The Biggest Question in Coaching: How do I get this generation of athletes to work hard?

The Biggest Question in Coaching: How do I get this generation of athletes to work hard?


I hear it all over the world.

In every sport.

In every club.

Coaches asking, “How do I get this generation of athletes to work hard””

Here’s how.

The Problem: Kids are Lazy?

The conversation usually starts like this.

I think kids today are looking for the easy way. They don’t listen. They have short attention spans. They want it all and they want it now. They don’t want to work hard. They are not capable of achieving anything”.

All the above statements are, to some degree, true………except the last one: this generation is capable of greater things than we have ever dreamed possible.

The Reason: Times have Changed…..and for the better.

In the old days, coaches were the custodians of the knowledge of their sport: training, planning, preparation, competition, what to eat, when to stretch, what to do at the gym: everything.

Now, anyone can access anything anytime anywhere and for free. Kids (and their parents) can now access the same information that coaches can.

The traditional coach-driven, coach-centred learning method, i.e. coach tells – athletes do, is doomed to failure.

Successful coaches must create learning environments where athletes learn through problem solving, decision making, being engaged and excited by learning experiences and by collaborating with coaches and their team mates on making training stimulating, effective and efficient.

The Solution: Internet Coaching!

No – I don’t mean do your coaching over the Internet, I mean coach the way the Internet works or more importantly, coach the way that kids interact with and learn on the Internet.

Next time you get the opportunity, take a moment to watch some kids using the Internet.

They Google or Yahoo or MSN for the information they need. They read some text for 30-4o seconds, then they follow a link or two to some video, then come back to some text, then send the links to their friends and get their views, then go back to some video, back to text and so on.

They don’t learn from the Internet: they learn with it. They engage with it (and with their friends) to accelerate learning and their capacity to learn more and learn faster.

They learn differently and the way they learn is the greatest single challenge to traditional coaching philosophies that sport has faced in the past 20 years. 

Example: Teaching Skills the old way and why it doesn’t work any more.

This is where this whole “kids are lazy” stuff comes in.

Coaches present their drills and skills practices in their tried and true way, i.e. coach driven multi- repetition format and after a few repetitions the kids seem to lose interest. Obviously they are “lazy”.

Think about that for a moment. Kids who spend their lives learning to learn fast and collecting information at an incredible rate are bored and lose interest when given 20 minutes of the same drill presented the same way over and over and over. And you think they are “lazy”!!!

Am I missing something?

So you have two choices: Pull down the internet, ban the world wide web and change the way kids learn back to the way they did in the 1950s or change the way you coach.

The Secret to Success with this Generation is….You and Your Coaching.

This generation is not lazy: they are learners – capable of learning more and learning faster than any previous generation.

This generation is not afraid of hard work: they are afraid of boredom.

This generation has a short attention span – true – but it is an advantage in learning faster.

You have, standing in front of you a group of athletes who are capable of learning more and in a shorter time than any group of athletes you have ever coached.

There’s nothing wrong with them. There’s nothing wrong with you.

This has nothing to do with finding an easy path, compromising on standards or “soft” coaching.

If anything, an environment which genuinely engages the hearts and minds of athletes is capable of working harder  and at higher intensities than one which places more importance on “exhaustion” than engagement.

You just need to change the way you think about and deliver information, and if you can do that, nothing is impossible for this generation or any other.

Wayne Goldsmith


  • coachgibson Posted January 31, 2011 4:45 am

    I’ve been using this approach for years. I don’t think the kids are lazy, I believe they are easy to engage. The comment I have is have the coaches kept up with their own self evaluation to realize that we are asking more time, more effort and more skill development in the same time frame (e.g. 1 year or 2 years) that we were 20 years ago (yes, I was coaching 20 years ago). Maybe the coaches have gotten ‘lazy’ in that they don’t change/challenge/create enough for the kids. You don’t need to be computer savvey to do this.

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted January 31, 2011 9:16 am

      Thanks for the comment.

      Agree with your views – we are asking more and of course performance will always improve: success is a moving target: so we need to achieve more with less – better results in a shorter time and that means more effective and efficient practices.

      My view is that we have to shift from the “physiology-based training” mindset to an engagement-based model. If we get that right, the physiology will look after itself.

      Thanks again,


  • Jeremy Pryce Posted January 31, 2011 5:33 am

    You´re definately onto something here…. The challange is staying in a comfort zone. When you´re outside of it.

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted January 31, 2011 9:14 am

      Thanks JP.

      I think there is an opportunity right now for coaches to try this “internet” coaching, engage the hearts and minds of athletes and gain a real advantage.



  • Rob Shugg Posted January 31, 2011 12:12 pm

    Hey Wayne
    Yes, the internet is THE platform to for connecting with and engaging young athletes. And as you say it does not have to be hard. There are tools available on the internet specifically for this purpose. This is what my company does after all.

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted February 3, 2011 7:47 am

      Hi Rob.

      Not sure I agree that the internet is THE platform to engage young athletes.

      I think it is one very useful tool to engage young athletes but I believe that the world is still a person to person place where real change is a personal decision and personal commitment.

      However, the internet has taught us how to communicate with athletes in that Gen Y and Gen I love multi mode, entertaining, engaging, stimulating ways of learning.

      If coaches are still standing at the end of the pool or on the sideline or on court and coaching by yelling instructions for two hours at large groups of athletes they will fail.

      Thanks for the great comment.


  • Jeremy Tosaya Posted January 31, 2011 3:04 pm

    I think athletes have changed a lot as well. Just in the short 15 years that I’ve been coaching college athletes the communication dynamics have changed so drastically. When I first started we had phone trees, then it was email lists, after that I had to contact them through myspace or facebook, and now it’s all texting! But everything is about relationships with them. Initiating communication and keeping it fast paced and too the point.

    Totally agree with a lot of what you’ve said, but I also think there is a huge dynamic of interaction and relationship that is involved in this too. If they don’t feel the relationship side of it is positive and sincere they start to close off.

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted February 3, 2011 7:49 am

      Thanks Jeremy.

      I think that’s the point. Athletes have changed. Communication has changed. Technology has changed. The world has changed.

      In that environment, coaches who continue to coach the same things the same way they always have will struggle to be successful.

      As the agents of change in sport, coaches should be taking the lead in introducing this new revolution in athlete development.

      Thanks again,


  • Marcel Posted February 11, 2011 6:28 pm

    To me the internet is nothing more but a tool that enhances you to communicate, Just like a HR monitor or powermeter wich provides sufficient information. Real communication lies within yourself and how good you are able ‘to touch’ your athletes.
    Every kid has his or hers own specific button to push wich ignites the athlete to work hard. It is your responsability as a coach to find the right button

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted February 14, 2011 5:30 pm

      Thanks Marcel.

      I think you are right: we can “inspire” – we can “light the fire” but how bright and how long it burns is up to the athlete.


  • james marshall Posted February 12, 2011 1:45 am

    I find putting names to workouts helps make it fun and keep their attention. I mix that up with some pretty straight stuff.
    For example “12 days of Christmas” or “St Valentines Day massacre”, or “Destroyer lunge walk”- helps breed an esprit de corps and buzz about training.

    Keeps me fresh as a coach too

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted February 14, 2011 5:29 pm

      Thanks James.

      I think that great coach Einstein said “Imagination is more important than intelligence”.

  • james marshall Posted February 14, 2011 6:02 pm

    Ha ha- what are you trying to say?
    Just put a review of a John McCallum’s book “complete keys to progress” up on blog.

    Written between 1965-1972 he talks about how the youth then didn’t want to work hard.

    It could just be us getting old.

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted February 18, 2011 8:46 am

      Thanks James.

      Every so often, when I begin a sentence with “the challenge we face today is”…I hear my dad’s voice coming from my lips.

      Could be we are getting old…could be athletes are getting younger…could be that change is the one constant in the universe.


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