Jan 17, 2021

Psychology in Sport with Iain Shippey – Part 4

About Iain

Iain Shippey founded Thincsport in an endeavor to partner with players, coaches, and parents – and consults with individual players, business leaders, coaches, schools, clubs and universities to help them seize the mental edge and develop into transformative leaders. He runs courses in Leadership and Human Performance, which incorporates the fundamental building blocks of Applied Sports Psychology. He co-authored a next-gen course with Dr. Melissa Adendorff, who is an academic, elite ballerina and performance coach. In a very exciting development, Iain is forming a new company, with Paul Mills the CEO of HFPA (https://hfpa.co.za) they are going to be offering new qualifications in the fields of Wellness and Human Performance Coaching in partnership with leading Performance Coaches in the USA and NZ. Among the team are Kamerion Winfrey, former NFL star, and  Ron Miller who worked at FSU, Florida State University as a strength and conditioning coach with multiple elite athletes. John Quinn the Crusaders Mental Coach also adds significant value to the team. Iain, comes to life at the intersection of professional sport, coach mentorship, and youth development – describing this as the juncture in which sport facilitates infinite possibility with Millennials and Generation Z. He is part of the SA Men’s Hockey support team, serving under the leadership of coach, Garreth Ewing as a Leadership and Culture coach.

What is a Coaching Philosophy – Part 4?

4.  Know your athletes and your team

A recent study done to determine why athletes participated in sport indicated that the athletes’ primary reasons were to have “fun” and learn skills. “Winning”, perceived by many to be likely the most important reason for participation, ranked no higher than 7th even among the most competitive athletes. With this in mind you should ensure your program focuses on these critical areas in order to retain your athletes and recruit new ones.

  • What are the ages, gender and ethnicity/culture of your athletes?
  • Have they received quality coaching before?
  • What is their understanding of authority and leadership?
  • Are they amateurs or professionals?
  • How much time do they realistically have to train?
  • What other major pressures are they facing i.e. academic and financial pressure, a difficult home situation?
  • Are they ambitious? Do they have significant goals and aspirations? Are they self-motivated?
  • Have they won many events or games before? Do they believe that they can win?
  • Do they have the support of their family and friends?
  • What are their worldviews, values and beliefs?
  • What are their skills and strengths?
  • How would you describe their attitude?
  • Are they confident in a match situation?
  • What is their favourite position?
  • Who are the leaders in the team?

Before you too hastily conclude on how you should lead younger athletes consider the writing of two experts in generational theory, Graeme Codrington and Sue Grant – Marshall.

Leading and coaching different generations:

“Boomer: born 1940s to 1960s

Xer: born 1960s to 1980s

Millennial: born 1980s to 2000s

Xers and Millennials need to respect the individual intrinsically, not the title, position or rank. They take their time to develop respect as they get to know the person, his ethics and integrity. They expect people to work for that respect.

Tips for leading the generations:


  • You will need to earn their respect, yet they will take a while to demonstrate that respect for you. Act with integrity and they’ll come on board soon enough.
  • Give surprise awards for unusual achievements.
  • Fun is serious business! A little humour, something silly, practical jokes, even a little bit of irreverence, will help to create a stimulating and productive workplace.
  • Try a reverse mentoring programme in which younger staffers are assigned to older executives, to help them get up to speed with technology, consumer culture and information analysis.
  • Don’t look over their shoulder all the time – it irritates them.


  • This generation has grown up structured and supervised by parents who believe in boundaries and are active role models. They respond to leadership with integrity.
  • Provide mentors. Millennials enjoy interacting with older generations, and learning in a hands-on manner.
  • They like to be challenged. Assign them to projects where they can truly learn.
  • They like to try new things. Boredom is your, and their, greatest enemy.
  • Let them work with friends, as they are sociable and sharing.”

Generation Z

When it comes to coaching Generation Z, technology is the key to communication. 

The players of today, from Generation Z, have never known life without Siri, Alexa, Smartphones and Wi-Fi.  According to the American Psychological Association, Generation Z consists of anyone born after 2005, so essentially every athlete on the field in the 14U bracket. The Millennials (those born from 1997-2005) represent our collegiate, 18U and 16U athletes who introduced technology to the world through social media and the now famous “selfie.”  

According to Millennial and Generation Z expert Tim Elmore, there are six defining characteristics of Generation Z that we must first understand before we can talk about development. These characteristics are:

  1. They are Cynical
  2. They are Private
  3. They are Entrepreneurial
  4. They are Multi-tasking 
  5. They are Hyper Aware
  6. They are Technology Reliant