility of being a coach. His focus isn’t solely on developing strong athletes, but strong characters, leadership, and integrity. Despite being tough on the mat, Lindland recognizes the crippling struggle with identity, emotional issues, and relational security of so many young athletes. “It’s hard to go through life scared,” he says. “I want young people to know that they are loved and matter more than their sport.” And his coaching style reflects this. He takes his athletes on team building trips, develops retreats that don’t include actual wrestling at all, challenges them in areas outside of their comfort zones, and pursues building one on one relationships aside from training. “Every time you challenge yourself you get less fearful,” says Matt. Whether that is a new training regimen, a new job, a new relationship, or a new level of honesty with oneself, in testing the bounds we become less fearful of what could happen, less focused on our limitations.

Matt’s life has always reflected the magic of chasing what is possible, of confronting new obstacles bravely, and of facing challenges with fists ready.

Follow more of Matt Lindland on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and be especially inspired by his Leadership Series on his YouTube Channel.

 

Read Episode Transcript

Laura:

[00:00:06] Welcome to the hope sports podcast where each week we have the privilege of hearing from an elite athlete about what made them fall in love with their sport. What parts of their journey were the most challenging and how they find purpose and meaning in their lives outside of medal counts and competitions. This week we not only have an amazing athlete but just one of the most multitalented individuals that I know of. You may know Matt Lindland as a UFC fighter but like me. You may not know about the original sport he wanted to pursue. Or how he owns multiple businesses or that he once ran for political office. Or how it took a Supreme Court ruling to get him on the U.S. Olympic team. Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. You’re in store for a fascinating episode as Matt shares his journey and how he kept pursuing dream after dream as they came his way. Thanks for joining me. Now let’s dive on in.

 

[00:00:56] Alright Matt Lindland thank you so much for joining us at the hope sports podcast.

 

Matt:

[00:01:00] Absolutely. My pleasure. I’m excited.

 

Laura:

[00:01:02] Well let’s just get right to it. So for those that are listening to that may not be as familiar with your background. Can you tell us a little bit how you got started into sports?

 

Matt:

[00:01:10] Well I got started in the sports because I was rural a boy I lived in the country and I grew up you know as an equestrian athlete. I thought I was gonna.

 

Laura:

[00:01:21] Really?

 

Matt:

[00:01:23] Yes really. I thought I was going to compete in the Olympics and either eventing or showjumping or steeplechase or I just. All I ever did from that time I was. From my first memory, I was on a horse and I was probably one of the bus rides. I was one of the best riders in my state and looking to go to the regionals and hoping to go to the Nationals. And my parents informed me that we were poor people and find a new sport. And so I discovered wrestling in high school. And it was very interesting because our gym coach you know he had wrestling and part of the curriculum is the gym class. And so you know of course they’re like oh man you’re great. You should come out for the team you know. So I was a 98 lbs freshman in high school going out for the wrestling team and I just really fell in love with the sport. And after the season that year when one of our head coaches handed us a fire and was like Yeah there’s this freestyle and Roman Greco. And I asked my assistant coach if he knew anything about this Roman Greco thing and he was like I do know that it’s called Greco Roman. And I could probably help you prepare for it but that wasn’t his expertise. And so I went to the tournament and I don’t know if many people have ever done this and gone 8 and 0 and one weekend. Because I entered both the freestyle and both the Graco and Junior and cadet age groups. So. And I.

 

Laura:

[00:02:58] All in one way. How did you have the energy for that?

 

Matt:

[00:03:00] Well you know some of the masters were pretty quick. I just got thrown on my back and then.

 

Laura:

[00:03:07] Wow. Amazing.

 

Matt:

[00:03:07] But also I went on at 8 and I realized that I needed to find a club that had some more lead training. Lo and Behold I show up at this club and the coach at the club was the 1984 Olympic wrestling coach.  And I had amazing coaches at this club every one of my coaches. The head coach there Marc Sprague was an incredible mentor still a mentor of mine to this day. And I owe him a call because I’m working with one of his athletes now. He’s 75 and still coaching wrestling.

 

Laura:

[00:03:49] That’s awesome.

 

Matt:

[00:03:50] Yeah but you know it took a lot of years to figure out how to do this sport and to get to the level that I wanted to so. Coming out of high school I wasn’t a big recruit or anything. So I ended up going to a junior college and I ended up winning a national title. And I did get recruited to a college finally and I went to the University of Nebraska. I had some success there. I was the number one ranked athlete in the country and I was 36-0 going into the national tournament. I lost that first round.

 

Laura:

[00:04:23] Oh my gosh!

 

Matt:

[00:04:23] And so I was not an all-American I wasn’t even a placer that year

 

Laura:

[00:04:29] Was OK OK. So you win the junior college like nationals then you go to a D1 school. You’re 36-0. You’re ranked number one and you lose in the first round at the NCAA. Like what. I mean were you shocked? Like were you. I just. I mean how did you handle that like what was that like?

 

Matt:

[00:04:47] It was a culmination of a lot of things I think it was a long season. They didn’t recover me well. They didn’t trust me. They wanted me to cut 158lbs and I was probably about 170ish you know? And it was a long season and they didn’t pick me at the right time. And that’s you know partially my fault but I was a young athlete and still trying to figure this out. And you know change some things up. And so after my eligibility my wife and I and our son we moved back to Oregon which is where I’m from. And she was. She’s from Oregon too and she wants to move back there and. I was want to stay in Lincoln and possibly finish up my degree at that time. And you know keep wrestling at the college. But she was ready to move back to Oregon. And I was there for a year I was a coach to three different clubs. I was trying to squeeze training in between. And I actually got invited to move to Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center. And we waited till my daughter was born and then two weeks later we moved to Colorado Springs.

 

Laura:

[00:05:54] Wow! Wow! So how? OK. How long had you been wrestling at that point when you got invited to Colorado Springs?

 

Matt:

[00:06:00] So I started in 85 and this was 94

 

Laura:

[00:06:06] OK. Wow! So that’s very cool. Now. OK. For your age, cause you seem to start late and you started in high school. And that seems kind of was that kind of late?

 

Matt:

[00:06:13] I think it is pretty late for you know a lot of guys. But you know in my experience I think there’s like a really good 10year window. You know like you know. And you can be really good in high school or college and then you’re kind of done. And since I started late it allowed me to continue on. And I didn’t win my first medal till I was 30

 

Laura:

[00:06:38] Oh wow. That’s awesome. So what. OK. What was training at the Olympic Training Center like? I mean that’s something people just dream of you know. What was that like?

 

Matt:

[00:06:46] It was exciting. I was moving out to Colorado Springs and you know I got out here. And at that time you know things have changed here in Colorado Springs with the amount of athletes they actually will how is it. That time I think we get over I think it was like 24-26 of us. Lots of training partners lots of opportunities to travel internationally and compete all over the world. And just you know chase our dreams and do what we love to do. And it was a credible opportunity but it was also very difficult. And so after 3 years 3 and a half years of doing that my former coach at Nebraska offered to hire me for a job. And I wasn’t quite sure because I needed to have you know I needed training. I needed to get to international tournaments I needed training partners and he offered to do all those things. And so I ended up moving to Lincoln and my last four years of wrestling right up to the Olympics was that whole quad I was training out of Nebraska. And at that time getting to mentor other athletes.

 

Laura:

[00:07:56] OK. Now, this is awesome. So you are coaching, your training, you have a wife, you have two children, and didn’t you also start doing MMA stuff around this time?

 

Matt:

[00:08:07] I did. Yeah.

 

Laura:

[00:08:10] How did you do all this stuff?

 

Matt:

[00:08:12] I took three flights in MMA in 1997 right after I moved in Nebraska. And I realized that I was going to be a lot of fun but it was gonna be you know pretty much the same kind of journey. And so I took those three flights all relatively close. I think two of them were on one night the other one was like a month away. And I put that on hold because I knew that to reach my goals and wrestling and get on the podium it was gonna take a lot of sacrifices. A lot of discipline. And I couldn’t really split my time between doing MMA. So I really put that on hold. But the games were in October that year and December I started the fight in the UFC.

 

Laura:

[00:08:55] Wow. OK. So the Olympics were the big goal the big dream. Like what was it like finally getting there and being in that environment. Like, take us through that.

 

Matt:

[00:09:04] Well Laura it was quite the process. I don’t know how much research you did but there was a court case too for me to get on the Olympic team.

 

Laura:

[00:09:15] Oh wait isn’t this right? You got your nickname through this, didn’t you?

 

Matt:

[00:09:17] I did.

 

Laura:

[00:09:19] So what. OK. [00:09:20] What was that all like? But that was part of qualifying for the team?

 

Matt:

[00:09:23] The shows only you know half hour 40 minutes. That longer time. But I’ll give you the really short version. The Olympic trials were misjudged. They didn’t apply the rules properly at the Olympic trials. And then they didn’t allow me to protest. They said it was a judgment call and I said it was a misapplication and there was just you we’re splitting hairs there. You know it’s judgment its a misapplication. And so they refused to give me due process at the Olympic trials. And so my only recourse was to go to the Greco-Roman sports committee and have my case heard in front of my peers and the Greco-Roman sports committee there. They make a committee up and then they started pulling members off of the committee that may have had bias. Well, that’s why you have a committee is because everybody has bias. And so you have multiple people but you can’t pull people off the committee that you think may vote one way or the other because they may have a bias. So again I was denied due process I went to an arbitrator and this was my last chance. The arbitrator ordered the match be re-wrestled. I beat the opponent 9 to 0. Now if you beat your opponent by 8 the match is over. But at that time it was 10. So it was pretty close to know to technical superiority. And then the real fun happened. They didn’t make me to the team.

 

Laura:

[00:10:55] Even after you beat him in the rematch?

 

Matt:

[00:10:57] Yeah. They were they did not name me to the team. And so we had to go to a federal judge and they forced the United States Olympic Committee and USA wrestling to put me on the team. And then once I got on the team they allowed the case to be radically arbitrated. And that is the oddest thing because arbitration is final and binding.

 

Laura:

[00:11:20] Right. Oh my gosh. That’s super sad.

 

Matt:

[00:11:20] The case was arbitrated. See I tell you this a long story. It’s crazy. The other day the case while ultimately went to the United States Supreme Court. And they upheld the ruling of the federal judge and I left for processing that same day. I got the ruling and we processed in San Diego that year.

 

Laura:

[00:11:43] So when were your trials? And then what was the timeline with all of these cases up until we left? Because like it was in September. We left it was like the end of September when the Olympics started. So when were your trials?

 

Matt:

[00:11:56] Elsewhere in June.

 

Laura:

[00:11:57] OK. Wow. How did you keep your head straight during all of that?

 

Matt:

[00:12:02] You know I. It was difficult. It was very difficult but I had a vision I had goals and I have faith. Oh, a lot of Arizona. And just you know to stand strong. I mean there were definitely moments where I wasn’t sure. And I just kept training through the whole process.

 

Laura:

[00:12:24] Did you have like I mean support around you? Did you kind of feel all alone at that point?

 

Matt:

[00:12:29] Well I feel pretty alone. But I you know I have a wonderful life that I’ve been married to for 27 years and I have two children that love me. And I have some great coaches that that supported me. But you know nobody could tell me Hey you for sure you’re gonna get this spot. You know we just kept praying and hoping that that was the case and you just kept training through this whole process. And then when I got to Australia we went to a city a couple of hours away in Canberra and had our acclimation camp. The day I walked in opening some ceremonies they were gonna be arbitrating the case in the International Court of Arbitration for Sport.

 

Laura:

[00:13:11] Are you serious?

 

Matt:

[00:13:12] Yeah. The day I was walking opening ceremonies. So this thing was like never gonna end. And fortunately, they woke a federal judge up in Chicago at like 3:00 in the morning. You know they were calling from Australia and he said you know what you guys won you beat me. Just know that if you plan on coming back to the United States we’ll have air marshals waiting for you in contempt. And so if you guys choose to do this you know go ahead. But they ended up not going forward with that last case and I wrestled the games and made it to the finals and got a silver medal that year.

 

Laura:

[00:13:52] Which is amazing. Amazing. I mean what. Ok. What was the experience like to be in the Olympics? You walked in the opening ceremony is greeted with this cloud hanging over you. But like were you able to at least enjoy that and soak in that Olympic spirit or what was that like? Take us through that.

 

Matt:

[00:14:06] Now it was. You know what I had some great training partners. I had one of my best friends dearest friend. He was an alternative. He did not make the team that year. He was away class below me. He was one of my training partners at every camp. And he left camp early went to Sydney and got an apartment right next to the venue that had saunas and a place to recover. And relax in between rounds and before the weigh-ins. And so you know I just really kind of pulled myself away and just surrounded myself with loved ones and people that really cared about me and supported me. I didn’t really get into the whole Olympic thing. My kids were pretty young. They were four and six at the time and my wife was there and they were staying there. And I just remember the one night though. My daughter and my son and my wife came to visit me and my daughter says you’re going to go home with us tonight. And I was like yes. Yes! So excited.

 

Laura:

[00:15:16] They were things in real perspective, did they?

 

Matt:

[00:15:18] You know they do and they help us keep things in perspective. And a lot of what’s really important and that was really what was important to me. It wasn’t the after parties it wasn’t the opening ceremonies in the village. And I mean those things are great. And I met Muhammad Ali in the village and I mean that was cool things that happened at the games. But ultimately it was just you know being able to have that opportunity to compete and you know try to try to pursue my highest goals for the for my career.

 

Laura:

[00:15:51] That’s awesome. That’s awesome. And the next year you got a silver at the World Cup and I think that’s when you retired after that, right?

 

Matt:

[00:15:57] Next year was the World Championships.

 

Laura:

[00:15:59] World Championships. OK.

 

Matt:

[00:16:00] And I moved up a weight class because I was almost done. I started fighting right after the Olympics. The games were in early October and I fought early December in the UFC in Japan that year. And I started fighting throughout that year and the World Championships were going to be held in New York City in September of 2001. And so I had a great training camp and I was getting ready to go to the World Championships and somebody crashed some planes into the World Trade Center. And so they cancelled the worlds they postponed it till December. So I had a new training camp and new preparation and really enjoyable process honestly even through what was going on in the world and everything. The fact that I was just having fun and enjoying it because I really at that point didn’t care of I made the team. I just wanted to go compete and have fun and I didn’t carry all that pressure of wanting to win wanting to win and. I was able to put things in a better perspective. I was a little older. I’ve already won a medal at the Olympics. I knew what I was capable of doing but I wasn’t sure that I knew weight class. I was moving up you know from 76 kilos to 87 kilos. It was quite a jump.

 

Laura:

[00:17:27] Oh wow. Mm-hmm. That’s cool. That’s cool. So following that you went kind of full time into UFC staff right? And that was kind of new at that time wasn’t it?

 

Matt:

[00:17:37] It was pretty new. It was not owned by the current owners at the time. And the current owners you know the Fertitta brothers and Dana White. Those guys weren’t involved back then. But after my first fight they had purchased the company and started making some big changes. And you know with a lot of the rules were just coming into place. You know my first fights were there was like three rules no biting no eye gouging and I think you can attack somebody in the groin. And I was like.

 

Laura:

[00:18:08] And that’s it. Those are the only rules.

 

Matt:

[00:18:10] That was it you know. And as things progressed they started putting in more rules and made it more of a sport. And now it’s a worldwide sport.

 

Laura:

[00:18:19] that’s so cool to be part of something like it’s inception like that. Well I guess. Why did you decide to be done with wrestling and go into more of this mixed martial arts kind of arena?

 

Matt:

[00:18:30] The living and an athlete.

 

Laura:

[00:18:32] I wish you wouldn’t do that. Come on.

 

Matt:

[00:18:35] There wasn’t a lot of prize money in wrestling and you know. You know it’s in the name price fighter you know so I was like OK I’m going to go fight for a prize. And I just. I had a different perspective on things it was like Yeah I want to be the best in the world but I also want to make a living doing what I love to do. And that allowed me to do that.

 

Laura:

[00:18:58] That’s awesome. We don’t have much of that opportunity in diving like now. A lot of people go into kind of Cirque du Soleil type stuff. That’s kind of our diving after they’re done with their Olympic runs or their college runs. They’re all kind of going into the circus shows now our performances on back of cruise ships and things. It’s kinda crazy.

 

Matt:

[00:19:16] Make a decent living such thing? Okay.

 

Laura:

[00:19:17] Well yeah. Well not quite that much I don’t think. But they make a living. So yeah I hear you. So now I heard you also were a stunt man in some TV shows and films. Like what was. As an acrobat I’ve always wanted to do that. I always thought that would be so awesome. Is as cool as I think it is.

 

Matt:

[00:19:36] Honestly. Yes if you prefer.

 

Laura:

[00:19:40] Yes! I love hearing that.

 

Matt:

[00:19:41] I got to do some fight scenes. I had some opportunities to drive cars in New York City when they shut the streets down and use some different things like that on leverage. I did this one show called The tap out job. And it was great because they asked me to actually coordinate the fight scenes throughout. It was a television show that one but I’ve done some film as well. And I brought a lot of guys from my gym was like oh we need backup guy we need background people hidden bags and in the gym. And you know we need some preliminary fights so you know I got to hire you know a lot of people and coordinate some stuff. But that really was a lot of fun. But I never wanted to be famous. That was never a goal of mine. I enjoyed the work. I enjoyed doing the stunt work and being on camera and be on set. That was fun. But then it was never a goal of mine to be famous. So I just didn’t continue to pursue that as much as I probably could have if that was really what I was driven to do. I was still fighting at the time. So it was in between fights. It was just an opportunity to make some extra cash and do some fun and exciting.

 

Laura:

[00:21:05] Well you did a lot of fun and exciting things. I love how one thing keeps taking you to the next thing and you also took a little dip into politics. So I have to ask was that fighting rougher than like being in the octagon?

 

Matt:

[00:21:16] Oh my gosh. Politics so annoying. And you know I ran as a conservative and I’m barely a conservative. And I’m leaning way more conservative than I do liberal. But I’m like this like almost anarchist libertarian. I’m like that far right? I’m farther right than most conservatives but in a more freedom kind of way. So it was interesting. I won a primary a very heated primary. And the thing was you know they didn’t have anybody running for my seat in my district. And I was running for a State House seat. And so the last day of filing I’ve put my name on the computer and I started getting all these calls like why are you doing this? Who are you? What do you do? I was like well I’m going to represent my community and my people and what we got.

 

Laura:

[00:22:12] So was this not really like thought through? Like you just kind of on a whim nobody’s running I should run or haven’t thought about this?

 

Matt:

[00:22:17] It was my strength coach and I we talked about it for months. Like you know I wonder if anybody’s going to fill that seat. You know like you know and then like that morning after a workout I went home got on my computer and registered to run for the seat. And then all of a sudden they’re like oh we’ve got somebody. I said well that’s great if you got somebody you know let me out and I’ll support them if I get on board. But you know I wasn’t into I don’t know how to put this any other way. But you know that the opponent was running against me was really pro-abortion. And that was kind of one of my big issues was I’m pro-life I’m very pro-life. So that was a hard thing for me to get over I said I can’t support this individual and I’m going to have to try to run against her. So I did that and then I lost the general election on a two point margin.

 

Laura:

[00:23:22] Wow.

 

Matt:

[00:23:22] Yeah I did my whatever into politics a little bit.

 

Laura:

[00:23:30] Well I love that you stand up for what you believe in and you are not afraid of a fight whether it’s in the ring or in the office. That’s awesome. I love it.

 

Matt:

[00:23:37] You left out my probably my most favorite sport that I took up after this. You know what it was?

 

Laura:

[00:23:42] Oh no. What?

 

Matt:

[00:23:45] I raised professionally Whitewater.

 

Laura:

[00:23:48] Whitewater. OK. How did that happen?

 

Matt:

[00:23:51] OK. This is a great story because I have a gym. I have a martial arts school in Portland and it’s also a fitness center. And this team of Whitewater racers asked me if I would donate some space for them to train in the offseason. While they couldn’t do whitewater training if they could get in my gym and do strength and conditioning. And so I gave them some space and some time. We have a pretty big martial arts studio we have like two different mat rooms. Like we can have a kickboxing class going on in one room and a jiu jitsu or grappling class and the other and then I have a fitness area. And our fitness classes run 4 or 5 and 6 and so our martial arts classes go till like 9:00 o’clock at night. So I gave the the raft team my space and said Yeah come on in we’re still training and nobody’s in the fitness area you guys can use that. And then they invited me to go watch a race and then they convinced me to get in the boat with on that day and.

 

Laura:

[00:24:56] Of course. I’m guessing you are not hard to convince.

 

Matt:

[00:24:59] No no no. I was like I lost my whitewater sir. Let’s go. And then the next weekend I start racing with that team. And I won seven regional titles which is the western region. Which is like basically the entire West Coast Washington, California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana that whole area where there is water.

 

Laura:

[00:25:25] And so how long had you been doing it when you started winning all the titles?

 

Matt:

[00:25:29] I got on a really good team and we just started winning but we never won the nationals we were second one year in third twice.

 

Laura:

[00:25:41] Man! So is this why you were coaching full time so you weren’t still also fighting or were you still.

 

Matt:

[00:25:47] Still fighting MMA.

 

Laura:

[00:25:48] Of course you were.

 

Matt:

[00:25:49] And I was coaching and I had a ranch with 16 horses and.

 

Laura:

[00:25:57] Wow. And I’m starting to think your wife must be pretty incredible too. To like hold down the fort and the kids and everything else. I’m sure.

 

Matt:

[00:26:06] My wife is amazing she she surprises me every day you know with her. Just her kindness and generosity and her love and we’re just down Oregon for the holidays. We live in Colorado Springs now because I’m the national coach for the Greco-Roman Olympic team. And my kids they still live in Oregon. They’re 24 and 26 now. We went back there to visit our kids and my wife’s father’s dying and. He’s just not a not a nice person at all and never was a great father but she is like an amazing daughter. Like she was just out there every other day we were driving two hours to the coast. And she was taking care of his affairs and his nurses and his hospice and his bills. And just being patient and kind and loving and I was just. She just impressed me more and more every day. So yeah she is a wonderful person. And you need that kind of support when you’re whatever you’re doing in life. I mean whatever you want to achieve in life you need somebody that’s a partner with you and can help you navigate the rough waters.

 

Laura:

[00:27:20] Definitely. Definitely. And now like you mentioned you are now the head Team USA wrestling coach since like 2014 right?

 

Matt:

[00:27:28] Yes I took the job in 2014 right before the World Championships. And now I served on one Olympics in Rio and that was a lot of fun. But we didn’t come back with any medals that year. And last year we got a silver medal at the World Championships and we’ve got two other bronze medals from one individual. And now it’s a lot of team building. I mean you’re dealing with. You’ve dealt with a lot of young men that they’re not you know like they don’t trust people they don’t. Because I think there’s this a huge father crisis. I just think there’s a lot of dads that have abandoned these young men and they’re like tough guys. But they’re really not tough. The tough men on the mats but in life they just have a lot of difficulties because they don’t trust people. They don’t know how to be loved because they’ve never been loved necessarily and they don’t know you know just as. It’s hard. It’s hard working with some of these young guys nowadays. Because there’s a lot of guys that just come from these broken families. And they all seem to end up in the sport of wrestling or MMA.

 

Laura:

[00:28:49] Alright. Well I guess it’s a good outlet that way at least. But I mean do you find yourself when you’re coaching. Is it more than technique and stuff that you’re having to work on their their hearts and their minds more?

 

Matt:

[00:28:59] That’s exactly what you know that was part of the reason I wanted to take our guys down to Mexico to build homes with the hope sports. And I just want to understand that they’re more than just an athlete. They’re you know there are people that are valued. They’re you know God loves them and. But it’s you know it’s tough to share that message you know all the time with guys. You just gonna do it by example and by showing them that you care about them. But yeah we work on a lot of character strength stuff. We have a lot of different times where we’re meeting about this camp that’s coming up. I mean we identified five areas that my athletes identified. I know I put them in a room and I sat him down and I put them into small groups I said come back. You know there’s got to be some things that we can get better as a team. And I’m not talking about wrestling I’m not talking about conditioning or skills or techniques. I’m talking about what do we need to get better as a team and our athletes did a really good job identifying the five areas. And one of them was first of all was communication. And then it was trust and respect for a sense of urgency, professionalism, and image. Because they know that they’re not always doing the right things. So we talk about these things but it’s like we’ve got to leave these things and we’ve got to day in day out. And so we’re working on some things this camp that’s coming up. Every day has got a different theme. One day is communication and we’re going to have morning briefings we’re gonna have the evening meetings. And in the middle of the day we’re going to train wrestling.

 

Laura:

[00:30:40] Mm-hmm. That’s great. So I guess you’re working with the coaches too on hitting kind of those those things as well is that right?

 

Matt:

[00:30:47] Yes.

 

Laura:

[00:30:48] Awesome. Well and I love on your Web site. As I was stalking you for this podcast. That’s what my favorite things to do with really cool people. You had this really cool blog post titled A coach’s prayer. And I love your heart to serve and to raise up your athletes and your kids I imagine. It’s just awesome. And so since we’re on this podcast you know we strive to get to kind of the heart of purpose in people’s lives either through or beyond their performance. And I’d love you to address that specifically for us? Like how do you help the athletes that you coach or the coaches that you coach even? Like know that their identities not just wrapped up in their results at the end of the competition. Like how do you help them find that purpose beyond their performance?

 

Matt:

[00:31:28] Well I think a lot of those. You know every year since I’ve been the coach we go out to Oregon for our base camp. After the team is made I’ll get the guys recovering for a week and resting up. And then we were gonna say like we’re going to jumpstart things with conditioning. So I tell him we’re going to go out and do a lot of strength conditioning we’re not going to do a lot of mat work going to stay off the mat. But during those times you know we go take him whitewater rafting you know. I take him out in nature and we would do hikes. I mean I just think it’s so important to get out and see what God created and just be in his. Because most of my athletes are urban men. They come from you know Chicago and New York and you know bigger cities. And so it’s a really unique experience to get them out there. And I just had Ellis Coleman one of my athletes and his wife over for dinner and as his young daughter she’s three and. I mean it’s just I think it’s just those type of things you know building relationships with your athletes one on one, small groups, small teams. But you know I mean as a national team coach I mean I’ve got 30 guys that are on national team. So it’s hard to have those one on ones when you have those camps. So you’ve got to Ellis lives and down and I just invite them over a couple weeks ago. It’s like Hey what day it is when I come over dinner it’s like I’m looking forward to this. Great! You know? And so it’s stuff like that I mean I bought some lawn furniture that came from amazon I had to put it together. It is like Ikea put together stuff.

 

Laura:

[00:33:08] Oh yes. Like everything in our house.

 

Matt:

[00:33:11] This is basically like Ikea lawn furniture. You know I asked one of my guys you know hey you come over and I hand them a little screws. And he’s putting them in and we’re just having conversations. It’s finding those times just where it’s not scheduled is not planned. It’s just you know how we put my furniture together come over for dinner. You know let’s go for a hike. It’s those things. And I did take a small group down in Mexico and that was great. And they got to see me interact with my daughter and her boyfriend. And every year when we go to camp in Oregon my daughter comes over. And they she brings the board games and we have a board game night with the team. And those things are really important. I think they go a long ways.

 

Laura:

[00:34:04] Yeah definitely. And I know you mentioned the hope sports builds a couple of times. If you guys aren’t familiar with that hope sports is a great organization. They bring down athletes to build homes for the poor in Mexico. And it’s really cool because you do this amazing thing for this family who you know has nothing. And it’s just going to really completely change their lives their children’s lives everything. But it impacts the athletes so much and a different type of relationship is built a different outlook on life is built. And it’s just huge and I love that you took your whole team out there because that’s an amazing way to bond as a team going through such a life changing experience together like that.

 

Matt:

[00:34:39] Yeah. And I do. I mean I love whitewater rafting you know and I don’t take these guys down when I go down. But you know I’ll get them out on a class three run and it will splash and giggle and have fun and you know. So I mean these guys like I said these guys they’re most of them are scared of stuff like that. They’re fearful. They’re frightened. And going through life scared as is would have to be difficult. It would have to be really hard. I don’t know why there’s so much fear in young men these days. But I try to fix that somehow by creating these different opportunities to where they have to face their fears. Every time you challenge yourself you get stronger and you get less fearful of whatever it is. I think all those things carry over life.

 

Laura:

[00:35:33] I think you just hit the nail on the head. I think to face a fear that’s outside of maybe your sport or where you during all the time is a great way to begin to learn how to do that. Because I’ve met so many people who try to put their fears off and pretend they don’t exist and push them away. But then it just it’s almost like it gets bigger you know. But when you face it and you deal with it and you begin to confront it it loses its power right. And so I think what you do is brilliant. Like getting them kind of over that and maybe something outside of their normal realms. So they learn that they can face these things like can overcome these things. Because you can’t be brave unless you’re first afraid. Right? I mean we’re not fearless we’re terrified people but we choose to be brave and like confront that. I think that’s awesome.

 

Matt:

[00:36:11] Yeah. And you know we climb a couple of 14 hours here in Colorado that for the listeners that’s a 14000 foot mountain. And I think there’s like 50 of them and we’ve done a couple real easy ones you know. But I’ve had these guys talk about you know like I started the character development leadership and character development show on YouTube. So I’m doing a podcast as well. And it’s on my coach Matt Lindland YouTube channel. But you know and that was really. I did that because one of the guys said coach you’d never give us a leadership training. I was like OK let’s see. I sent you out to the Marines for their leadership training course. When I walked to the top of a 14000 ft mountain together with me leading the way the whole way let’s say. And I just kept going through these things. But you know what I’ll do more stuff for you than help you with leadership. And that’s what we’re going to tackle in this next week coming up in our camp. Is we’re going to talk about some some different ways to become a leader. And I think those five areas that are athletes identified are five areas that we can really hone in on and develop leadership through those areas for sure.

 

Laura:

[00:37:23] Oh yeah. Be great. Well, where can we follow you online to kind of continue to be inspired and encouraged. And led by you because you’re just awesome.

 

Matt:

[00:37:33] MLinland just @mlindland. My first initial last name on Instagram. That’s part of the one that I can deal with the most. But I think the best thing would be in coach Matt Lindland YouTube channel. That’s where I’m doing a leadership show. I’m putting up some clips.

 

Laura:

[00:37:49] So awesome. I’ll make sure to link all those things in the show notes so people can find you there. But I do have to ask you one thing before we go. You’ve tried so many different things. Have you ever jumped off a 10 meter platform?

 

Matt:

[00:38:00] Yeah of course.

 

Laura:

[00:38:01] OK. Well good. So we can do synchro now.

 

Matt:

[00:38:03] I did. OK. So I did it. I did it gainer off it.

 

Laura:

[00:38:06] Oh you see. I love it. Not only do you jump you do a gainer off of it. This is awesome.

 

Matt:

[00:38:11] Then I did a full game where I landed on my feet. Then I was like OK I’m going to do a one and a half. And I landed on my side and lost like all my life. Puerto Rico at the Olympic Training Center in Puerto Rico. You ever get that one.

 

Laura:

[00:38:28] No I haven’t.

 

Matt:

[00:38:29] Oh my gosh it was. I barely got to the side of the pool because I couldn’t breathe. But not quite went out but yeah. And then in Lincoln when my first year as a coach it was so fun. I’ll tell you the story and then we’ll go. So there’s the platform up there in Lincoln in their pool. And so I got one of those folding mats that you know like the gym issues and they fold?

 

Laura:

[00:38:53] Oh no. Did you set up a slip and slide?

 

Matt:

[00:38:55] Aaaah! You know what it is!

 

Laura:

[00:38:58] Of course of 10 meter?

 

Matt:

[00:39:00] Oh yeah!

 

Laura:

[00:39:01] Oh nice. So what did you. Did you just dive or did you flip?

 

Matt:

[00:39:04] Oh yeah. We did everything. We got. You could get a up way across the pool side of that 10 meter. And the security guard pulls me in the next day and said Matt we need to talk. Because he pulls me in his office he shows me the video he goes my eyes only no worry.

 

Laura:

[00:39:26] Oh my God. OK. Next time I come up to Colorado Springs I’m calling you. And we are going diving together or you’re taking me whitewater rafting or climbing a mountain or something.

 

Matt:

[00:39:35] Let me know. I would love to take you down the Royal Gorge. I’ve got a boat here. I’ve got a I’ve got a raft. I got a couple of kayaks and.

 

Laura:

[00:39:42] I’m not going to lie. I would probably be scared but I think it would be awesome.

 

Matt:

[00:39:45] It is scary. And like you can do it. It’s the most rafting section in America. Everybody does it. But. Not everybody does it my style.

 

Laura:

[00:39:58] Well I’m sure that would be exciting. So I will take you up on that hopefully one day soon. That’s really cool. Well Matt thank you so much for coming on for sharing all your wisdom, your heart with us, your stories. We really appreciate it.

 

Matt:

[00:40:10] My pleasure thank you so much.

 

Laura:

[00:40:13] Isn’t he just incredible. I mean aside from all the things that I learned about his career I think it’s just amazing how through all of it he remains unwaveringly committed to the character and leadership development of his team. To be so accomplished yet to still have the humility to find his worth and his integrity. It’s just amazing. So many thanks to Matt for joining us today and I hope you get a chance to check out his youtube channel. Coach Matt Lindland. Matt is doing amazing things in the leadership development of athletes and he just has so much wisdom about how we not only grow as competitors but as people. Looking to improve their athletic performance with purpose? I’m offering a free live masterclass where I’ll teach you how to improve your athletic performance without spending more hours in the gym. If you’re ready for change and you want to take your performance to the next level then I want you to go and sign up at LauraWilkinson.com/masterclass. That’s LauraWilkinson.com/masterclass to sign up for my free live masterclass on improving your athletic performance. I’ll see you there. Be sure to join us next week as we have Olympic sprinter and bobsledder Lauren Williams joining us. On behalf of hope sports. I’m Laura Wilkinson. Thanks again for tuning in and have a great week. This podcast is produced by Evo Terra and simpler media. For more information on Hope sports and access the complete archives please visit HopeSports.org.

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