There was an epidemic occurring across the country before COVID of 2020. Last year, there were articles portraying the transfer epidemic of student-athletes seeking new addresses for competitive opportunities as a growing concern in college athletics. As of the end of March (2020) Jeff Goodman listed over 450 student-athletes in men’s college basketball alone at the Division-I level entering the transfer portal. Regardless of where you stand on the matter, it is a part of the modern era of athletics – at all levels. There are kids whimsically leaving clubs, or documenting different addresses to redistrict for high schools. These are indicative of the times we live in and coaches are left having to adjust.

My concern isn’t necessarily about what this is doing to the landscape of competitive sports, more so than I am intrigued by what the trickle-down effect may have on the next generation of coaches. Mentioned in a previous post on feeling like the Middle Child in terms of generational coaching styles; we have rising coaches that are dichotomous in philosophy. Groomed by our predecessors there seem to be very contrasting styles existing between the remaining old-school coaches with demanding personas and the possibly more mild-mannered new school group of coaches. What will become of the next generation of coaches?

We may already be seeing a glimpse of it during this quarantine. During this time of shut-down, we have seen more digital development than ever before. Out of compliance for sure, but it reveals more of what we already know about the next generation of athletes turn coaches.


Particularly towards brand equity. The younger generation seems more and more adept at separating themselves as personal entrepreneurs or chief marketing experts through different mediums than traditional coaches. Taught with a tablet in-hand since they were toddlers; graduate assistants, managers, or younger support staff are finding creative means to separate themselves in an extremely competitive market exhausting all digital resources available. Some are becoming Xs and Os gurus by creating digital playbooks available. Others understand that Tik-Tok doesn’t provide the same functionality as SnapChat or Instagram and has far more reach to the younger impressionable student-athletes for recruiting purposes. *Sorry did that sound bitter? I still don’t get it.* Who can we compare this to that emulates this type of coaching?

Consider P.J. Fleck from the University of Minnesota. Not a football coaching expert by any means, but his rise to stardom in college football seems to co-exist with his ‘Row the Boat’ mantra. An infectious personality attached to a tagline that resonates with prospective athletes reflecting the value of marketing and brand recognition.

Tech Savvy

This merges into similar lanes with the ingenuity to build a brand. The next generation is far more comfortable with technology than even the ‘Middle Child’ generation that grew up with computers. Everything is transferring to digital capacity:

  • analytics
  • player development
  • professional development
  • recruiting
  • exit meetings
  • interviewing

What we have seen during this shut down is a snapshot of what is to come with more Zoom workouts, FaceTime meetings, or Skype coaching clinics. What this may mean from a coaching perspective is an increase in usage for all-purpose applications. Will this reduce the number of daily interactions with the team possibly impacting the ability to cultivate relationships? Or does this centralize the communication for a more digitally inclined audience? This becomes part of the challenge when relationship management is so meaningful to program culture, while still staying abreast with effective forms of communication.

Inclusive & Info Sharing

In addition to the technology being used inside the program. Coaches seem far more open to sharing resources, playbooks, and stories outside the program than ever before. Gone are the days when teaching Princeton Offense took being a part of the exclusive club of coaches. Twitter has become the largest networking platform to the extent where more coaches probably made connections on a year without the Final Four than having ever attended one. The old-school coach in me questions the authenticity of those connections, while the same coach sitting here putting together this blog considers any/all interactions with coaches as a possible connection. With every rising coach being considered a clinician there isn’t a lot of secrets anymore. Seeing Princeton offense filled with backdoors isn’t catching anyone off-guard. Playing ‘7 seconds or less is the new norm. The 5-out motion offense is figuratively the universal base offense for every program. What we are starting to see is possibly a saturation of style of play with more keys being handed over to the stars. System ball seems more laissez-faire possibly being misconstrued as pace-and-space. As I digress, the separation of good coaches seems less between the lines of the hardwood and more in the ability to manage the locker room.

EQ Coaches

This is the ultimate hot topic, especially after the Tom Izzo incident during last year’s March Madness.

With the residual coaches that grew up idolizing Tom Izzo, Bob Huggins, Pat Summit, Muffet McGraw, Geno Auriemma, or Mike Krzyzewski there is more apprehension to say what you feel that was once considered acceptable. We know the buzzwords:

  • Soft
  • Stupid
  • Quitter
  • Not Good Enough
  • Selfish

Coaching today’s athlete takes more than teaching reads off of screens, or comprehending defensive assignments. Millennials have been pegged as the group that answers to why over what. For a while now teaching has gone beyond coach said-so, as opposed to answering to why we do it. While I understand answering why gives credence to the methodology; coaching has always implicitly answered why, or else coaches wouldn’t teach it if it weren’t important. With today’s athlete there is far more consideration/concern with if someone isn’t doing it correctly, why not? 

The E.Q. Coach has to be more cognizant of personalities, mood swings, affection, attachment, and connectivity. Did I list all of them? In-between the ears can play just as much of a role than in-between the lines. And I think this next generation of coaches are far more cognizant of psychological volatility in the locker room than years past. Social-emotional and mental health are at the forefront of all conversations surrounding athletes’ disposition. In the past, coaches were likely to use the bench as the motivator and that was as far as the conversation would go. The next generation of coaches will likely be more proactive using different tactics.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s