There is no denying that the current generation of athletes is different. Not necessarily good or bad, but they are different. There are some things to consider this season when coaching Generation Z: the advantages, the challenges, and strategies you can use to adapt and modify your coaching practices.
Summary of Advantages and Challenges
|Comfortable face-to-face||Digital natives|
|Responsive to video critiques||Short attention spans|
|Eager to stay fit and participate in sport||Close parent relationships|
|Optimistic views||Screen addicts|
Coaching Strategies for Generation Z:
- Short attention spans: When giving instructions remember, 8 seconds! Get to the point and move on. Plus you’ll have more time to actually train anyway!
- Texting: Use their texting skills to your advantage by having a group text app for reminders and check-ins. You know they will see it, you can monitor who has opened and seen and who hasn’t, and it keeps communication fast and in one place. One great option that many teams like is Band.
- Parents: Treat parents as your allies rather than just ‘dealing with them.’
If you would like a sample “Letter to parents” to send home you can share:
- Digital Natives (Tech): Use more video feedback. Your digitally native dancers often need to see themselves in action to really understand what corrections you are trying to give them. Video feedback has been shown over and over again to be a powerful tool for skill growth and goal setting, and your dancers are probably much more comfortable with it than you are so use that to your advantage!
- Digital Natives (Feedback). Remember that they grew up in the digital world where the answer to everything is at their fingertips. If they have a question, they Google it. If they want a friend, they text or post to social media and get instant feedback. They crave constant and instant feedback, so be as immediately responsive in the moment as possible.
Consider your own coaching style and your team and consider 2 or 3 of these strategies to implement with your team. Write it down… what are you committed to testing out with your team?
Different Coaching Styles for Generation Z
Should you change who you are?
No! Don’t change who you are. When you’re faced with all of these new ideas and strategies, it can feel overwhelming. Like you’re supposed to completely change your values and who you are as a coach. While you want to make some adaptations, don’t lose yourself! Keep your values as a coach while adapting to the new generation. Consider what’s important to you and your coaching style. You don’t have to change everything to fit them.
That said, there are 3 things you can do to really help shape your style to fit what they want. In the end, if you are able to blend your style with this generation’s needs, you’ll have the most successful year yet!
Here are some ideas to adapt your coaching style to better fit the dancers generation Z
- No yelling. You can be stern and talk to the team about your values but in a way that doesn’t raise your voice. Stern and serious is ok, just don’t raise your voice or use offensive language. You can hold them accountable and push them without yelling. Rein that in!
- Democratic coaching: Research has demonstrated over and over again that a democratic coaching style is the best if you desire hard working, committed, disciplined athletes. This generation is no different, and they actually respond even better! The best think you can incorporate into your coaching style is to allow the athletes to be involved in the decision-making. So make sure you let them in! What are 5 decisions you plan to allow your team to make this season?
- Be encouraging! They want a coach who is encouraging. If it’s not in your nature to be outwardly positive, try to incorporate that a little bit more. You may be familiar with the legendary basketball coach John Wooden. Not only was he incredibly successful on the court, he was well loved by his players. But that doesn’t mean he was a pushover by any means! He had a great philosophy for how to balance your time with your athletes for the best possible skill development and relationships. Most of what you say to them should be instructional, followed by encouragement and saying things to get them pumped up and increasing their intensity. After that, there is a little bit of time left over for praise and scolding if necessary but only if the scolding comes with instructions for how to do better.
Try this Coaching Challenge:
Choose a 30-60 minute time during practice where you are actively coaching (cleaning, teaching choreography or working on skill development.) Audio record yourself during that time then listen back and track the comments that you make and classify them into categories. (If you go off on a silly tangent story you can ignore that, or stop tracking when you’re talking about what to do at the game tomorrow. This is for active coaching only). Possible categories are Instructional, Positive Feedback and Praise, Restructuring or Scolding WITH instruction, Encouraging intensity and motivation. Here’s the break down of the IDEAL percentages:
10% positive feedback and praise
5% restructuring or scolding with instruction
15% encouraging intensity and motivation
See where you fall. Do you really offer instructional feedback 70% of the time? Or are you a little bit of a “good job” coach and your positive feedback is closer to 40% and instructional more like 30%. 25% of your time should be encouraging, motivational, or positive. With this generation, it could even be more like 30-35%. Take the challenge and see where you stand. Then you can make small adjustments as necessary.