Still Coaching In The 1970s?
Critical Keys To "Managing The Millennials"
By: Bill Salyers, Basketball Coach, Winning Hoops Editorial Advisory Board, Miamisburg, Ohio and Sue Ramsey, Head Womens Coach, Ashland University, Ashland, Ohio
It hadn't dawned on me until I attended one particular coaching clinic last year.
As I sat through that clinic, the question hit me like a freight train. Was I coaching in a style in which my players would really understand me?
I was in my 14th year of coaching and had been successful each season and I’ve been an active part of the Winning Hoops Editorial Advisory Board, so things must have been working, right? But suddenly, after 2 hours of listening intently at a coaches clinic, I found myself re-evaluating all of the coaching techniques that I had, or had not, been using. It wasn’t a matter of X’s or O’s, rather, I found myself questioning how I had been presenting the information to the players.
I’ve always believed that the teams who are the most successful really understand what the coach is trying to accomplish. Additionally, I understood that players play harder when they feel they’re a real part of something and they buy into the priorities and goals that the coach has set down. So, what did I hear in those 2 hours of clinic lecture that made me question what I was doing after 14 years?
Adaptability: Knowing Your Players
The first two coaches who lectured that day had at least 20 years of experience each and they were discussing how the 3-point shot had changed the game. One of the coaches stated that it took about 4 years before every team in his league had put in plays to take advantage of the 3-point shot. This fact really surprised me, as I just assumed that coaches would quickly adapt to rule changes, game changes, etc. This really set the stage for a “coaching epiphany” that was about to occur.
Sue Ramsey, the head womens coach at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio then lectured on “Coaching Today’s Generation — The Millennials.” I have three children of my own who are in this generation and have coached hundreds more, so I knew that this would be an interesting topic for me personally.
Ramsey did not let me down. I’ve kept in contact with her since that clinic and she has been kind enough to share her notes and thoughts with me so that Winning Hoops could pass this valuable information along to its coaching readership. Much of the generational information that Ramsey was presenting was from a 60 Minutes television program that aired on October 3, 2004.
Ramsey lists several characteristics that make up the millennial generation of players. The Millennials:
The Most-Watched Generation
There are other aspects of this generation that we need to take into account. This current generation is classified as the “most-watched” generation to date. As young children, they rode their bikes while wearing helmets. As infants they rode in a cars while strapped into a car seat. They never used a medicine bottle without a childproof cap.
They also grew up with many options: hundreds of TV stations to watch and tens of thousands of Web sites to surf. They had a plethora of electronics to choose to use VHS, CD, DVD, I-Pods, MP3, etc. This generation is much more “connected” than prior generations — via e-mail, cell phone, instant messaging, text messaging — and they becomes easily irritated when responses are delayed.
Keeping those prior facts in mind, there are other attributes of the current generation that you should consider as well. In general, the millennials:
Other general characteristics of millennials include that they also:
I certainly have seen these attributes in my own kids. Several of the coaches in our youth organization have discussed what we see during our open-gym sessions. Many of these players have never played “unorganized” basketball. They wait around for a drill to start or wait for some direction. Even concepts such as the give-and-go aren’t part of their “scrimmage always” mind set.
So, how has Ramsey taken the knowledge of the millenials and applied it to her program? There are several things she now incorporates into everything the Ashland program does. Understanding that these student athletes are visual learners, have shorter attention spans, want immediate gratification, want to be part of a team and are technically savvy, there are good coaching techniques that can be used.
Limited Attention Span:
The Need To Be A Part Of A Team:
Note: Do not allow cell phones, iPods, etc., on the bench. It’s important, however, to find out what sort of electronics young players are into and at least understand them.
Building Family Atmosphere
One of the important aspects of this study, and those items that Ramsey stresses, is the aspect of building an extended family. For Ashland University, this starts very early with what they call the “summer-letter series.” Each player and coach is assigned a week when she is to write a letter to all of her teammates and coaches. It must be postmarked on that Monday and come through regular mail. These letters serve as both an introduction to one another and as a motivational tool for all members of the team.
Each season, they also have a “theme” consistent with Ramsey’s philosophy, which she calls,“Commit To It!” The “It” stands for Integrity and Trust. Everything starts with the commitment.
A simple example is leaving the locker room on road trips better than you found it. Other relationship building ideas include a freshmen-upper classmen buddy system and a laminated information card with all player and coach cell phone numbers on it.
Ramsey also feels it’s important to communicate both formally, with 1-on-1 scheduled meetings, and informally, with an open-door policy. She also stresses that coaches keep current with the latest vocabulary used by the athletes.
Finally, to help keep things simple and focused, Ashland has created a simple, concise and understandable acronym for their seasonal performance goals called “PROS.”