Betsy Butterick banner logo and name

Gen Z: Part 1

Millennials are loosely defined as the generation born between 1982 and 1998. As one of the older Millennials, the technology shifts during my time have been nothing short of incredible.

I remember when you had to stand next to the phone in order to talk on it. At a time when very few people had answering machines, if you called a friend and nobody picked up, you simply called back later or went to their house and knocked on the door.

I remember the stale air smell of the library where I used the Dewey Decimal System to locate potential resources for book reports.

I can hear with perfect clarity the scratchy, high-pitched sound of the computer connecting to the internet as I waited patiently to sign on to AOL.

And years before my first cell phone, I experienced the cryptic joy of decoding texts on a Motorola pager – I still smile when I see the numbers 143.

The point of this trip down memory lane is that the young people we are coaching today, from Gen Z to Gen Alpha and beyond, grew up in a world where the nature of communication is dramatically different from anything we ever experienced.

If you’ve ever had a player tell you about the guy or girl they’re “talking with,” they almost always mean texting. No actual phone calls have been made in this pre-dating ritual, but they have absolutely already stalked bae’s Instagram, Twitter, and Vine accounts while simultaneously adding them on Snapchat.

Coaches, meet Gen Z and the upcoming Gen Alpha.

Born during or after 1996, the young people we are coaching have never known life without the Internet. This Gen Z, and soon Gen Alpha, have been dubbed the first true “digital natives,” and most of them learned to operate some form of technology before they could form complete sentences.

In a world that has never been more globally and instantaneously connected, the challenge I frequently hear from coaches centers around a disconnect in communicating with today’s student-athletes.

“My players have such short attention spans.”

“So much texting, it’s crazy. They text each other when they’re in the same room!”

“It’s like they can’t accept criticism, even if it’s constructive… They’re so sensitive.”

“I used to love the individual conversations, the one-on-one interactions. But now… some of them seem so strained or awkward. Almost as if it’s painful for some of my players to actually sit down and talk face to face.”

Reasons unique to Gen Z, Gen Alpha, and all future generations serve to explain the concerns above, and I invite you to join me in a 3-part series designed to help coaches better understand, connect with, and coach today’s student-athletes.

Part 1: Who are Gen Z and Gen Alpha?

As coaches, we’ve experienced how diverse one team can be. The array of our players’ cultural backgrounds, personalities, learning styles, and life experiences is staggering. We learned long ago that knowledge is power. The more we know about who our players are, the more effectively we are able to coach them.

What follows are researched facts about Gen Z and Gen Alpha to help educate ourselves about the populations we are now coaching.

Stay tuned as we dive deeper into how to effectively communicate and foster a supportive coaching culture for Gen Z, Gen Alpha, and all future generations.

Meet Betsy Butterick

Betsy Butterick is a coach and communication specialist working with individuals ready to improve and teams of all kinds – from the locker room to the boardroom.

You might also enjoy

Learning To Do Better

I love communication. I believe that language is the most powerful tool we possess, and that by improving our communication skills, we also…

Read More
Gen Z: Part 3

Welcome to the final installment in a three-part series intended to help coaches better understand, connect with, and coach today’s student…

Read More