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Cathi Aradi

Here Comes Generation Y. Get Ready!

Yo, coach! Are you a Boomer? How about a member of the great Generation X? Or maybe you're from the traditional Old School.

It would be wonderful if everyone were like we are, similar values, belief systems, ways of doing things. Then we could really communicate and understand whatís going on.
Personally, Iím a Boomer and proud of it! I suppose in another decade, I will be perceived as Old School and quietly and perhaps politely ignored because I don't get it anymore. Frankly, I don't think I get it now. But maybe I've got another 10 years before that perception catches up to me. Then I can go fishing.

It isn't that there are generation gaps so much as just different generations which are born of cultural, economic and political realities. I suppose Vietnam shaped us Boomers more than anything just as the Depression and World War II shaped the Old School. And what has shaped Generation Y (anyone born after '82) is the economic good times of the past dozen years.

It is an adventure to recruit kids from Generation Y who are just making their way into the forefront. Generation Xers are beginning to fade into your rear view mirror. These are the kids who were more serious, more skeptical, more conscious of the world as a place of people, plants and animals. As a group, they are less concerned with wealth and more concerned with meaningful pursuits. Corporations have had a very difficult time recruiting these kids on campus because they donít want to be pigeon-holed or molded into someone who isn't real to them. They would rather be entrepreneurs and do their own things than buy into someone elseís values and systems.

The Xers are still very much with you as members of your teams, but not for long. Generation Y is coming like the plague of locusts. And because maintaining a certain amount of consistency with the belief systems of those you recruit is vital to success, you need to take a deep breath (remember to exhale slowly) and gear up for the next chapter.

Let's begin with this: Generation Y kids are offspring of the Boomers. And so we have to start there. We Boomers have made it and some of us have made it BIG! Xers are still reacting to us. We went for the money, climbed the corporate ladders, bought big homes, SUVS, good wine and Tommy Hilfiger. Xers rejected our ways. But as parents, we have transferred our values to our children who are Y.
Since I am a parent of a 16-year-old, I will speak first-hand. (He, by the way, is an interesting mix of X and Y elements ó being born on the cusp). What we believe is that our children should have all the opportunities we can possibly afford to give them. So we have spent our money and time while wearing out our vehicles providing for their growth and multifarious interests. Good for us. We have bright kids who have been exposed to things we didn't experience much until we were adults ó little things, like going out to dinner. They have computers, they have cars, they have cell phones ó for God's sake, they even have beepers! Oops, I mean pagers.

But it's all gotten kind of unbalanced. Because what we have asked very little of is accountability. Sometimes I look at myself and wonder how I got to be my kids' servant. Is that now the art of parenting? So ask your child to do you a favor and he looks at you as if you were requesting a $1000 donation to your favorite charity. I mean, this is the great Age of Narcissism anyway, as adolescents painfully (for us) go through the phase of discovering who they are. Now you add to that a lifetime of overindulgence (see, I'm speaking as an Old Schooler already), and you have one self-centered, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately? individual on your hands. It doesn't help that they have exquisite role models in their favorite professional stars.

Many of these girls are not going to understand partial scholarships. They deserve a full ride and will play you off of other coaches who may be promising them the world. Asking them to share (for God's sake!) may be something they just arenít used to doing. And besides, they may view themselves as God's gift (same God) to your future team. So if anyone is going to get a full ride, it should be her.

Here comes the trap. Your job, to a greater or lesser extent, depends upon winning. And you look at her and you say to yourself, "Gotta have her. Sheís a difference maker." Now what's happened? Admit it, you just went one down. She's in charge and you hate yourself for it, but what are you gonna do?

And then let's take the next step. Letís just suppose you give her the ranch (plus your prize steer and a chicken a week for the rest of her life) and you succeed. She's coming! She gets on campus and discovers there are certain realities and responsibilities and her expectations are not exactly fulfilled. You might not be precisely the coach she thought you were going to be and you could have all kinds of problems on your hands.

Here's what I think (and if you've read this far, you might even want to know what I think) ó don't go there in the first place. Don't set up problems for later on. And the best way to avoid that is during recruiting, send a clear message that you will always be in charge and that you always require accountability. You can implicitly send that message by asking for accountability in the recruiting process itself. Don't let it be one sided with you always sending the mail and making the phone calls. Ask her to send you things about herself or her place of residence. Ask her to call you. Make recruiting a shared responsibility.

Generation X, Generation Y, Baby Boomers, it doesnít matter how people are labeled, they will respond humanly to given situations. Put yourself one down and people will kick you. Beg and they will scorn you. Ask for respect and expect it and you will likely get it. Never apologize for your program, never apologize for your offer. They'll come, because they believe in what you're doing and they will play within your system. And won't that give you your best shot at winning?

Oh, and by the way. GOOD LUCK!!