Many coaches will say “Kids aren’t like they used to be”. For the most part that’s true, but there’s one missing element between kids these days and kids in the past: technology.
When we (myself included) were growing up, all of our friends played football. It was the thing to do. It’s the only way we could connect with our friends rather than being in school with them. If the coach cussed us out every day, we took it because we could still have fun with our friends.
However nowadays, the tables have turned. Kids aren’t getting softer. Kids aren’t getting weaker. Kids now just have alternatives to connect with their friends.
Think about it, if you were a kid, would you rather get cussed out and embarrassed in front of your friends every day by a coach, or connect with your friends on video games, where no one is yelling at you? Kids have options nowadays and they will take the path that is most fun for them.
Thankfully, football can be the path that is most fun for them. As a coach, you’re number one job should be to create an environment where your players can thrive in. That’s it.
Creating A Fun Environment For Your Players
Coaches often scoff when I mention the word “fun” in football. They often relate it to “giving every kid a trophy” or that you can’t be hard on your players. That’s not true.
Football is a sport that requires an immense amount of discipline to succeed. All 11 players need to be in the right place, doing the right thing, at the right time in order to win.
In order to coach “Gen Z” or the newer aged player, there are a few things that you need to be aware of.
- Kids want to be coached!
- We live in a short-form generation. Kids live on Tik Tok & Instagram. What does this mean? They need to be fed information in spurts. If you’re someone who likes to take 10 minutes to explain things or talk for a long time, there’s a good chance you will lose your kid’s focus.
- Kids love to compete.
Now, let’s expand on these points.
Kids Want To Be Coached
If you think kids sign up to play football to be screamed at, made to do laps, and embarrassed in front of their friends, you are mistaken.
Kids sign up to play football because they love the sport. They want to be the next Lamar Jackson or the next Derrick Henry. They pretend to be them in their backyard or while playing with their friends during school. It’s the reason they wear their jerseys and watch TV with their dad.
You, as the coach, are the bridge to get them closer to their dream. If you teach the player something new, it’s important you teach them the why behind it as well. It’s part of the generation. They always want to know why. A good coach can incorporate the “why” into every one of his teachings.
I promise you, if you become a “resource magnet” for your players, they will naturally be drawn to you. If you present yourself as approachable and that you are there to help the kid, not scream your face off every time he makes a mistake, they will find trust in you.
When a player trusts you, they will be willing to run through a brick wall for you.
Teaching In Spurts
Coaching is teaching. If you’re not able to get your point across to a kid in under 30 seconds, there’s a good chance you’re going to struggle in maintaining attention.
Good coaches use both physical and verbal cues to show exactly how something is done.
The worst thing you can do as a coach is to stop a drill that has 8-10 players in it and talk for 2-3 minutes. You’ll lose the focus of more than half of the group.
Coach in spurts. Use quick points of emphasis and keep the drill moving. Remember we live in a short-form generation. Be quick and impactful when you’re trying to deliver your message.
Creating Competitive Drills
It doesn’t matter what age your kids are, they love to compete. Don’t believe me? Set up a relay race with a bunch of 5-year-olds and I bet all of them will be jumping up and down rooting on each person running for their team, then loudly letting you know who won.
It’s in our DNA to be the best we possibly can be at something.
As a coach, it’s your job to make sure that your players can thrive in competitive environments. What do competitive environments do?
- Build Mental Toughness By Losing
- Teaches Players How To Find Ways To Win
When you compete there are winners and losers. No one wants to be a loser. However, there is some good with losing in practice.
If you consistently put your players in competitive situations, they are going to learn to “get the next one” and handle losing the right way. It sucks, but they need to know what losing feels like so they can strive to win.
On the other hand, once players know what it feels like to lose, they will do everything in their power to win. If you consistently put your players in competitive environments, they will find ways to win. This skill is what you’ll need from your players when they are tired in the fourth quarter and need to dig deep to execute their assignment.
Keeping Kids Engaged
One of the biggest stresses of coaching younger kids is them “fooling around” or not paying attention. Believe it or not, a lot of the blame falls on the coach.
If you put kids in groups of 3+, they are naturally going to talk to each other or fool around. They’re kids!
If you have kids standing around waiting in line, they are going to fool around. Once again, they are kids!
How can you fix this as a coach? Simple, keep the lines short and keep them moving. The more the kids are moving, the less they will be able to talk. The smaller the groups are, the fewer people they have to talk to and fool around with.
This is one of the biggest mistakes we see from coaches when they schedule their practice. They don’t have an answer for large groups, so they put them all in 1 line, then get angry when the kids fool around.
Remember, short attention spans require constant attention. Keep them moving to keep their mind engaged.
Nothing is more fun than winning football games. The feeling after a game, knowing you worked your tail off all week is unmatched.
In order to get to that point, you need to make sure your players are working hard, have discipline, and are executing their jobs on the field.
Your job is to make the experience of playing football as fun and challenging as possible. Don’t lose a kid because you want to be tough and satisfy your ego. Remember, you attract more bees with honey than you do vinegar. Be hard on your players, but show them an equal amount of love and your players will glue to you.