Friday, November 25, 2016

Notes on Serving Millennial Sportspeople

For most of the coaches with whom I serve, for most of the chaplains with whom I associate, for most of the parents and employers I know, the Millennial generation is an enigma. They are not sure just how to lead them, just what they value, and otherwise just don’t get what they’re doing. At sixty years of age, an acknowledged and unrepentant Baby Boomer, I have experienced my struggles in communicating and in developing leadership among this unique group of people.

While researching the characteristics of millennials, I came across this article by a millennial and liked its approach. I have excerpted portions of the article from LinkedIn by Lydia Abbott and have inserted some thoughts re: serving millennial sportspeople. I hope these thoughts are of value to you as you serve them.

My contributions will be bold italics.

8 Millennials' Traits You Should Know About Before You Hire Them Lydia Abbot

December 4, 2013


“Millennials,” “Generation Y,” “Generation WE,” “The Boomerang Generation,” “The Peter Pan Generation,” – we go by many names and were born roughly between 1980 and 2000. Born in 1990, I fall right smack in the middle of this generation and there is no denying that we are the subject of a heated debate: are we a blessing or a curse?
A lot of people seem to think that we are, well, a pain. The week I graduated from college, Time Magazine released an article titled “Millennials: the Me Me Me Generation,” which called us lazy, entitled, self-obsessed narcissists. Ouch! On the other hand, we’ve been called open-minded, liberal, self-expressive, upbeat, and overtly passionate about equality. Naturally, I’d prefer to believe this description over the former (how Millennial of me). But, the truth is both arguments hold some grounds for belief. The reality must fall somewhere in between.
The interest in and the controversy surrounding my generation resulted in a packed audience and lengthy Q&A at LinkedIn Talent Connect’s session: “Millennials: How to Attract, Hire, & Retain Today’s Workforce.” Lead by Sondra Dryer of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Barry Sylvia of TripAdvisor, and Melissa Hooven of Cornerstone OnDemand, the talk covered the do’s and don’ts of working with Millennials as well as our overall characteristics and desires.
I walked away from the session with a clear understanding of how recruiting Millennials is different and the key points every recruiter should emphasize when talking to this new generation. To help out those of you that weren’t there, I put together the following list of key takeaways from the session with a view of my own observations thrown in.

Millennials are…


·         Millennials are multitasking pros and can juggle many responsibilities at once. This also means that we are easily distracted and find social media and texting hard to resist.
·         This means that coaches, chaplains, and anyone who hopes to connect with them has to deal with their distractedness. We either have to take away the distractions, as some coaches have, or find ways to engage them deeply enough to push through the distractions. You can either be annoyed with their distraction or develop a way to deal with it. It will be there.
·         Millennials know everything there is to know about social media because we are living it. We are constantly perusing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.  - it’s how we share and get information.
·         This means that we can either join them in their connectedness or become quickly irrelevant. This group connects immediately with people from all across the planet. That is both good and bad. The issue is with whom they connect. If we will provide good content, even godly content, through various social media platforms, we stand to be the ones shaping their thoughts and values. Don’t fear or war against their connectedness, find a way to transform it via Biblical truth.
·         There’s no doubt that the majority of Millennials are more tech-savvy than other generations, although Generation Z may soon surpass us (yikes!).
·         This surely means that we must become tech-savvy as well. At least have tech-savvy people on your team who can put your content and wisdom into the stream of information in which the millennials daily swim. This is an ever-changing landscape. Don’t let it pass you by.
Millennials want…
Instant Gratification & Recognition
·         Millennials need to feel like what they are doing is important and that they are on the right track.  Yes, it sounds a little needy…and it is. But, many Millennials grew up with constant praise from their Baby Boomer parents. It’s what they know.
·         This is likely the greatest source of frustration and annoyance for the Baby Boomers and even Gen Xers. Sadly, it’s our fault. We were the ones who invented participation trophies and sheltered our kids from any possible pain or injury. We decided everyone should be winners, no one should be a loser, and we are reaping the whirlwind in this generation of needy and over-sensitive people. We can either be constantly offended or find ways to deal with their desire to be recognized and have immediate feedback. My suggestion is to give instant feedback, especially praise, in public, face to face, in text messages, via tweets, and to regularly praise the matters you value with their teammates present. Praise what you want and you’ll get more. Ignore or discourage what you don’t want, and you’ll get less of it.
Work-Life Balance & Flexibility
·         Millennials aren’t as willing as former generations to sacrifice their personal life in order to advance their careers. They like to “work hard – play hard” and want to be at a company that appreciates this desire for balance. They also expect a more flexible work environment than previous generations and want to work for a company that supports various causes.
·         We should expect this group to have a strong sense of how many hours they invest in training, practice, film study, team meetings and such vs. how much time they have for social activities, academic work, etc… They will be quick to complain if they think this is out of balance. Don’t just call them soft or chide them about commitment, discuss the balance with them and help them understand your values, the necessity of diligence, and arrive at a wise and appropriate balance. When you do, you’ll have their full commitment.
·         Millennials are extremely team-oriented and enjoy collaborating and building friendships with colleagues.
·         This is a quality that should work in our favor. Encourage and reward their teamwork. Enable them to build friendships among their teammates with social events, fun team activities, meals together, etc… This group will love it.
·         Millennials want to feel like they have an open and honest relationship with their manager and co-workers and that there won’t be any nasty surprises when they join a company. Once they’ve signed on, they want assurance that their opinion is valued and both give and receive a good deal of feedback.
·         I watched this in action this August during our college football team’s pre-season. We had each senior player share a few minutes about his experience at the university and with this team. They were remarkably vulnerable and shared their hearts with their teammates. Further, we had our coaching staff each share the life stories and situations that made them into the men they are today. Wow, when they bared their souls to their players, the bonding was deep and permanent. The transparency shown by these players and coaches, resulted in a remarkable sense of team unity.
Career Advancement
·         Millennials want to know that they will have the opportunity to advance and develop their careers within the company they choose to join.

·         This is another point of contention for most older coaches who deal with millennial competitors, especially as the competition gets stronger and the starting positions become fewer. “I feel like I should be the starting quarterback.” “I work harder than anyone.” “I think I should start. I was the best player on my 5-A high school and AAU teams.” “When is it my turn to be the #1?” “Why can’t I have the jersey number I prefer?” Most of these kids grew up with their preference, with a strong sense of entitlement, with mom or dad carrying their hundreds of dollars of gear to the ballpark. Most of their families have engineered ways for their kids to be the first, the best, the #1 player, from infancy. When they arrive at a level where everyone has also been there, it’s a stark reality. We have to lead them to value “we” over “me” and to understand that sport is a meritocracy where the one who bests serves the team’s best interests will play more than the one who has the best gear, the best post-game snacks, or the wealthiest parents.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Reprise: Notes on Coaching Staff Transitions

This time of year always brings the resignations, firings, new hirings, and other coaching staff transitions. This is primarily true in college football, but also applies to the high school level, and other fall sports as well. Below is a post from late November, 2007 during the third transition I had experienced with our football staff. I hope its values and insights are of value to you as transitions come your way.

At this time of year in college football, there are dozens of changes among head coaching positions, multiplied by their staff’s transitions. This displaces hundreds of coaches and their families each year. We can serve them by understanding the situation and positioning ourselves for effective ministry.

Related to the outgoing staff: 
· If the staff was fired, understand that this feels like failure and a lot like death to them. 
· Help the coaches to see this situation within the sovereignty of God. The Lord is not surprised by this. 
· Understand that the transition is probably harder on the coach’s family than on the coach. 
· Be available to them. They may not want much company, but if they welcome your presence, be there. 
· Be prepared for the termination of some relationships. Some relationships will live beyond their tenure with your team, but others will cut off all ties to this place and you could be cut off as well. 
· Communicate respect and thankfulness for their time with your team as well as hope for their future. 
· Assure them of your prayers and availability to serve. 
· Written communication is very good and can be an enduring encouragement to them. Send a card, an email and/or periodic text messages to stay in touch with them. 

Related to the incoming staff: 
· Pray for favor with the athletic administration and the new head coach. 
· When a new head coach is announced, send a letter of congratulations immediately (keep it to one page). 
· When the coach is settled into the office, get an appointment to welcome him/her and to offer your assistance. 
· Bring a gift (a book) that is reflective of your desired relationship with the coaching staff and team. 
· A wise attitude is reflected in offering to do, “as much or as little as the head coach believes appropriate.” 
· When discussing a role with the team one can reference his/her role with past coaching staffs, but don’t lock into those methods or activities exclusively. 
· Let the coach paint the parameters for your role and work to build trust and credibility from there. 
· It is always wise to offer to serve with no strings attached. Guard your attitude from presumption. 
· Come prepared to discern the coach’s perception of his/her, the staff and the team’s needs.

Friday, November 11, 2016

PowerUp Sports Ministry Conferences

On Wednesday of this week, we participated in the PowerUp Sports Ministry Conference in the Indianapolis, Indiana area. Bill Houston and his team from Our Daily Bread Ministries ( hosted and organized this excellent event.

The program featured presentations by LaMorris Crawford, chaplain to the Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL, Dorothy Caldwell, chaplain to the WNBA Chicago Sky, my son Jason Lipe and I, and a panel discussion facilitated by Tom Rust of Face-2-Face Radio, and populated by Derick Grant, formerly with the Harlem Globetrotters, David Wildman of Fully Packed Adventure Sports Ministries, David Storvick, chaplain to the Indy Racing League, Cameron Mills, former basketball player at Kentucky, and Tom Roy of Unlimited Potential, Inc.

LaMorris Crawford delivered two excellent and inspiring talks. Dorothy Caldwell did a very good job of sharing about her service with WNBA players. Jason and I talked about growing up in sports chaplaincy, how we have both learned as we served.

The panel did a tremendous job of sharing about their respective ministries, their challenges, and their successes.

Our Daily Bread provided each of the attendees a set of their resources, refreshments, and an excellent lunch. The presentations were each recorded on video and will soon be available on line at –

Four PowerUp Sports Ministry Conferences are scheduled for 2016-2017:

November 29, 2016 in Lansing, Michigan at South Church
March 1, 2017 in Knoxville, TN at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church
April 26, 2017 in Houston, TX at Crosspoint Church
October 3, 2017 in Grand Rapids, Michigan at Our Daily Bread Ministries

For more information and to register, please visit:

As good as the presentations are, as inspiring as the speakers are, as delicious as the lunch is, I believe the greatest asset of these events is the gathering of like-minded, committed, but often isolated sports chaplains. The fellowship we enjoy, the networking in which we engage, the sharing of our lives together is of powerful effect, encouraging, and enlightening. Please join us and many of your colleagues at a PowerUp Sports Ministry Conference very soon.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Monthly Conference Calls for Sports Chaplains and Character Coaches

One of the more impactful, available, and practical ways we have used to serve the sports chaplaincy community in the United States is the conference call. Just over two years ago, I began an experiment in sport chaplaincy development by hosting a monthly conference call. From August through May we simply interviewed one of our sports chaplaincy colleagues from around the country for anywhere from 35 to 60 minutes. The calls never fail to inform, inspire, encourage, and challenge each one who calls in.

Those interviewed have included both men and women, people from collegiate, high school, and professional sports. Many of those interviewed have been volunteers, others have been sports ministry professionals working for FCA or other sports ministries. The conference calls have been promoted via email, via social media, and via text messages.

We would invite you to join us. We now have two times slots for these calls. One call is on the first Sunday evening each month at 8:00 pm Central time. That call is primarily aimed at volunteers whose work schedules will not allow them to be on the other call, which is usually on the first Tuesday of each month at 10:30 am Central time. This second call is aimed at ministry professionals like pastors, FCA or other sports ministry staff people.

These calls are connected via and that makes it really simple for anyone to join us from most anywhere. To stay updated on the day and time for upcoming calls, simply follow me on Twitter - @SalukiChaplain, friend me on Facebook, or send me a text message to be put on my text list for sports chaplains – 618.559.2735.

The next Sunday night call is coming up Sunday November 6.

The next Tuesday morning call is set for December 13.

The calls are very beneficial as they accomplish much of FCA’s approach to developing sports chaplains – 1) Training 2) Networking and 3) Mentoring. We all learn best when we hear ideas and best practices from our colleagues.

Please join us and encourage those whom you lead to join us if they are engaged in or even interested in service as a sports chaplain or character coach. 

The process is very simple. Call 712.432.1500, then enter code 991788#, and then enter 1 when prompted. That’s it. It’s perfect for busy people calling in from a mobile phone. Thanks.