PrintA selection from John O’Sullivan’s blog at Changing the Game Project. Blockbuster Video was on top of the world in 2004 when a small startup called Netflix approached them and offered to sell the company to them for $50 million. Blockbuster laughed. Today, Blockbuster Video is bankrupt, Netflix is worth tens of billions, and it is changing the way entertainment is created and delivered.

Sports has evolved. We have more data and science about youth sports today than the last 50 years combined. The way sports are being played across the globe is changing faster than ever. The kids who play sport are vastly different than the kids were a generation ago. The excuse for why our coaching is not working, “kids these days,” is not an excuse. It is a cop-out. Seek to understand them, and meet them on their turf. Teach them in meaningful ways so they actually learn what is taught. Instead of blaming them for our own failure, adapt what we are doing for the sake of their success.

Are we “Blockbuster Coaches”? Are we refusing to change, even a little, in order to remain relevant?

Or are we Netflix coaches, ready to shift, adapt, reexamine, and disrupt in order to ensure we are on the cutting edge of effective coaching?

Here are 5 easy ways to be more like Netflix and continue to evolve your coaching alongside the changing athlete landscape:

  • Heed the advice of Simon Sinek and Start with Why! You need a solid foundation to build your coaching philosophy upon. What is your why? Your tactics and strategy can change, but your core values, the things you hold dear about your teams such as integrity, sportsmanship, competitiveness, etc., those are unwavering. As Joe Ehrmann suggests in InsideOut Coaching, write out your coaching purpose statement, and stick to it. Layer in new tactics and techniques, but get your foundation right.
  • Study and learn – The biggest problem with being at the top of the heap is a belief that what got you there will keep you there. The New Zealand All Blacks have a saying, “When you are on top of your game, change your game”. All the other competitors around you, and below you, are adapting to catch up and surpass you. If everyone around you is doing their homework, it does not matter how good you are, they will surpass you if you are standing still. Is there a little change that could keep you relevant?


  • Understand your biggest competitors – This can be both inside and outside the sports world. Who is succeeding at better engagement, lower attrition rates, and higher development success rates? What are they doing differently to achieve this? Is there a competitor you should be watching more closely for clues? (I’ll give you a hint…video games are growing exponentially compared to youth sports)


  • Find the biggest pain points your players face and help them to solve them – Ask yourself what obstacles are in the way of your athletes ability to perform. Ask them what keeps them from fully engaging and learning. Those who seek to solve other’s pain points and reduce their barriers to success end up having the most impact. Is there something you are ignoring that is keeping you from being the best coach you can be?


  • Try it. If it doesn’t work, move on – This is difficult for all coaches. We don’t want to appear to fail or make mistakes in front of our athletes, but it may be the best gift we give them. Showing vulnerability, self-awareness, and resilience in the face of failure is a massive modeling opportunity for your athletes. Our willingness to try new things and our readiness to admit and recover is a lesson athletes carry into life. Netflix is not without their share of mistakes. They launched Qwikster and tried to separate the streaming service from the DVD rental service, and almost spelled doom for the company. They recovered by admitting a mistake and remedying it with the consumer. Netflix now has no fear of trying new things and pivoting when they don’t work. Is there something you could try tomorrow that might create a better learning environment with your team?

So, are you a Blockbuster coach, or are you a Netflix coach? Are you still relevant, or doing it the way it has always been done? Would this be OK in any other “profession?”

We think not.


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