Generation Z in the Goldfish Bowl

This is my first guest post. I would like to introduce Dave Buglass. He is a coach with Syngenta; holds a UEFA ‘B’ Licence and is absolutely passionate about football. A good friend, he offers a great insight into Generation Z. Enjoy!


Dealing with players with an attention span less than a goldfish!

Having a little bit of time to spare this week, I’ve taken the decision to put some thoughts back down on paper after being inspired by good friend and fellow coach David Dale’s writings on You Win Everything with Kids.

My challenge was to consider what I’d write about. When previously writing for another coach, I tried to connect my career in Human Resources with my passion for coaching and all things football.

I’ve spent over 20 years in HR and have seen many things change, meaning a continual need for me to adapt and change the way I operate. The one constant until recently has been the shape of my colleagues, the people I work with as well as lead and develop. However in the last few years, things have started to change namely the colleagues largely down to the changing environment we work and live in today.

And with that comes to my link with the football coaching!

How changes in society relative to my work as a volunteer football are coach are meaning I need to adapt to make situations work?

The title of the blog may be a little curious; however as a coach of players born in 2001, I look after a group of boys that are more commonly known as Generation Z.  That is children who are born after the millennium and are capable of finding whatever they need via technology making them more independent  than generations before them. But at the same time more impatient, too!

Indeed in a recent American study it was calculated that the average attention span of a Generation Z youth in 2015 is 8.25 seconds – officially less than a goldfish, which comes in at 9! So how does dealing with the ‘iGeneration’ change the way in which we need to coach?

I’m fortunate to coach our group twice weekly and take them for games on a Saturday morning. We have great numbers at every session, with a minimum of 18 players working each time.

But it got me thinking how do I need to deal with these Generation Z kids differently than what we would have experienced as players ourselves or indeed kids that were born before the millennium?

Here’s my view on four areas that have helped over the course of this season and stand us in good stead moving forward:

  1. Training – Sessions still last 90 minutes in length and taking into account a shorter attention span, they need to be more varied, structured and have less time for players to become distracted in between drills and exercises. Sessions are laid out in full so that as each component is complete, players can rehydrate and immediately start the next bit. There is a greater emphasis on making sure that new ideas are instilled into sessions, more thought given to splitting players into smaller groups that will inspire them. Defenders working on shape together, midfielders and wingers working with the strikers etc. Continual feedback and praise throughout are paramount as well.


  1. Match Day – Whether home or away arrival is 80 minutes before kick-off. With an allocated ‘DJ’ playing music through a smartphone whilst holding a portable speaker (!) getting the players together pre-match allows for continued sense of the team spirit we have built but more importantly for the coaching team to speak to individuals 1:1 for a short time. Team talks are very different, short, to the point and little detail passed across. On match day at this age they are nervous, tired, disinterested and simply want to play. They believe (rightly or wrongly) they know better. There is little or no point in going to deep detail on shape and formations, asking players in a large group what you expect of them. We now simply try and let them them play.



  1. Half Time – Again very much amended this season to follow the Four R’s. No matter how well or otherwise they are playing, we will bring them in and ask them to firstly Rehydrate and Recover. We will then ask them to Recap what they have seen in their words and then we Reinforce what has gone well and what can still be improved setting them an achievable target. The importance like pre-match of keeping it short, to the point and not overwhelming them is a key difference we have implemented this season.


  1. Keeping in Touch… a Sense of Social Collaboration – The last one is very much the biggest difference with almost a ‘if you can’t beat them… join them’ Most clubs will have a social media policy which prohibit being friends with players online, indeed leagues will also operate policies to govern the clubs and what is said. To keep the players and parents up to date, we have implemented our own secure social media pages on Facebook which shows training details/times, coaching videos we will see and examples of best practice/play/tactics and many other general things that reach the hands of our players in a way they enjoy to take information in. Not a day will go by where something isn’t posted.


As a parent first but also someone who has decided to put something back into a game they love, having my own Generation Z children has taught me much in the last couple of years.

By seeing this generation coming into the working world through my day role has also taught me that as coaches there is a need for us to adapt our style and the way in which we interact with them.

So the next time you ask yourself:  ‘Why aren’t they listening?’ or ‘why aren’t they carrying out the instructions I asked them to?’ consider how you’re getting the message across and indeed are you speaking in a way that they will understand.

As a critic on many occasions of the current SFA Coaching Curriculum out there, I’d be interested in seeing how they are adapting their methods to deal with the changing generations we coach. Teaching technique and drills are one thing, teaching you to man manage is another thing.

As always my ideas, my opinion and things that help me day to day.

Generation Z in the Goldfish Bowl

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