By Lahnee Pavlovich, Head of Research and Writing, Athlete Assessments

Athlete Assessments’ Bo Hanson spoke at the recent National Rugby League Coaching Seminar about Coaching Millennial athletes. We have captured his presentation on Coaching Millennials and created an informative and engaging 14 part video series. Throughout this series, Bo speaks about understanding your younger athletes better as well as the importance of implementing an ‘athlete centred’ coaching style, building deep connections and trust with your athletes and applying your role as Coach, protector and teacher for your athletes.

At the core of the Millennials Video Series, Bo introduces an important and interesting concept – that Millennials may be no different to us at a younger age. Millennial athletes are roughly between the ages of 18-38 (as of 2015) and typically defined by a certain set of characteristics. Each generation has its own way of thinking, values and responds to different things. But what if this generation gap is nothing more than an empathy gap; an inability to remember what we were like at that stage of our lives? What if we as Coaches learnt to look at things from the perspective of our young athletes? How would this help us work more effectively with them, and as a result, help them achieve a higher rate of success?

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At Athlete Assessments we are behavioralists. We believe a large part of your behavior is a function of your environment. If you are exposed to a certain environment, including a certain culture, this ultimately determines what behaviors you exhibit. Millennial athletes were brought up in a different environment. This different environment has essentially shaped Millennials which ultimately affects us as Coaches.

Millennial athletes want to be friends with those in their team, they want to connect with their Coaches, but at the same time, they may lack the desire for a significant commitment to others. It’s also no secret that Millennials are untrusting of authority figures. They have seen authority figures behaving poorly in the media and they don’t see them as inspirational, so why would they trust them? This can create issues because a Coach is also perceived as an authority figure and as we know, Millennials don’t want to be told what to do. They want to be involved in the process; they want sport/life integration.

Did you know that the number 1 reason people leave sports is because they no longer enjoy it? Millennial athletes want to have fun. It’s actually more important to them than winning medals. If it’s not fun it’s not done – sport must be enjoyable or they will leave.



As a Coach, you need to be able to take this information and turn it into a process that benefits you and your team. Coaches should work on creating a connection and building rapport with their athletes. Coaches need to become someone they can look up to who has credibility in their eyes. We also need to devise new ways to create an environment that’s enjoyable, has social aspects, is friendly, exciting and really encourage our young athletes to want to be involved to create deeper commitment. Adapting our own behaviors can ultimately only lead to benefiting our team and our success. If you want to know more about how you can do this, you can also take a look at our DISC Profiles.

Less directing, less telling, more play = a developed sense of decision making skills, cooperation, coping mechanism and resilience in our athletes.


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Rigidity in structure does not work with Millennials – young athletes want flexibility and variety. Most people develop a routine on their own if they are given the flexibility and fluidity to do so. When you have highly structured rules, it just doesn’t work. Millennials want involvement so it’s up to us as Coaches to give them that – make them part of the decision making process while still implementing an underlying structure. Throughout these videos we take a look at how rigidity impacts us as Coaches and how encouraging unstructured learning can help build a “smarter” team.

How can you better coach Millennials?

Today’s Millennial athletes also seek meaning in what they do. They connect best to values and perform best when they are aligned to their teams’ values. This is a generation that are less inclined to accept a job just because it pays well. They want a job that has meaning and a deep sense of connection, community and values. It’s no different when it comes to their sports and their team. As Coaches, we need to ask ourselves, what does our team stand for? What do they connect to? Why would athletes want to play for us?

Create a strong identity, create a culture and attract people who want to connect to that. Teams win when they get to know each other better.

Another issue that gets discussed throughout the series is that everyone is now rewarded despite the actual amount of effort they put in. What happens when we encourage participation only is that young people’s understanding of the standards required for success is impacted, and this then influences their work ethic and commitment. What can you do? As a Coach, you can create systems to teach important values that society is no longer teaching.

One way we can do this is by looking at certain notions of technical and non-technical roles, what they are and how they affect a team’s success or failure. Technical skills are part of the game and we need to get those fundamentals right, but the non-technical skills are just as important. They are critical in sport at the highest level.

Technical skills are part of the game and we need to get those fundamentals right, but the non-technical skills are just as important.

Sport specific behaviors:

  1. Leadership
  2. Resilience, focus, attention
  3. Communication and feedback
  4. Teamwork
  5. Self-awareness
  6. Dealing with pressure and expectations
  7. Composure and imagery
  8. Self-regulation.

They are critical in sport at the highest level.

When we are developing new ways to interact and coach our athletes, it has become imperative that we keep the following concept in mind. According to Jordan Kaplan, Associate Managerial Science Professor at Long Island University, Brooklyn, New York, “Millennials are much less likely to respond to the traditional command-and-control type of leadership. They’ve grown up questioning their parents, now they are questioning their Coaches. They don’t know how to sit quietly, which is great, but that’s aggravating to the baby boomers who say do it and do it now.”

Bo shows us that this can actually be a positive thing. Millennial athletes ask questions, they ask why and this means is that they are interested and willing to learn. As Coaches, we need to reframe our traditional style of coaching. We need to look at Athlete Centred Coaching – involve them, provide 2-way-communication, make connections, understand them, build relationships with them. If our athletes feel valued, they behave in a way that is in the best interests of their team.

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At Athlete Assessments, we’re here to provide you with excellence in service and to help you be your best. If there is anything we can assist you with, please Contact Us.

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