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Coaching Today's Athletes

What coach hasn’t thought at some point, “Kids this days just aren’t the same as they used to be.” Well, no kidding. The same thing was true 30 years ago and will be again 30 years from now.

The key to coaching teenage athletes is realizing how to recognize these changes and then adapting to them yourself. This doesn’t mean lowering your standards or making things easier for them, but it might mean adjusting your approach and finding new ways to teach your lessons.

In an article on about coaching millennial athletes, leadership expert Dr. Tim Elmore suggests that coach take a missionary-type approach to coaching athletes of a different generation. This means learning about their culture before trying to lead them. When you do you this, Elmore says you will find four realities, which, oddly enough, are the same four realities your coaches would have found a generation ago.

The first is that the current generation of young athletes is different from the previous one. He says rather than fight that reality and try to change it, accept it and learn what they value so you can use that to lead them.

Second is to understand their culture. To communicate well, you have to use the methods they’re most comfortable and familiar with, even if they’re not the ones you prefer. You don’t need to be like them, but you do need to connect with them.

This lead to number three, speak their language and earn their trust. “Once you’ve done your homework, you’ll naturally communicate that you’ve tried to step into their world,” he writes. “Again, your goal isn’t to imitate, but initiate. That’s the leader’s job. Over time, players will see you asking questions and speaking their language. This speaks volumes because true leadership operates on the basis of trust.”

Fourth and most important is bring about the changes that will benefit them. As he puts it, “You must start where they are in order to lead them to when they must go.”

Another expert, Wayne Goldsmith suggests in an article on his website  that kids today are no lazier or less motivated than in the past, but they do learn differently and that has a major impact on coaches. They’re used to be being able to learn just about anything by going to the Internet and doing a quick search. The coach is no longer their sole source of information. And learning is a much more interactive process. They’ll watch a video, read the comments to what other have to say and send the link to some friends for their comments. They engage with the material, which can speed the learning process.

But when presented with a traditional practice structure of listening to a coach explain a drill and then doing the same thing for 20 minutes they’ll tune out. It’s not they’re lazy, or don’t want to work, it’s that the pace and structure is not what they’re used to. As he writes, “This generation has a short attention span–true—but it is an advantage in learning faster. You have, standing in front of you a group of athletes who are capable of learning more and in a shorter time than any group of athletes you have ever coached.”

The key as mentioned before, is figuring the best ways for coaching for athletes, not what worked best for you and your teammates. You might find there are a lot of similarities, but you’ll also find there are plenty of differences, as well.

Click here to read the full article.

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