Greg Olsen has been around sports his entire life. He played football, basketball and track and field at Wayne Hills High School in New Jersey before playing football at the University of Miami. After college, Olsen was selected by the Chicago Bears with the 31st pick of the 2007 NFL Draft.
Following a 14-year career in the NFL with the Bears, Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks, the three-time Pro Bowler who retired in 2021 is still ingrained in the industry as a broadcaster for Fox Sports.
Despite spending his entire life in and around the sports, nothing has prepared the 37-year-old for his latest challenge: coaching his three children.
“I thought, ‘If anyone knows this world, it’s me,’ and now I’m entering into it with my kids as a father and trying to navigate travel sports, teams, other families, coaches and the dynamic of being a coach vs. being a dad,” Olsen says. “I learned very quickly that I don’t have the answers and I don’t know a lot of these spaces, and that was really the journey and inspiration why we thought Youth Inc. came around at the right time.
“If I’m struggling with it, what about the other families who didn’t grow up with the exposure to sports like I did—how are they navigating it? Not only is it kind of a journey for myself and my own family, but there’s thousands of families going through these similar struggles, questions and dilemmas. Hopefully as we build out this community at Youth Inc., we can be this resource that these families can go out and seek.”
Launched on March 9, Youth Inc. is the flagship podcast for Audiorama, which was founded by award-winning actor Vince Vaughn, retired five-time Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil and Olsen. Audiorama is backed by Powerhouse Capital, the tech venture fund that has also backed The Athletic, Wondery, Calm and MasterClass.
As part of the show, Olsen chats with legacy sports families, coaches, psychologists, authors and more in search of guidance and tools to make better decisions for his family. Guests include Jerry Rice, Shawn Johnson, Russell Wilson, Keith Tkachuk, Eric Weddle, Cooper Manning and Dr. Michael Gervais.
“Vince and Ryan say this really well—there’s really no one doing what Greg’s doing right now,” says Mikey Fowler, Audiorama vice-president and general manger, who previously grew Barstool Sports into a top-5 podcast network as its director of audio. “Greg is humble and relatable to his audience by saying ‘I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know what I’m doing. Let’s learn together,’ as opposed to somebody being like ‘I’m an expert in parenting, here’s what you do.’
“He’s doing it the complete opposite way and I think that makes him really relatable.”
The podcast, presented by Invisalign, comes at a time when participation in youth sports continues to decline. In 2018, 38% of kids ages 6-12 played an organized sport on a regular basis, down from 45% a decade earlier.
Not only are participation levels declining due to increasing costs, a lack of resources and opportunities, and the hypercompetitive nature of many sports, opportunities and disinterest have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a national survey conducted by the Aspen Institute in September 2021, 44% of families reported their community-based program had closed, merged or returned with limited capacity, and nearly three in 10 parents report their children didn’t want to return to the main sport they played pre-pandemic.
“I think the sport participation rate right now is definitely concerning,” Olsen says. “There’s a lot of other ways to occupy your mind and there’s a lot of other ways to occupy your time. It’s on us as parents and coaches to continue to deliver the message that playing on that team is more than just learning the skills of playing that sport. There are going to be long-term benefits for you as a person in society as a result of those early experiences in youth sports.
“Even if the kids don’t understand it now, it’s the adults’ responsibility to continue to encourage it. It doesn’t mean kids need to play travel baseball 365 days a year—it can be a local rec league, church league or after school. Any capacity is better than nothing.”
For Olsen, the benefits of playing sports is more than making money or succeeding on the field. The lessons and values that come with playing sports including teamwork, overcoming adversity, dedication and accountability are just as, if not more valuable.
Many of those benefits have been proven to translate into the corporate world. According to research from Ernst & Young, 94% of women who held C-suite positions in 2018 are former athletes, with 52% having played sports at the collegiate level.
Those off-field lessons and values were some of Olsen’s biggest takeaways from playing sports, especially for his father, Chris Sr., who coached football at Wayne Hills for more than four decades.
“He was hard on us and he was demanding,” Olsen says. “Playing for your dad sometimes isn’t always the easiest, but I wouldn’t trade a second of it for what it taught me moving forward not only in my sports career but just in my life.”
Now Olsen is taking everything he’s learned on and off the field throughout his life and career—as well as that from guests on Youth Inc.—and is utilizing it to coach and parent his own children: Tate, 10, and 9-year-old twins TJ and Talbot.
Olsen’s personal journey mirrors that of Audiorama, which is also looking to grow and expand in its infancy. Fowler says to keep eyes out for projects from “one of or both” of the company’s two other pillars: Vaughn and Kalil.
“Our talent can do literally anything they want as long as they care about it and will do it every single day,” Fowler says. “Greg’s show is a great example. He wanted to be a better coach and a better dad, so he’s talking about that and is taking people on that journey with him. It’s not Greg talking about the locker room at the University of Miami, it’s him talking about being a great dad.
“It might not be great for other networks, but for us it’s exactly what we want him to talk about.”