With an average roster age of just 24.1, the St. Louis Rams are the youngest team in the NFL and also one of the most exciting.
Bolstered by a terrifying defensive line, the Rams shocked the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, stuffing Marshawn Lynch’s 4th-and-1 rush attempt in overtime to seal the biggest upset of the short NFL season.
Although it’s still too early to tell whether or not the Rams are a playoff team, at least some of their early success can be explained by the fact that, during the off-season, the team’s front office hired education consultants to help the coaches better understand — and subsequently better coach — their young team.
Kevin Clark has a fascinating story in the Wall Street Journal that sheds light on an age-old workplace dilemma with a football spin: how do older bosses most efficiently utilise their young workers?
The Rams have the youngest team in the NFL. Like most workplaces, the Rams were inundated with employees whose habits were vastly different from those of their the bosses. As coach Jeff Fisher put it: “Our players learn better with two phones and music going and with an iPad on the side,” he said. “That’s new.”
So like any company looking to institute major changes to the workplace, the Rams brought in outside consultants — specifically, a group of academics who run a private education consulting firm. The consultants observed the coaches’ techniques and also provided the rookies with a unique standardised test similar to the GRE and SAT to assess how they learn. Because it’s still the NFL, the test also measured seemingly unquantifiable football terms, including “grit, perseverance, and mental toughness,” Rams’ GM Les Snead told the WSJ.
The results from the rookie tests ultimately taught the Rams some invaluable lessons about millennials:
Attention spans are shorter but they are savvier than ever, because of their exposure to technology. They also need to know “why” to everything: If you explain a concept to them on the field, they need to know the reason behind it. Millennial players questioning everything is something that’s helped the Rams, the team says, because it forces coaches and executives to examine their own methods (Why are we doing this?). Lastly, they learned that younger players like to share everything, whether that’s directly or through social-media outlets like Instagram.
As a result of the findings, the Rams made some key changes to preseason routines. Rather than spending hours in classrooms for informational meetings, St. Louis coaches kept their players inside for “10-15 minutes” before going outside to execute what they learned on the field. Similarly, Clark explains that Fisher eased up on wake-up times.
“Nobody wants to get up at 5:30, have a big breakfast and go into a classroom and fall asleep,” he told the WSJ.
After one week and one upset, the Rams seem to be responding well to these new techniques. Still, it’s far too early to know whether or not the Rams will survive in the brutal NFC West conference. One way or another, Snead told Clark that the Rams are excited to further implement changes to help coaches work better with the young team.
“Every company is trying to train new employees differently, football players aren’t the only millennials,” Snead said. “My thought is, let’s create a little bit of a lab here and see where it goes.”
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