UWA Alumni Changemaker – Matt de Boer BCom '16

AFL footballer, Starlight Children's Foundation (NSW) Board member, WESTSTAR Academy program manager and co-founder of Alerte Digital Sport (ADS)

UWA and meUWA Changemaker - Matt de Boer

After taking the well-above-average 8 years to complete a Bachelor of Commerce degree and play 138 games for the Fremantle Dockers, I now find myself on the east coast and happily wearing new colours for the Greater Western Sydney Giants… albeit paying many road tolls along the way!

My partner, Rachael Glaskin, and I are immensely enjoying exploring NSW after being WA home bodies for 26 years and I love wearing orange and charcoal for the GWS Giants. A new footy club means inheriting 50 new mates, with some quickly becoming what I know will be lifelong friends.

Juggling professional sport and UWA part time forced me to improve my time management and organisational skills so that I never fell behind. Maybe a bit of a cliché, but with Mum and Dad (they will definitely read this so thanks guys!) expressly forbidding me to focus solely on football, I needed to become an efficient operator to maintain good grades. The skillset has been invaluable and I now assist with a couple of businesses while still competing and maximising the lifestyle in Sydney with Rach.

Premiership glory and the Starlight Children's Foundation

Chasing an AFL Premiership is an extremely tough endeavour but taking the physical and emotional risk with great people next to you, as you strive towards that common goal, makes the time fly by. This is what I am passionate about - meeting and working with ambitious and like-minded people in an environment where success is not guaranteed but is definitely worthwhile. This is particularly relevant in a sporting context and what I hope to achieve this year, but I will extend it to all of my pursuits in the future.

During my time at the Fremantle Dockers, a group of players and I would go to Princess Margaret Hospital and visit the Starlight Express Room to see the children there in the hope of brightening their day. We would also conduct ward visits to seriously ill children who were unable to get to the Starlight Room. We worked to raise awareness through the media about critical childhood illness and fundraise for the great cause. I continually witnessed the immense impact Starlight programs have on the kids and families who unfortunately found themselves at PMH. Since moving to Sydney, I applied for and was accepted to the NSW Starlight Children's Foundation Board. I am looking to structure the same kind of regular visits from professional sportspeople and to create meaningful corporate partnerships that will assist the Starlight Foundation in brightening the lives of seriously ill children.

Commerce in my life today

In addition to engaging in some work experience this year at Walsh and Company in North Sydney as a Funds Management Analyst, I am also involved part time with a couple of companies.

I enjoy reading about maximising development for my own personal skillset. Consequently, I saw an opportunity to apply my learnings from this literature, and also my time in the AFL, to a football development academy called the WESTSTAR Football Academy. WESTSTAR is run by a group of people passionate about developing aspiring footballers and future leaders. Spending time on WESTSTAR never feels like “work” and receiving feedback from a grateful athlete or parent who has made some progression is seriously rewarding.

I am a co-founder of Alerte Digital Sport (ADS) which is a SportsTech start-up that uses artificial intelligence to effectively prevent injuries and therefore optimise training loads for professional athletes. Working in this space has been a great introduction to the start-up eco-system which is where I aim to develop an even stronger skillset.

The confidence to learn and lead

I have learnt that confidence to lead comes from consistent action. For any context (sporting, academic, business etc.), my time at the UWA Business School taught me:

  1. There is no substitute for hard work. When faced with a problem or obstacle I have found there is no point in being emotional and complaining. It's better to plan the best way forward and just get to work. I was taught to do this consistently so you develop what Matthew Pavlich would call: “habitual excellence”. I firmly believe and have seen that people will respect those who prepare well and then just get it done.
  2. The importance of meaningful relationships. Checking your ego and seeking out criticism (by realising that this is not personal and only intended to make you better) from coaches, tutors, parents and mentors ensures an efficient feedback loop is created to allow you to advance in any context much quicker. I am very grateful for, and value above all else, my strong network of family and friends.

You can connect with Matt via Linkedin.