Can the NFL negotiate through this GEN Y gap?

“Football changes and so do people.  The successful coach is the one who sets the trend, not the one who follows it.”  -  Paul “Bear” Bryant

“They’re here….”

“Spoiled, coddled, impatient, irresponsible, overprotected, arrogant”….all terms used to describe some of the players and recent antics in today’s professional sports.  But these descriptors also tell a tale of a whole new generation of young people born between 1980 and 1999; twice as large a group as Gen Xers, some say as big as the Baby Boomer’s (81M), and thirty-five percent of which are non-white or Latino.

They’re hitting their stride in America’s workforce and will soon comprise 100% of the player pool in the National Football League

  •  “Gen-Y”
  • “Millennials”
  • “Trophy Kids”
  • “Me’s”

Regardless of the moniker, they have been accused of the absolute personification of narcissism, self-admiration and self-centeredness.  What better way to cultivate such behavior than the NFL?

So what does that mean?

  1. By definition most haven’t known life without a PC, cell phone, iPod or the Internet.
  2. This is the most connected generation of our time; text, Twitter, Facebook, email, YouTube.
  3. Their values formulate on the ideals of “achievement now” through an extremely high sense of self-worth and at times an unrealistic viewpoint of confidence in their own abilities reinforced upon them by their parents & guardians.
  4. “Paying your dues” isn’t considered an option and flies directly in the face of all that the NFL and its 32 member Clubs aspire to stand for.
  5. They require constant feedback delivered in a positive, respectful and motivational framework and don’t take to direct criticism well.
  6. They don’t see any validity in the statement of “right versus privilege” when it comes to employment and unlike their parental “Baby Boomers” they don’t find their own self-image reflected in hard work, sacrifice and career.
  7. They expect to be treated fairly (on their own terms) and immediate compensation is extremely high on their “laundry list” of demands from employers.

This is a group of young people with an entirely different upbringing and viewpoint of life than from those that are coaching and administrating the game today.  Not right, not wrong, just different.  It’s unrealistic and a bit naïve to think that the old ways of evaluating, developing, coaching and retaining talent in the NFL will lead to success in the future.  A much broader scope of management will be required to attack this dual task of both the acquisition and enhancement of the “Me” generation player.

The NFL “suits” should take heed.

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