Photography by: Melissa Majchrzak
Most people go through life, seeing other people do unique and amazing feats, and longingly say, “I wish I could do that.” And for most, it remains just a wish. In most cases, people shouldn’t try to do those singular feats because they aren’t capable and could risk injury or death.
Matt Griff isn’t like most people. Matt sees those things and instead of saying “I wish I could do that,” he says, “YES!, I’ll do that.”
Matt Griff has accomplished far more in his life than most when it comes to jobs that are extraordinary. Matt tallies on his resume such job titles such as captain of the Utah Jazz Dunk Team, Guinness World Record Holder, a stuntman for film and television, rugby player, high school rugby coach, a member of TEAM USA, and a skeleton coach. Matt Griff is clearly in a category all his own.
In 2003, Matt went with a friend to watch her try out for the Utah Jazz Dancers. After her tryout ended, a crew brought out padded floor mats and a mini-tramp. Matt watched as the participants warmed up, and started launching off the tramp to dunk a basketball.
Matt recalls, “For whatever reason, for the first time in my entire life, I'm interested in this and I am going to find out what is going on here.” Matt found someone that looked like they were in charge and asked what they were doing. He was told it was tryouts for the Jazz Dunk Team.
Matt was wearing street clothes and running shoes at the time. He had never done this before. He didn’t have time to go home and get the appropriate clothes and shoes. While most of us would have allowed thoughts of doubt to enter our minds and have found a reason not to try, Not Matt. He said “YES!”
“There was no question,” he said. “I was incredibly fit from rugby. I knew how to hit a trampoline from past gymnastic stuff.” They picked eight for the team that day and Matt in his street clothes with no prior experience was picked as an alternate. “I was just lucky to be there,” he recalls.
Consistent with his approach to everything in his life, he was all in. “I never missed a practice and it turned into one of those things where as soon as I would leave practice, I would be preparing for the next time that I was going to be hitting the trampoline.”
After 16 consecutive years with the Utah Jazz Dunk Team, Matt shows no signs of slowing down or any lack of enthusiasm. In addition to international tours, he has performed in every NBA arena and many college basketball venues in the United States. For Matt, he finds the most joy bringing smiles to people that see his team perform. His Instagram account reads, “Love being the dude giving a high-5 to kids.” In addition to the Jazz games, he and the Jazz Dunk Team perform at schools and events including Mascot Miracle Foundation. Matt says the events bring smiles to the team as much as it does for the kids.
Matt made a bid to make the 2010 Olympic skeleton team. His exposure to the sport of skeleton occurred as unexpectedly as the Jazz Dunk Team tryout. He saw a news story after the 2006 Olympic Winter Games about the sport of skeleton and thought, "I can run like that.” Again, he was all in. He made TEAM USA and competed in international races but did not make the Olympic team in 2010. When he didn’t make the Olympic team, the program director said, “Hey Griff, why not coach? You talk to everyone about what’s going on anyway!” Inspiring and helping others to get better? Matt said, “YES!, I’ll do that.” Matt says, “I’ll always have skeleton in my life but I know my value is being at the track, not sliding it!”
Matt knows himself like few people I have met. He has an uncanny way of breaking down scary things like soaring through the air and dunking a basketball after a flip at a Jazz game halftime show or hurtling face-first on a sled down an ice track. In either case, he recognized the fundamental ingredients to be successful in either experience. It wasn’t the thrill or adrenaline of the experience that drew him to these opportunities. Instead, he focused on his preparation and the strengths he knew he had as an athlete. He identified the skills required to be successful at each of these jobs and he also understood his own talents, strengths, capabilities, and weaknesses. Matt’s ability to see what it takes combined with his awareness of himself is the gift he has to not only say “YES!” but to conquer these unique experiences. I can also see why that would make him an excellent coach. In our discussion, he never mentioned that he was a thrill-seeker or adventure junkie because he doesn’t see it that way. That is not what it is about for Matt.
Matt’s unique perspective is critical to his success. When he saw the Dunk Team tryouts, Matt never saw basketball (where he has limited experience) he saw speed and acrobatics. In skeleton, he never saw sliding on a sled, he saw running fast before getting on the sled. And he didn’t see the fear of flying above the rim or sliding at 70 miles per hour on a small sled with his face a few inches from the ice.
Woven through all of these experiences is Matt’s core values and beliefs. He applies them to any endeavor and teaches them as he meets people at events.
Matt gets a chance to share these values and beliefs with students throughout Utah when the Jazz Dunk Team is featured as guest performers and motivational speakers at assemblies at schools four or five times a month.
“That is really one of the best things about being on the Dunk Team is to motivate, share, and inspire the kids,” said Matt.
Matt’s humility may be one of his most noticeable character traits. While he didn’t mention it in our discussion, through some research I discovered that he and his dunk teammates once held the Guinness World Record for the most front-flip dunks in 30 seconds with a total of 18 dunks. I assume that conversation went something like this...Matt, do you think you and your teammates could break the world record? I know Matt said, “YES!, I’ll do that.”
PS. In addition to his side gig with the Utah Jazz, Matt Griff is Escrow Officer at Highland Title Agency where he has worked for 15 years.