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Younger coaches have asked me how much kids have changed during my 20 years of coaching high school football, and my response is that teenagers have changed a little since the late 1990s - but our own culture has changed a lot more!
You have to approach coaching in 2017 different than you did in 1998. So here are six keys to motivating today's student-athlete 1. Be authentic
Be the best version of yourself that you can be. Today's student-athlete wants authenticity. A story hit national media in ealy April that told about a school's student newspaper staff finding out that their new principal had faked her college experience, as well as her credentials to be their principal. That sums up what teenagers are like now. They want real people. They need to have authenticity from their coaches. Do not try to be someone else, just be you.2. Become a better listener
The family unit is much different today than 20 years ago. One thing that many teenagers are missing at home is two parents who listen to their children. Our athletes need us to listen to them. If you want to connect with today's student-athletes in a meaningful way, become a better listener. Make sure your kids know that you care about them through listening. 3. Raise the bar
Kids want to be challenged today more than ever. Do not be afraid to raise the bar. Social media has revealed the many talents of thousands of kids nationwide. My own 10-year-old son is constantly pushing himself because of what he sees kids his own age doing on YouTube. Raising the bar for your kids and your team will tell your kids that you believe in them, and that will motivate them to work hard to jump over that bar. 4. Reward based on performance
Kids today have been rewarded way too much without earning some of those rewards. Everybody gets a trophy just for participating on a last-place team. Kids want to be rewarded, but not just to be rewarded. They want to earn that recognition and those rewards. Motivating today's student-athletes means performance-based recognition. Look for ways to reward your kids on a daily basis to keep them motivated. Even small rewards through competition matter. Shout praise, whisper criticism.5. Be competent in your field of expertise
Become an expert at what you do because these kids are becoming experts. Again, the Internet has changed how information is delivered in so many different ways. If you don't know your stuff, your kids will know. Kids and their parents want to have the best coaching and teaching available. You've got to be that person who they trust because you know what you're talking about. Coaches today need to work harder than ever to be an expert in their field, and it's never been easier to become highly qualified in the position or the side of the ball you are coaching.6. Motivate through innovation – change things up
You've got to look for ways to change things up to keep your kids engaged. The same exact practice routine every day will lose their focus. Change up the routine. We see every major sport making changes to the way they have done things to speed up the game because our culture is becoming less and less tolerant of waiting. The same thing can be said of teenagers. Keep practices fresh, keep them guessing at what is coming to make sure they stay engaged in what you are trying to accomplish.
Chris Fore is a veteran Head Football Coach and Athletic Director from Southern California. He consults coaches and programs nationwide through his business Eight Laces Consulting.