As a coach in youth sport, it is important to understand the children who will be participating. Having a better understanding as to what makes this generation unique from the past can make all the difference. Generation Z typically refers to youth born after the Millennial Generation, generally identified as those who have been born in the last fifteen years. In this article, Erki Tarro does an excellent job describing what makes Generation Z special and the approaches coaches should consider adopting to create a better and long-lasting connection with their athletes!

By: Erki Tarro
Coaching is an art. You can be the wisest, most passionate coach ever, but if you don’t know who you’re coaching, then you might as well be trying to teach a fish to climb a tree. Coaches have immense knowledge of their sport, but the question remains – how to deliver that knowledge and engage my trainees? With the world and people changing quicker than ever, we’ll have a look at how to reach the ones born in the 21st century – the Generation Z.

Business world has taken notice of different lifestyles of different generations to address their needs accordingly. Sports world needs to do the same. Of course, the most important thing for coaches, managers and parents to consider is the age-appropriate development of a child, but to get your message across, you need to be aware of the generational differences as well.

The kids that you’re coaching today aren’t the kids you were coaching 10-15 years ago and they’re definitely not the same as when you were growing up. Changes in the society, in the world and in technology are shaping the way Generation Z thinks and acts. Here’s how to understand them.

What is Generation Z?
Generation Z bears many different names – the ‘Digital Natives’, the ‘iGen’, the ‘App Generation’, the ‘Selfie Generation’ or even ‘Homelanders’. These youngsters, usually defined as born in the last 15 years, are growing up in a world which is whole lot of different than the previous ones.
Youth sports of today is filled with Gen Zedders. Currently aged up to 15, they are the first ones who haven’t even seen the world without computers and smartphones. They are the ones who have been growing up in one of the toughest economic recessions and in a time when news is dominated by wars and insecurity.

All of this makes their beliefs, values and character inherently different from the previous generation who mostly grew up in the 1990s. Coaching Generation Z can sound tricky, but since they’re probably more down to earth than their predecessors, you will probably enjoy it once you get it.
So what makes them special?
To understand how to coach Generation Z, you really need to understand what makes them tick. There are some overarching qualities of Zeds that influence their behavior and character in all walks of life, including sports and training. 
  • Although they’ve grown up in the digital world, they are actually relatively comfortable talking face-to-face. Text messaging is so last decade, video chats have made Gen Z excellent in face-to-face communication
How should a coach approach Generation Z?
A good coach is aware of the aforementioned peculiarities of Generation Z. Technology is the obvious talking point here, but good communication is the key for understanding and coaching Generation Z.

Krisha Parker of Georgia Southern University has conducted a good case study that illustrate the importance of communication for coaching the modern kids. Using youth soccer players as an example, four main themes come out as particularly important.
According to Parker’s study, these are the qualities of a good coach for Generation Z:
  1. Does not yell and remains calm
  2. Is caring and encouraging
  3. Has knowledge of sport
  4. Involves team in the decision-making process
These qualities signify the importance of democratic and inclusive training methods to Gen Z. Perhaps using technologies such as video chats to give honest feedback or including the team in the decision-making process builds that trust, sincerity and stability that Generation Z craves for.
Given that Gen Z already has a positive image of sports as a health tool, it is up to the coach to harness that potential and understand the Zeds to make the whole training process engaging for them. They love to track their own progress on technological devices, but as a coach, limit your tracking activities to best serve their interests.
One thing is certain though. The days of authoritarian coaches are over. Listen to what Generation Z has to say as well and you’ll gain their trust to build a solid foundation for their future.

Source: Steve Nash Youth Basketball Blog
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