Hard Facts About Millennials – Football Bosses Need To Know

– that sabotage rosters and coaching plans

Selling the self-interest message

We need to get the self-harm argument across to players, but that will only happen if it’s wrapped in a self-interest message. It’s not the threat of loss if you do that gets internalised (when it runs counter to Millennial preferences), it’s the promise of gain if you don’t. We need to give players compelling reasons to make their choices in a better way. Remove them from the compulsions of the Millennial mindset and give them the self-belief to make decisions objectively. In a way that means giving them back what social dynamics denied them during their formative years – the capacity to make rational judgments about situations and people, a key element in empowerment.

When players are nagged or threatened, that doesn’t alter their attitude to life. They just listen up and tune out. A good salesperson would never allow a prospect to react like that. They know there’ll be objections, and that it’s essential to get these out on the table, to be argued on their merits. It’s the same with Millennial footballers. They need to be force-fed the facts, by someone who understands these and then challenged to respond. That’s the way to promote attitude change in these situations, which is essential before any behavior change will occur.

Practising what we preach

As writers and consultants, we face the same challenge. There are objections to our message we’d rarely hear if we didn’t get them out:

How can you advise on Millennials if you’re not a Millennial?

Where is the evidence that says it’s as serious as you make out?

This sounds like a player Wellness issue and we’re already tackling that.

These are legitimate concerns which can be met with compelling answers – but only if they’re voiced and out on the table.

There’s one point we do need to address before moving on:

Does player-empowerment mean players having more power over the game?

No, it means them having more control over themselves.

Short-circuiting the blame game

When actions occur that stain a game’s reputation and standing, a process of blame-shifting kicks in. If it’s something on the field, this can trigger accusations by the code against clubs and their players. Equally, it can produce the reverse complaint, with clubs and players criticising game management for things it did or didn’t do that could have prevented the problem. This is magnified when the event occurs off the field. Threats are issued and carried out or not. Articles are written, accusations made and retracted. Then it all settles down, until the next time.

Encouraging player self-empowerment short circuits that repetitive and damaging cycle of blame. It brings the parties together through mutual interests, and no one can seriously argue against it in principle or in practice.

Then what?

Football club managements, irrespective of the code, spend 90% their time trying to improve the things they already understand and are expert at – rosters, player development, talent spotting, coaching and support staff, venues, sponsorships… All critically important, and all coming off an already high-performance base.

In this series of articles, we’ve exposed an issue management doesn’t understand, but needs to become expert at quickly – the generational flaws of those who determine the fortunes of the club. The needs of the game have changed as the player demographic has changed. Factors that have nothing intrinsically to do with football now seriously influence who wins premierships or championships – putting at risk supporter and sponsor loyalty, and jeopardising the return on investment from management decisions.

Performance improvement strategies within organizations do well to focus on the most promising opportunities. For football codes today, as with businesses generally, this means getting control of the Millennial factor.

This article has focused heavily on the self-interest card and the importance of playing it shrewdly. It’s too easy to assume that self-interest and self-harm are self-evident notions, which just need reinforcing – with the threat of some stick on the side. This ignores the power of the Millennial mindset to override fear or logic when such arguments are not solidly entrenched. And this occurs all too often with programs aimed at changing player attitudes on social or moral issues.

Team bosses need to recognize that nothing will change in Millennial behaviour, unless the self-interest message is sold expertly enough to be bought by the players themselves.

Once that’s accomplished it’s largely plain sailing – as we’ll outline in the next article.

NOTE: The primary author spent two years in the trenches of professional football in the era of Gen X while establishing a Performance Management program within a prominent Australian Rugby League football club.



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Brian Mitchell
Brian Mitchellhttp://www.howandy.net
Brian Mitchell and Evan Mitchell write extensively on psychological themes, with scores of published articles on three continents. Brian has a clinical Ph.D. and a significant period as a therapist. Evan has Honors degrees in Psychology and English Literature, and also extensive practical experience. They have two published books. The well-reviewed hardcover The Psychology of Wine: truth and beauty by the glass (www.psychologyofwine.com ) – Praeger US (and now in eBook edition) explored the aesthetics of wine and art and their psychological possibilities. This led to the storyline and structure of their upcoming literary thriller The Last Cave, an action narrative of suspense and surprise in the mode of Terry Hayes’ I am Pilgrim. Prior to writing full-time, the pair conducted a successful US consulting operation specializing in negotiation effectiveness. Subsequently extended to generational studies on decision making tendencies by Gens Y and Z in the consumer world and politics.They can be reached through [email protected]