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Boomer Coaches' New Game Plan for Millennial Players


The NFL kicks off on Sept. 10, bringing to an end weeks of preseason training for the teams. But the players weren’t the only people learning a new game book. Teams from San Francisco to New York have brought in consultants to teach boomer coaches how to better interact with millennial players.

Coming off a dismal 6-10 season, the New York Giants last spring hired two psychologists and an executive coach to work with the team, especially those players with learning difficulties. Clinical psychologist Christopher Bogart quickly realized that the problem extended to “ generational differences” between the coaches and the players. Typically in training camp, which can last 12 hours a day on and off the field, players are required to memorize game plans given in long PowerPoint presentations.

“That’s not going to work with millennials,” says Bogart, the executive director of the Southfield Center for Development in Darien, Conn. Over the last 20 years teaching methods have become interactive, moving away from students taking notes and memorizing them, he explains. “If you want millennials to learn, they have to feel they are part of the process,” he says. “They tend be very skeptical or closed to people speaking on high telling them, ‘This is what you need to learn.”

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Where does that attitude come from? Blame boomer parents. Bogart believes that our unending, undivided attention has resulted in millennials believing that “what comes out of my mouth is equally important to what comes out of yours,” making a teaching situation often difficult. So he suggests that the coaches break down those endless slideshows into mini lessons with key points and create a game of sorts where players teach the takeaways to each other. “We were trying to create a more playful environment and involve the players in the learning process.”

Beyond the collaborative learning, coaches were also urged to lose the binders and enter the player’s world with texts and electronic communications. Bogart explains that technology has shortened attention spans, delivering streams of information “a mile wide and an inch deep,” so young people require more stimuli per second to learn.

On the West Coast, the San Francisco 49ers’ coaches, after consulting with Stanford researchers, took a similar approach and cut down on training meetings, employed digital playbooks, and communicated via text.

Bogart stresses that the changes don’t mean the players have to work any less hard on or off the field. It’s simply that coaches and teachers — as well as colleagues and parents — need to modernize their training methods for the millennial generation. “We’re not saying take the millennials off the hook for hard work," Bogart says. "We’re saying that talking to a millennial differently is going to get you further.”

Mary W. Quigley’s blog, Mothering21, tackles parenting of emerging adults and beyond.

Photo:  SkoDonnell /iStock

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