The Program

There are three pillars to the Michael Johnson Young Leaders program: sport, leadership, community.

Working with credible partners in sport, leadership and community, Michael Johnson provides talented young people based in disadvantaged areas around the world each year with the tools and confidence that will positively impact their future.


Each year, Michael Johnson, along with partners and experts, identify young people through local community sport organizations from all over the world. They have to have overcome or faced adversity. They have to have a passion for sport. They have to have the potential to be leaders. And they have to have the desire to positively contribute to their community. Applications are not open to the public – Michael Johnson works with partners and experts who nominate candidates in communities. All candidates have a nominating organization that puts them forward and supports them throughout the process.


Criteria 1. Opportunity

This program is specifically geared towards those who would not otherwise have the opportunity to access this type of support and resource:

  • Must be 16-23 years old (Gen Y – the next generation of leaders)
  • Have a disadvantaged background
    • and/or
  • Have been marginalized by society in the most extreme sense
  • From all regions in the world, but must show how and why specifically this program can provide better opportunity in that place that the participant would not otherwise have
  • Must be available to attend and travel to the one-week course

Criteria 2. Sport

Young Leaders must have a commitment and a passion for sport, whether it be on the field, as a potential career, or as a way for them to engage their community.

Criteria 3. Leadership

Young Leaders must show existing leadership qualities as well as be deemed by their nominating organization as a potential future leader

Criteria 4. Community

Young Leaders must have a commitment to their own community and have shown ways that they have used sport to contribute to the improvement of their surroundings. During the program, they are supported in a project they have identified that addresses a need in their community, and they must show how they will succeed in implementing this over the year.

Criteria 5. Voice

This program aims to have impact beyond the one-week course, beyond the one year of support. Participants are expected and supported in sharing their story and continuing to work and lead in the world of sport after completing the program. Therefore those selected must show that they are capable of achieving this through adhering to the following criteria:

  • Have the ability to share their story
  • Have shown interest in supporting the younger generation

Nominating organization criteria

Those selected must be nominated by an organization. That organization must fulfil have the following criteria:

  • Must use sport as a way to achieve positive social change within its community
  • Engages participants who are disadvantaged and/or have been marginalized by society
  • Have a child protection policy
  • Committed to supporting participant throughout the year-long program and beyond, including managing the stipend, tracking progress, and enabling and empowering to deliver programming

Selection process

  • Michael Johnson’s Community Partner identifies nominating organizations and asks them to put candidates forward
  • Nominating organizations must agree to criteria and requirements
  • A panel of experts, including Michael Johnson himself, selects the Young Leaders each year from the nominees
  • Due diligence is delivered by Michael Johnson’s Community Partner to ensure each Young Leader is capable and deserving

Experience of a lifetime

The young leaders then spend a week at the Michael Johnson Performance Center in Dallas, Texas. Here they are exposed to the environment of a world class sporting institution while receiving training and education, as well as how to develop and maintain a career in sport. This includes exploratory education in leadership, life-skills, cultural and community engagement.

Each element of the course, whether it be about sporting excellence, leadership or community, are interconnected in their learnings and development.   At the end of the week, they each have a one-to-one planning session on how they can put what they have learned into practice, ensuring they leave Michael Johnson Performance Center with a clear path to success.

Support For Success

After Michael Johnson Young Leaders attend the weeklong course at Michael Johnson Performance Center in Dallas, they return to their community and enter into Phase II of the program called Support for Success. They each receive a year-long support package which includes tools and opportunities tailored to help them achieve their goals across the three key pillars of the program: sport, leadership and community. It also includes opportunities for network and profile building.

The Support for Success package and includes the following:


  • Remote Sport Training
  • Advice on diet and nutrition
  • Advice on sport-based goal-setting
  • Support on sport-based skill-building


  • Leadership development tools
  • Networks
  • Career development support
  • Mentoring and Motivation support


  • Planning support for developing community project
  • Skills and coaching tools
  • Stipends for delivering community project (case by case)


  • Michael Johnson Young Leader PR kit
  • Digital promotion
  • Speaker opportunities

Each Young Leader’s package is different, tailored to their goals and needs. It is jointly developed between partners and Michael Johnson himself after careful analysis of goals and the Support for Success package assets.

Click here to see what the Class of 16 is working on

Alumni and Ambassadors

After the year-long program, Michael Johnson Young Leaders become alumni of the program and continue to receive opportunities and profiling throughout their career. Those who have especially engaged and succeeded in their projects and leadership development become Michael Johnson Young Ambassadors who receive additional support and training for an additional year. They will be advocates and spokespeople for the program, and represent what is possible when a young person is provided the right skills, resources, and support they need to succeed.