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Coaching the New Age Athlete

Updated: Jan 5, 2020

Nothing drives me more crazy than when I hear adults utter the words, "kids have changed."   I sure hope so, the world has been changing quickly.

Youth have chosen to not remain stagnant and be different than the kids before them.  Like the kids before that, and the ones before that.

Coaching has changed too and if you want to compete coaches must adapt in their roles as well.  You can either adapt to the mean, or wait until a larger group of student-athletes adapts to you.  I encourage the one where you comfort is less. Here are a couple key ways to ignite your athletes and meet them where they are.


Transition to Listen 


Rarely did I ever enjoy a school day as much as a sports practice. However, that didn't mean the stress of the school day melted away at the sign of sports play.  Today's student-athlete has more stress than past teens and finding ways to get them to transition to practice mode is key.   Fun is the element that disconnects the school stress and invigorates the full court press.  Allow athletes to connect with each other during warm-ups, or through a game that loosens the body or focus the mind.   This engaging of the brain and re-focusing will increase their capacity while training them to be better listeners.


Need ideas for a game, here are 52 Team Building Activities from James Leath.


Collaborate to Connect


Connections create learning environments and great connections create commitment.  Find ways to have your team collaborate or solve a problem related to the teams success. Collaborative learning is what the older athletes they see in the NBA and NFL doing.  Think Von Miller pass rush camp and Summer NBA pick-up.  Peer to peer influence is what make collaboration conducive to learning.  Collaboration values input and input elevates buy-in. When we engage people's ideas we engage them.


Commercial Break Rule


Student-Athletes are constantly learning in small chunks.  You can either complain about attention span or you can adapt to use it in your favor.  Create practices and film sessions so that there is a transition or adjustment to what is going on every seven minutes or so.

This is called the Commercial break principle because if you don't engage young people by the first commercial break, they are tuning in somewhere else.   Teenagers also need a break often as well. This might be a quick several reps on your own at practice.  A minute to get a drink and prepare for the next drill, etc. Micro-break is the idea.  Then back to work.


Know their favorite Drills


As a coach we're going to have to cover and drill things that may be more mundane and stale for our teams.  Such is life.  To amplify what may typically be an energy drainer at practice, know your teams favorite drills, and layer one of those directly prior to transitioning to what may be less excited, but must be covered.

If you don't know their two or three favorite drills, simply ask them.  Mixing these in to your practice plan is key to maintaining the energy level and focus you likely desire.  One of their favorite things, may be ideal for transitioning to practice, one may be an energy raising commercial break to incorporate.


Display Accountability


Coaching is tough.  We won't be perfect. When we do make a mistake or see an error in our ways, one of the greatest things we can do for this generation is step up and and explain yourself. Display accountability by illuminating your errors, imperfections and mistakes.

Through the social lenses of today's athlete, not enough light is shown upon adults who handle their issues openly and honestly.  Working through and modeling your procedure through handling a difficult situation on your team is one of the greatest things we can do as coaches. Enough press and media gives attention to how to not do things, our coaches should be at the center of how too.

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