“Kids Today!” Using DRIVN to Improve Your Coaching

  • My agitated colleague threw his hands in the air: “Why would you throw that?” Then: “Don’t any of you ever play backyard football anymore?” While surely some of the young high school athletes have played pickup or touch football, the accurate answer would be: Not nearly as many as when the coaching staff was growing up. Many of today’s coaches are struggling with the disconnect between the old school coaching tenets and today’s entitled, protected athletes. Google: “Coaching Today’s Millennial Athletes” and you will get over 573,000 results in less than ¾ of a second! That is not to say these kids are any less competitive, talented or interested in winning, just that they are also interested in being part of the process, not just the results. With kids quitting competitive team sports at an alarming rate, savvy coaches are incorporating new techniques and methodologies to create successful programs. Successful programs where kids want to stay involved, and cherish their participation.


    Today’s athletes are playing competitive team sports to win, of course, but also for fun. Social animals, kids crave the camaraderie of like-minded individuals and the joy of being on the team. Teams provide today’s stressed student-athletes a sense of community, an identity that they can wear proudly. That is why establishing positive team culture pays dividends all year long, as the structure, demands and focus of the team acts as a constant reminder of positive values for the kids to strive for and abide by.


    The modern athlete has been hardwired differently than in the past. They want to know why they are being asked to do something. A good coaching tip…if you can’t succinctly explain to a 14-year-old the purpose of a drill, then perhaps that drill should be dropped, improved, or made more relevant. That is not to say “We’re doing forty 40’s today because that school up North ain’t doing them and WE are building Mental Toughness” is not only a legitimate answer but an inspiring answer. And this answer explaining a tough drill opens the door for building team confidence, peer approval, and unity. It takes little to no talent to bust one’s butt completing a testing task. Sonny Sophomorethird-string nose guard and Salty Senior, the backup running back, relegated to reserve duty, can both lift themselves, the team and the program by outperforming during these drills. It is up to today’s coach to “catch them doing good” and expend as much energy praising their effort and positive attitude and Team-first attitude as is spent correcting mistakes and praising touchdowns.


    Kids today are technologically savvy, and have short attention spans. No longer does “We will be out here all day running this play until we get it right” inspire the troops to buckle down and self-correct. This is not new. DeMatha great Morgan Wooten preached years ago to keep the athletes moving through drills quickly, if they screw one up, go on to the next one and come back to that one later. It is only more pronounced with today’s athletes. They want instant feedback and positive reinforcement. Some say kids do not know how to dig deep and face adversity. They need to know how to face adversity, and need a fall back plan to succeed. Down 10 points in the fourth quarter, a coach can call on that reserve bank of positive team drills: “Sixty minutes, guys! Remember Sonny busting his hump on those last five 40’s in the humid August night…We got this, We earned this!”


    Nothing felt better this past fall than seeing our backup quarterback slide under center in a big game on a third-and-7. He scanned the defense reacting to his one back 2 X 2 set, and seeing the two linebackers bailing anticipating slants, he goosed the center for a quick snap and ran an untouched sneak for twenty yards and a big first down in a tight game. When asked where that came from, he said: “That’s what you talked about at practice, show some initiative…you know, coach, Backyard Football!”


    Coaching kids today requires subtle changes, and using every technique you can beg, borrow or steal. Kids love feedback, discussion, involvement. Social interaction, checking in to see their game videos, being able to contact their position coach: “Did you see that lousy arm tackle by the All-SEC DB last night?” Smart coaches take feedback from their team and incorporate that into their practice plans. Some sports have quickly incorporated daily inputs of RPE (rate of perceived exertion) as a tracking metric to accurately assess the physical and perhaps emotional psyche of their team.


    Coaching today’s millennial athlete requires connectivity, engagement, and establishing a strong team culture, so kids know their boundaries, their obligations and their limits. Kids also need to know that the coaching staff is as engaged in their success as the players are expected to be. Coaches work too hard during the season to build great team infrastructure, only to see it dismantled by graduation of key leaders and off season slipping of the team tenets. DRIVN mobile coaching app helps build that off season continuity, strengthens positive bonds between coach and players, and between teammates. Team community engages in activities that maintain and extend the bonds that create a great program, be it conditioning, community service, or continuing education. Don’t let your progress slide back, look into Drivn.today now and set up a free demo.