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Yung Gunz Academy developing better overall athletes

'Athletes will get better by just playing, but at Yung Gunz, we want to teach them to play with a purpose'

Pursuit is a sports feature series highlighting Athletes, Coaches and Staff and significant sporting events from North Bay and the surrounding area.     


Producing better overall athletes is the main goal of the Yung Gunz Academy in North Bay.  

“We focus on skill development which includes fundamental and advanced movement for ages of 8-16. Our goal is to help them develop athletic performance, enhance body confidence and improve overall well-being and mindset resilience,” says the founder, Eric Yung.  

“Our sessions are really catered around developing the full athlete. One of the things that I don't think we talk about in sports is learning strategies and we expect these kids to just go and play around and do certain things physically, but if you ask some of the top athletes around who play multiple sports and you watch them play the game they love, when you ask them why they do certain things that are really high level, they will have trouble explaining to you why they do it, they just go out and perform without thinking about it.” 

Yung says right now the academy focuses on soccer skills, but he stresses this is not a soccer camp.  

“This is skills development where it's an hour a day, maybe 90 minutes a day, focusing on specific fundamentals. It isn’t a drop your kids off from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and let them enjoy the day type of thing. I give a lot of kudos to the coaches and community volunteers who help run those programs because we need that in our city,” says Yung, adding part of his program will also lead to helping those community coaches.  

“Our goal is to help alleviate the issue where you have coaches for community teams who have to spend all their practice time on skill development because there are players who didn’t get that opportunity to learn those fundamentals at an early age,” says Yung.  

“We want to give those players a chance to get caught up and while we don’t work crazy miracles, we can at least give them some ideas and a better base knowledge of knowing where they need to be. Then when they go back to their practices, they can show those coaches that they are ready to move into learning team tactics and systems.” 

Yung says that concept is called ‘Coaching the Gap.’  

“In smaller communities the skill level gap on teams is always bigger than the gap in the bigger cities. This is not a new concept. Coaches have to know how to manage their talent level. You could walk onto the ice or the court or the field and have one group of athletes who are elite level and another whose skills aren’t as high, and you have to somehow bring them together for one cohesive practice. What we need to do is slowly bring the bottom skilled athletes up to the top because they have a wider margin for growth while also not jeopardizing the progression of the more developed athletes.” 

Yung says during their sessions, athletes are divided based on skill level and not age because they want to create a training environment that is conducive to everyone.  

“We want to make sure they are training and getting challenged and at the same time, building confidence. When kids play, they are going to get better – but who you put them around will dictate how quickly they will see that improvement,” he says.   

“Athletes will adapt to their environment, some quicker than others. Athletes will get better by just playing, but at Yung Gunz, we want to teach them to play with a purpose. It’s all about putting them in that environment where we can see them get better among their peers, regardless of age. We wouldn’t want them starting at the very top because we don’t want them to get discouraged. The last thing we want is to prevent them from playing the sport altogether.” 

Yung is the Head Coach of the Nipissing Lakers men's volleyball team but was a dual sport student-athlete at the university, playing both volleyball and soccer. Yung says being involved in the sports community in North Bay over the last 2 decades has helped him foster this idea.  

“I have a passion for developing athletes, more specifically High-Performance Athletes, and felt that there's a need to have increasing opportunities for soccer development in town,” he says.  

“Soccer is the number one sport in the world and with Canada being one of the most multi-diverse countries in the world, you’re going to have a lot of passionate fans of the game here. I think we are always going to have seasonal challenges and you’re always going to be competing against the number one sport here in hockey – but the fact that the men's and women's national teams are having success on the biggest stages is really good for the sport and it shows the athletes here that being Canadian means you can have a future for yourself in soccer.” 

Another challenge Yung is seeing is athletes streamlining themselves in specific sports too early.  

“We want to have multi-sport athletes when they are younger. I was very fortunate to compete in various sports at different levels and we aren’t seeing that now, kids are streaming quite early,” he says.  

“We get a lot of strong players in specific sports, but we are getting fewer athletes. I wanted to start with soccer because I have a huge passion for the sport and it's right up there for me in line with volleyball. I grew up playing it, and I watched and learned the game to a standpoint where I can implement some skills to develop athletes just using each individual sport as the vehicle.” 

Yung says there are future plans to expand the academy to offer skills development in other sports, but says they wanted to have a philosophy in developing athletes in a way that he and his team felt was conducive for them from an overall athlete standpoint. One of their mottos in training is to “Be Brave” when training, “We encourage our Yung Gunz to take risks during our sessions, it is the fastest way to learn,” he says.  

“We want to help these kids find something to take away from our sessions that they can then do on their own at home or dig deeper into the sport when they are watching it and take that lesson back to their teams. That is the main goal for us is to teach them learning strategies and how they become a better athlete.” 

You can reach out to Eric via email [email protected] to learn more about signing up for the Yung Gunz Academy.  

If you have a story idea for the “Pursuit” series, send Matt an email at [email protected] 

Matt Sookram

About the Author: Matt Sookram

Matthew Sookram is a Canadore College graduate. He has lived and worked in North Bay since 2009 covering different beats; everything from City Council to North Bay Battalion.
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