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Tips for Coaching Gen Z Athletes

You could conduct a master class on how today’s athletes differ from previous generations. And while it can be considered a negative, it’s also completely understandable. The world has changed rapidly, primarily via social media and telephone tech, and they are evolving with it.  

The most successful coaches know how to adapt and connect with their athletes to lead a competitive team. You’ve weathered rules and training changes throughout the years. Which means you’ll crush this, too.  

Gen Z

Here are seven ways to meet Gen Z athletes where they are while meeting team goals.  

  1. Class to Practice Transition

Today’s teens face more stress and pressure than their predecessors. So, anything you can do to help your athletes transition from the “sit still and be quiet” mode of education to an engaged and physical state for sports is a win. You’ll want to find the FUN as you shift their mindset to training. Helping teens release the pressure value of school stress will invigorate them and improve practices. Maybe you let them connect during warm-ups or through a quick game that loosens the body and focuses the mind. 

  1. Communicate and Connection

Getting to know Gen Z athletes as people and competitors is essential. Center your conversations on their needs, ensuring they have a voice in the process. It doesn’t mean they drive decisions in training and development; it’s more about being heard, which can happen at practices, team dinners, or team activities. Holding an event outside practice or training is an excellent opportunity for athletes to share more about themselves.  

  1. Commercial Break Principle

Short attention spans? Yep, that’s a signature of today’s student-athletes. And while it’s frustrating, there are ways to make it work in your favor. Like TV, you can structure practices and film sessions with built-in transitions or adjustments every seven minutes to keep learning fresh and focused. Breaks can include quick reps on their own or time to get a drink to prepare for the next drill. Then everyone gets back to work.  

  1. Know Their Favorites

Practices inevitably involve drills that your athletes find boring and repetitive. You can counteract those energy drainers by allowing them to mix a few favorites into the practice plan. It’s the equivalent of going out to recess before returning to class. Learning your athlete’s preferred plays and acting on them creates buy-in that pays dividends for your overall coaching strategy.   

  1. Ask Open-Ended Questions 

Asking open-ended questions empowers athletes to share their opinions, so they’re responsible for answers and solutions. You’ll also learn more about how they think. Challenging them to engage in problem-solving independently provides a learning experience that transcends competition. 

  1. Using Tech to Teach

Gen Z’ers tend to be visual learners and excel at using technology. You can leverage this when teaching skills. For example, consider recording a short phone video of your athlete performing a skill to give them feedback on the spot.  

  1. Admit Your Mistakes

Let’s face it, we all make mistakes. Owning it and explaining yourself is important to Gen Z athletes. You’re not only taking personal accountability; you’re creating an environment that helps them do the same. You are an incredible role model in their life. So, showing your athletes how to step up, be vulnerable, and handle difficult situations is a wonderful life lesson.  


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