“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.” 

I get a good laugh every time I read this quote.  By the way, want to guess whose quote this is?  The correct answer is Socrates, a Greek philosopher that was born in 470 B.C. It  seems as if it is human nature to think the present generation of kids is going to completely ruin the world. I seem to recall  from my younger days, my mom and dad giving me their opinion of my generation.  Let’s put it this way, my Mom and Dad did not  confuse my generation with what Tom Brokaw called,  “The Greatest Generation”.

According to a great article by Dr. Jill Novak, of Texas A&M University, there are 6 Living Generations in our country today.

The G.I. Generation:  Born from 1901-1926

The Mature/Silent Generation:  Born from 1927-1945

The Baby Boomers Generation:  Born from 1946-1964

Generation X:  Born from 1965-1980

Generation Y:  Born from 1981-2000

Generation Z:  Born after 2000

Each generation has its own unique characteristics and attitudes.  As with all generalizations, they are never 100% accurate for everyone in every situation.  It is simply an attempt to define entire generations of Americans according to the “general” characteristics of their particular group. To put it into perspective, My dad was born in the G.I. Generation(but just barely, he was born in 1926)  He was drafted after he graduated from high school and found himself a few months later on an island in the Far East called, Okinawa. My mom was born in the Mature/Silent Generation (1931). I am sure that she would take great pride in that considering that she,  at times, has been neither.  Just joking, Mom.  I was born in the Baby Boomer Generation and my children are a member of Generation Y.

I have coached and taught young people from Generations X, Y, and Z.  I can tell you this about working with three different generations of young people, they are DIFFERENT.  Kids have changed and will continue to change over the years.  I consider coaching to be like every business out there that is trying to change and adapt to the wants and needs of their customers. If we don’t change and adapt, our business and educational system will fail.

I know that at some point in time, the C.E.O. of the American Buggy Company, pounded his fist on the table and shouted, “All  we need to do is make the best buggies in America.  The automobile is just a fad!”    If a business fails, we lose jobs.  If our educational system fails,  we lose a generation of young people.

It is hard to imagine what  it would be like if when our seniors graduate in May, that we would draft them, send them to war,  and expect them to save our nation and our way of life.  I’m not 100% positive that this group is ready for that. Tom Brokaw wrote a book several years ago called, “The Greatest Generation”.  It about the generation of men and women that struggled through the Great Depression, fought in World War II, and came home to live and work and  make our nation the “super power” that we are today. While all 6 of the generations living in America today add great strength and contributions to our country, I think that Tom Brokaw got it right.  The people of that generation proved they were the “Greatest” generation.

While I believe that we should praise and have admiration for past generations,  we are no better predictors of the success or failures of future generations than was our old friend, Socrates.  I would also guess, that my grandfather probably had similar negative thoughts about my Dad’s generation when he was a teenager. It is just too easy to say that this generation is so worthless, lazy, disrespectful, and  ______________,  (you can fill in your own blank). I have coached for 35+ years and I can tell you that this generation of kids are some of the best kids of ALL TIME. 

They are extremely hard workers, when they are properly motivated.  They are some of the boldest “faith warriors” I have ever been around.  This generation of kids are also big-time volunteers for causes they believe are  worthy.  In just the last 11 years that we have been in Greenwood, I can count at least 6 of our former players that have served our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you want to pick  a fight with me, tell me that this generation  of kids are the “worst of all time”.

They are not; however, I do have a few observations about our present generation of young people.

I have read and re-read a great book  about this generation of kids, called, “Generation iY”, by Tim Elmore.  I highly recommend it  to anyone out there who deals with this group of kids. The author puts this generation of kids into a sub-group he calls Generation iY, because they are first generation of kids that were born after the use of the internet became such an important part  of our every day life.

These kids have never known a world without the internet, the I-phone, and social media.  While there are many great aspects of this generation  of young people, one of  their less admirable qualities is that they lack empathy. I am a long way from being a sociologist.  I don’t not know why this generation has seemed to miss being in line  when the “empathy” gene was passed out.  This group  of kids, in  general, seems to have a great struggle with understanding the basic concept of empathy.  According  to Webster, empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”

If you have empathy, you  don’t write nasty things about your classmates on social media.  You don’t post unflattering pictures of people on the internet.  You don’t bully and make  fun of fellow students on social media. Without empathy, you neither understand nor care that your words and/or actions can cause actual pain to others. All across the country, we have had young people commit  suicide because of bullying and  the use of social media to scare,  intimidate, or ridicule.

It is somewhat of an epidemic in our schools today. One of my favorite traditions that we have here in our football program at Greenwood is what we call Squad Dinners.  We have 8 coaches on our staff and we divide our team into 8 squads.  Each coach has about 12 players in their squad.  Every other Thursday, during the season, these 12 players and their coach will go to one of  their squad member’s house for a  Squad Dinner.  We eat and then we get into a circle for what we call, “Questions.” The questions are usually personal in nature so that we can all  learn more  about the individuals on our team.

I am  so appreciative of the families that volunteer to open their homes to us and attempt to feed twelve hungry boys and their coach.  I would guess that for many  of our families, the cost of feeding these squads is prohibitive.  The coaches have one rule when it  comes to eating with our  players.  We always eat last.  Part  of it is because we want to show a “servant” leadership attitude and part  of it is that I am  always afraid that we might run out of food and embarrass our host family and the host family’s son.

Over the 11 years that we have had the squad dinners,  I have been horrified by the attitude of some of our guys.  If not instructed otherwise,  several of them will  push and shove to the front  of the line and pile  up the food as if they hadn’t eaten in a week. They have no sense of their “brothers” behind them  in line,  and even worse, no concern for the feelings of our host family in the event they run out  of food.

As I was thinking of  writing about the 6 Generations, I decided to talk with our team about what they think about when they line up for food during our squad dinners.  I posed this basic question. “How many of you, during the squad dinners, have thought about how much food you put on your plate as it concerns your  teammates and your host? There were about 65 boys in the group that had gone to at least 5-10 squad dinners.   How many of  our players had ever thought or been considerate of how much food they put on their plate?   You want to guess?   I thought I had a pretty good idea that there weren’t a lot of our guys that paid attention to it, but I was shocked by the final number.  Of  those 65 boys, only 2 had ever considered how much food they took.

It was interesting to note that both of  those young men had hosted squad dinners at their house. I want to make it perfectly clear, that this is not an indictment of this generation.  It is simply a demonstration of  an area that we need to teach.  We need to teach them how to have more empathy.  We need to coach them on how to be more concerned about the consequences of  their words and actions.

At the end of my talk, I gave them a very basic homework assignment.  I told them in the next three days, before the end of the week, to find a way to show empathy to another person.  Just a small step in the direction of becoming a more empathetic human being.  I am looking forward to  hearing their examples in the coming three days. I would think, that it would be a good homework assignment for all of us.

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