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Posted by Jim Beckham on Friday September 13 2013 @ 12:47PM CDT
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The author of a piece on the web wants to know how Coach Bryant would “handle” Johnny Manziel, the poster child for the recalcitrant athlete gone wild. Johnny is dressed out as Superman on the cover of the latest Texas Monthly which also carries a long piece about his life and athletic career. You should read it.

My guess is the same way he “handled” high profile players Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler, both super athletes who had “ off the field” issues. Coach Bryant was tough as nails but as a Christian he believed in redemption, so there you go. In the comments section of the above article some genius said to “get back at Manziel” he was going to pull against A&M no matter who they’re playing. Charles Barkley, if you can believe it, said the same.

Well that will keep Aggies awake nights. Or an e-mail I received from a big Alabama booster who said Manziel was “hated” among fandom. Hated! Yea well, Tim Tebow was “hated” because he’s an unapologetic Christian. The ongoing theme is that Johnny football needs some real discipline; much like what I got in the Marines at Parris Island. If you’ve seen “Full Metal Jacket” you know what I’m talking about.

It sounds great but doesn’t work with this generation. Millennials were born between 1977 and 1998. The 75 million members of this generation are being raised during the most child-centric time in our history. Perhaps it's because of the heaps of attention and high expectations from parents that they display a great deal of self-confidence to the point of appearing cocky, if that rings a bell. They are steeped in technology, having never known a world without an internet, I-Pod’s, cell phones, Facebook and twitter. They are the most informed generation ever.

So what to do? Millennials are typically team-oriented, banding together to date and socialize rather than pairing off. Or as Tom Woolfe put it in his book by the same name they “Hook Up.” They're good multitaskers, having juggled sports, school, and social interests as children so expect them to work hard. Millennials seem to expect structure in the workplace. They acknowledge and respect positions and titles, and want a relationship with their boss. So it’s about family.

All Millennials have one thing in common: They are in need of mentoring, no matter how smart and confident they are and they'll respond well to the personal attention. Because they appreciate structure and stability, mentoring Millennials should be more formal, with set meetings and a more authoritative attitude on the mentor's part.
Give them many challenges but also provide the structure to back it up. This means breaking down goals into steps, as well as offering any necessary resources and information they'll need to meet the challenge. Millennials perform better in groups because they work so well as a team. That way they can act as each others resource or peer mentors.

Football always will be about fundamentals. It’s also about team building, about a sense of family. This is Coach Saban’s philosophy, no question about it. Since 1995 I’ve worked with Spencer Tillman, CBS Sports who played at OU and in the NFL for eight years. He tells me that distractions no matter how small can affect team performance. It’s one reason why a team can play great one half and suck wind the next.

Johnny Manziel is an outlier to this generation but I’ve seen no evidence that his behavior off the field has any effect on the team. Quite the opposite. A&M is feeding off his leadership and talent. Coach Sumlin knows that and is making the most of it.

Jim Beckham is a former speechwriter in the U.S. Senate. He lives in Houston. He earned a B.S. from Spring Hill College and did his Masters work in History at Alabama before serving as Assistant to the President at Florida.

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