Sunday, January 29, 2012

Coaching Generation Y


“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
~Mahatma Gandhi



Being the Change


Coaching and Teaching
I love coaching and teaching. I love working with young people and helping them achieve their goals. I love watching them evolve under my watchful eye into an early version of the adults they will someday become. I love the nature of sports and the accountability the final score brings.    

Coaching Generation Y
“The athletes have changed.” I hear this all the time from my peers in collegiate coaching. There was a time when I said that too. I no longer believe this to be true. I think parenting has changed. I think their socialization has changed. I think the world has changed. The current generation of college athletes; Generation Y, The Trophy Generation, The Facebook Generation, or whatever other name the media is using to describe them, is unique- just like every other generation. And like all previous generations, they are amazing and frustrating for older generations to deal with. I could give you a laundry list of complaints I have about them, but in the end these are just a scrambled up version of the same complaints all older generations have had about younger generations. Years ago I accepted the fact that if I am going to be successful in helping them become the best athletes they can be, I have to adapt to them and their unique generational quirks. Like all students I need to connect with, I need to meet them where they are. And in the end, isn’t that what successful teaching requires of all teachers?   

So why is unearned self esteem a problem?
Kids from the Trophy Generation often suffer from unearned self esteem. We have to keep in mind their socialization contained less competition and more perceived success than previous generations. This experience undermines their ability to overcome failures and achieve things through hard work, trial and error. When faced with certain truths about themselves that challenge the idea they are great, there is nothing to challenge that truth. One new job for coaches and teachers is to help them shine an accurate light on their current ability level without shattering their confidence. This is a fine line we walk, but it can be managed if the athlete trusts the coach and sees a reasonable path leading toward their goals.  

So why is unearned self esteem an asset?
This generation is fearless. In fact, the only things I can see that they are actually afraid of are the judgments and decisions of older generations. This world is changing at lightning speed and instead of fearing the changes; they can’t wait to see what happens next. They pick up the latest technologies and start using them immediately. The ease in which they embrace and adapt to their rapidly changing world is something I find truly amazing.  

Some things will never change
In the end, the lessons of the teacher are the same as they always have been. In whatever time you have, help them accumulate the tools that will better prepare them for a life full of adversities nobody can accurately predict. I have 4-5 years to make a positive difference in the athlete’s life. I will never tire of the thrill of watching an athlete I have coached achieve their goal. It is one of the most rewarding experiences in life, and no generational quirk will ever change that experience for me. 


Be the change
With this current generation it is easy to have the attitude of, “Wait until you get in the real world. You are in for a shock!” But can’t we be better than the older generations who said the same things about us? The real world is getting harder and harder for me to fathom. Our job with this generation is to smooth out their rough edges, fix their collars and send them out into the world- praying they do a better job than we did. After all, who better to thrive in the new real world than an entire generation of young people who are naïve enough to think they can literally do anything. This generation just might be the first to actually be the changes they wish to see in the world. 







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