Friday, April 21, 2017

Leading Millennial Sportspeople

Back on November 25, 2016 I wrote a reflection about serving Millennial sportspeople ( , and the issue of how to serve, to lead, and to coach this group has only intensified since then. I recently saw a Facebook link to a video about how to manage Millennials and found it to be quite insightful. Here is a link to the video featuring Simon Sinek.

Just a couple of hours after watching the video I had some time to contemplate its implications. I wrote down four coaching points that can be used by coaches and/or sports chaplains in working with Millennial sportspeople. They are below. Please consider using any or all of them with your teams.

1.   Create “phone free” spaces. Much of the reason for this group’s inability to speak with people face to face or to build relationships is that they are fixated by their mobile phones.
a.   Team meetings – require that no one bring his or her phone into team meetings. Leave them in the locker room or in your car.
b.   Team meals – if your team eats meals together, require them to not bring phones to the meals, ever.
c.   Position group meetings – require that your position group not bring their phones into the meeting space. Insist that they be 100% present to learn.
d.   Selected bus travel – I know one college basketball coach who collects all the team’s phones in a drawstring bag for bus travel on game day. It eliminates distractions and enables the players to focus on the task at hand. She returns the phones to them after the game.
2.   Create opportunities for making an “impact.” Many millennials want a sense of having made an impact on their world, and simply going to class, to practice, and to games may not scratch that itch.
a.   Provide opportunities for recurring community service - make it a regular service project in the same place with the same people so that relationships form and develop. This is where they will experience genuine impact.
b.   Mentoring of younger teammates – connect the eldest players with the youngest to learn their way around campus, to understand how the school works, to grasp the culture of the team and the community.
c.   Spotlight drill – select one player to be “spotlighted” and ask the other players to tell how the spotlighted player has made an impact on their lives, on the team, or on their community.
d.   Write thank you cards – distribute cards on which the players can write notes to thank their parents, their high school coach, their high school principal, or a donor to their sports program. Help them focus on people who helped them be where they area.
e.   Serve people who could never repay them – choose some from your community. It might be a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen, a food pantry, a women’s shelter, an animal rescue facility, or anything where they can see beyond their privilege and sense an impact upon others’ lives.
3.   Celebrate achievement, not simply participation. This generation grew up receiving participation medals. They were rewarded for simply showing up. This not only devalues the awards given, it also diminishes the true value of genuine achievement.
a.   Make a list of minimum expectations for everyone involved. These are not to be celebrated, they are the bare minimum.
b.   Make a list of achievements that will be celebrated. Celebrate these strongly.
c.   Make the two lists widely different.
4.   Help them declare independence from their parents. We’ve all heard the stories of “helicopter parents” and many of us have lived those stories. Help your players declare their independence, cut the apron strings, grow up, and find freedom. Help them compose a letter with ideas such as these:
a.   Dad and Mom, thank you for helping me to grow and to find my way to this team.
b.   Please, now allow me enough room to compete, to succeed, and to fail.
c.   Please affirm these expectations for both academic and athletic performance that come with being a part of this team.
d.   Please celebrate with me as I achieve in the classroom and on the field of competition.
e.   To simply participate is not good enough at this level. I must meet the minimum expectations and strive to really achieve.
f.     Thank you.

These are just some first thoughts from this excellent video. We must find new and creative ways to push through the counterproductive and often annoying traits of Millennials as we coach them. We must find ways to lead, to inspire, and to encourage them to be all that God created them to be.

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