Award-winning sports journalist and author
The science of peak performance
Dealing with pressure
Sport & education
Matthew Syed is an award-winning sports journalist, author on the science of peak performance and former British table tennis number one.
Having passed his A Levels, he was accepted by Balliol College, Oxford University, to study for a degree in philosophy, politics and economics. He played in the Olympic Games in Barcelona towards the end of his first year at Balliol, and gained a prize-winning First Class degree four months after becoming the British table tennis number one in 1995.
He is a strong believer that sporting and academic excellence are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, he argues that developing the body and mind provides a powerful synergy – a point well understood by the Ancient Greeks.
In 2000, Matthew competed in the Sydney Olympics. However, by his own admission, he choked under the pressure of the biggest tournament on the planet. This experience provided a major impetus for trying to understand how the mind responds to stress, and how to develop techniques to perform under pressure without inhibition.
He has explored these themes in a highly acclaimed series of books: Bounce: the myth of talent and the power of practice (2011), Black Box Thinking: marginal gains and the secrets of high performance (2016) and The Greatest: the quest for sporting perfection (2017).
In his latest bold and inspiring book, Rebel Ideas: The Power Of Diverse Thinking (2019), Matthew argues that individual intelligence is no longer enough to solve today’s complex problems; to truly succeed we must harness the power of ‘cognitive diversity’. The book uncovers the best-kept secrets of the world’s most successful teams, bringing insights from psychology, anthropology and data science, whilst drawing on a dazzling array of case-studies.
Matthew's book, You Are Awesome: find your confidence and dare to be brilliant at (almost) anything (2018), is targeted at a children's audience, aiming to empower young people to realise their potential.
Matthew is also a columnist and feature writer for The Times. He writes regularly on football and other sports, as well as on culture, media and politics.
He has won numerous awards for his writing including Sports Journalist of the Year at The British Press Awards on two occasions, as well as Sports Feature Writer and Sports Columnist of the Year at the Sports Journalist Association Awards six times. He also won Sports Commentator of the Year at the Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards and Best New Writer for his book, Bounce, at the British Sports Book Awards.
A regular contributor to radio and television, Matthew provides analysis for Sky News, Newsnight and CNN. His film for the BBC, China and Table Tennis, won the bronze medal at the Olympic Golden Rings ceremony in Lausanne. His series on Black Box Thinking for BBC Radio 4 aired in 2017.
Matthew was a co-founder and is a trustee of Greenhouse, a charity that empowers youngsters through sport. Greenhouse currently supports more than 10,000 young people on 31 full-time school programmes. He is also a member of the FA’s High Performance Committee alongside Sir Dave Brailsford and Baroness Campbell, and an ambassador for the PiXL educational foundation.
Matthew's insights on the science of peak performance are of course highly relevant to businesses and organisations of all kinds.
Amongst others, he has spoken for a specially convened meeting of global finance ministers, the commanders and admirals of the British surface fleet, Britain’s chief constables, the Presidents of the medical Royal Colleges, the General Staff of the British Army, the global partners of Goldman Sachs, as well as the Arsenal first team and other top sports organisations.