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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-athletes across Gen Z, Gen Alpha, and future generations. Now, let’s translate the insights from Parts 1 and 2 into actionable strategies for more effectively coaching these diverse groups.

Visual Communication and Recruitment

Generation Z, Gen Alpha, and subsequent generations are highly visual. Marketing experts have long emphasized that if you can’t capture their attention with 5 words and a big picture, your message might not resonate. When developing recruiting materials, a useful question might be, “Would this look great on social media?” Using infographics can be particularly effective, as these generations often digest visual data faster than textual information.

Concise Information Delivery

These young generations are accustomed to skim reading and processing bite-sized pieces of information quickly. In coaching contexts, while it’s crucial to provide comprehensive details about opponents, delivering this information in a digestible format is key. Though detailed scouting reports are valuable, keeping written information concise will prevent overwhelming them.

Suggestion: Limit the scouting report to essential facts, stats, or tendencies and elaborate verbally during practice.

Enhancing Communication Skills

Given their propensity for chat-based communication, creating opportunities for longer-form interactions is crucial for developing their social skills. For instance, involving them in tasks that require more extensive communication can be beneficial.

Suggestion: Encourage players to write a letter of recommendation for themselves in the third person. This exercise fosters self-reflection and enhances communicative abilities by forcing them to articulate their strengths and contributions in a structured format.

Collaborative Opportunities

Gen Z and Gen Alpha are not just tech-savvy; they’re also highly collaborative and industrious. They thrive in environments where they can co-create and take ownership of their outcomes.

Suggestion: Before games, consider leaving parts of the strategy, such as “keys to success,” for the team to fill out. This method encourages them to engage actively with the game plan and contributes to a deeper investment in team goals.

Managing Device Dependency

A significant percentage of Gen Z and likely Gen Alpha experience distress when separated from their electronic devices. Rather than enforcing a blanket ban on device usage, which might cause anxiety, adjust the rules to better fit their habitual use patterns.

Suggestion: Allow device use up until the team arrives at the competition venue, then enforce a no-phone policy. This approach respects their habits while maintaining focus during critical team times.

Data-Driven Feedback

These generations value data and honesty in communication. When introducing new drills or strategies, start with the rationale—”why”—and relate it to data whenever possible.

Suggestion: Use metrics during practice to provide real-time feedback. This approach not only keeps them engaged but also reinforces the effectiveness of the drills through visible evidence of improvement.

In conclusion, while Gen Z and Gen Alpha present new challenges for coaching due to their unique upbringing in a digital world, these challenges also offer opportunities for innovation in coaching practices. By adapting our methods to meet their communication styles and learning preferences, we can foster a coaching environment that is both effective and supportive for all future generations.

Thank you for joining this series, and I look forward to hearing about your experiences and insights in coaching across 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.

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