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Gen Z: Part 2

Welcome to the second of a three-part series designed to help coaches better understand, connect with, and coach today’s student-athlete across generations including Gen Z, Gen Alpha, and future generations.

Let’s do a quick recap. Born during or after 1995, Gen Z has never known life without the Internet. This generation, along with the emerging Gen Alpha, has been dubbed the first true “digital natives” and most learned to operate some form of technology before they could form complete sentences. The key characteristics of Gen Z, which are likely to extend to Gen Alpha and beyond, are summarized below:

  • Skilled visual communicators accustomed to chat-based forms of communication.
  • Tend to skim read & digest bite-sized amounts of information at an incredible rate.
  • Generally have shorter attention spans and unique social skills.
  • Highly educated, industrious, and collaborative.
  • More realistic than optimistic; value honesty in leadership.
  • 79% display emotional distress when kept from personal electronic devices.

With these insights, it’s time to look at how we can better connect and communicate with these unique generations to maximize our coaching effectiveness.

Keep it Short, Make it Relevant

Generation Z, followed by Gen Alpha, has an average attention span of 8 seconds and are accustomed to digesting bite-sized amounts of information. Rather than fighting an uphill battle, engage on their level especially when teaching or giving instructions. It’s crucial to start with the “why” to capture their attention by making the content immediately relevant to them.

Co-create with Them

These generations are highly industrious and collaborative. Whenever possible, give them the opportunity to have some agency in processes related to team goals or their own development. They are used to doing, so make your engagement with them interactive and participatory.

Addressing Perceived Laziness

It’s a common misperception that these younger generations are lazy; often, they have simply not had the experience of working towards an outcome over time. Their world is immediate and data-driven. Incorporating metrics and analytics as constant feedback can help bridge the gap between the work they’re doing now and the results you know they’ll see later.

They’re Used to Being “Liked”

Literally. Studies have shown that Gen Z, and likely Gen Alpha, will take down social media posts that don’t receive sufficient “likes.” Similarly, instead of having difficult conversations to resolve issues, they have the option to simply “delete” friends, “unfollow,” or “unsubscribe” from those who no longer serve them. However, they appreciate honesty and the comments they value most on social media start with “tbh” (to be honest). So be honest with them, be vulnerable, and engage in ways that illustrate that their value goes much deeper than being “liked.”

Gen Z and Gen Alpha are truly unique groups, and coaching them provides us with new opportunities to connect and lead. Part 3 will translate the concepts above into actionable suggestions for implementation in your recruiting efforts, team and individual meetings, scouting reports, film sessions, practice plans, and game strategies. Talk with you soon!

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.

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