College Football Coaches Understand Millennials

For the last couple weeks, the Mothership (ESPN) has been bringing in college football coaches and running them through the “Carwash.” It is a juggernaut of a day which includes coaches being escorted from set-to-set at the ESPN complex to be asked the same questions over and over again. Coaches return the favor with “coach-speak” answers making for a usual programming day of repetition on ESPN.

Full disclosure, I am a football nerd #gocards #L1C4. Professional, college, and even Texas high school football starts to really grab my attention this time of year. Rather than radio surfing in my car, I have loaded my iPhone with football related podcasts (to go along with the leadership and business podcasts of course). In Houston, you end up spending a solid portion of your day in the car.

ESPNU’s College Football Podcast is one of my go-to sources for information. Ivan Maisel and Matt Barrie are a good team.  On the Podcast, which I do enjoy immensely, Ivan has been interviewing nearly every college coach from the Top 5 conferences and asking some insightful questions around the culture of college sports today. What I have come to realize is that most of these coaches understand they as leaders must adjust to the generation they are coaching. In other words, these guys study millennials and even accommodate aspects of their approach to coaching in order to reach these young adults.  To help them.  To teach them.  To relate to them.  To help them grow as people and citizens.  To earn their trust and respect.

To be honest, most of the stuff out there on my leadership and business podcasts is just the opposite. They instruct managers and business owners on how to bring the millennials along to their perception of the business world mindset.  In other words, they are trying to change millennials to fit their mold for the workplace. College football coaches, on the other hand, seem to understand that they need to do some adjusting themselves!

Some of these coaches get paid millions of dollars. They receive some scrutiny on that topic, too. Yet, if you listen to them answer questions about their not-so-successful last season or about coaching their teams, they answer with, “Well, every coach should look at themselves in the mirror first. Ask, ‘What do I need to change. How can I improve my craft?'” Yes please!  Serve me up some of that humble pie!  I want that guy to coach and lead me.

Look, I am not exactly enthused about this next point.  I understand why you might not either.  It is a topic that is beaten over our heads too much.  It’s a worldly truth, though.

The major barrier between millennials and their older managers is COMMUNICATION. This is precisely why coaches are an excellent case study for understanding millennials. A college coach’s job security hinges on their ability to communicate to 18-22 year old young people.  As I mentioned above, these coaches are attempting to help, teach, grow, and earn the respect of their millennial players.

It’s too perfect!  See, college coaches are stuck with millennials (and can thrive with them too).  Older football players are now professionals who aren’t eligible or they are worn-out and of no use (speaking from experience – I am the latter).  They MUST adjust and innovate their communication styles to be heard by their young players.  When they do so successfully, they tangibly win on the football field.  For many athletes they tangibly win in life and career down the road, too.

Should not our business coaches, mentors, bosses and managers want to win with us millennials?  The media wants to say we’ve been dealt a sorry hand.  The majority of the older generation wants to doom us, because they don’t really understand us.

I’d rather focus on winning a bunch of “ball games” during my career.