Recruiting Generation Z

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As a recruiting coordinator that works with the youth of today (GEN Z), it is imperative that I understand who they are, how they operate and what motivates and drives them. This generation is highly unique for many reasons, so let's take a look at some interesting facts about GEN Z.

According to Forbes in 2015, the generation after Millennials, Generation Z, made up 25% of the U.S. population, making them a larger cohort than the Baby Boomers or Millennials. Generation Z are predominantly the children of Generation X but they also have parents who are Millennials. Demographers and researchers typically use starting birth years ranging from the mid-1990s to early 2000s, while there is little consensus yet regarding ending birth years.

A 2013 survey by Ameritrade found that 46% of Generation Z in the United States (considered here to be those between the ages of 14 and 23) were concerned about student debt, while 36% were worried about being able to afford a college education at all.

Generation Z is the first to have Internet technology so readily available at a very young age. and have been exposed to an unprecedented amount of technology in their upbringing.

According to a Northeastern University Survey, 81% of Generation Z believes obtaining a college degree is necessary in achieving career goals. As Generation Z enters high school, and they start preparing for college, a primary concern is paying for a college education without acquiring debt. Students report working hard in high school in hopes of earning scholarships.

Armed with these characterizations and facts about GEN Z, how do you best partner with these savvy youth in the recruiting process? Let's look at some of those characteristics and some practical advice on how best to aid them in the recruiting process.

GEN Z's are....


    • Access to all current information regarding what their peers are doing on a daily (if not minute-by-minute) basis in terms of commitments, successes, failures, etc.
    • Fingertip access to college program stats, conference standings, coaches and players bios etc.

While being informed and connected to unlimited information and happenings can be considered tools that are constructive in the recruiting process, having an inordinate amount of knowledge that is often devoid of context can be detrimental. I caution these young athletes to focus on their journey and to not compare or despair when they see commitment postings, team stats, wins/losses and do not rush to judgement about any of it. Simply put – Focus on what is important to your long-term goals!


  • Cell phones have become an appendage
  • Thoughts transfer from their minds to their fingertips
  • Self-Worth is measured by likes, retweets, etc.

I end each intro meeting with our athletes with the cautionary phrase "no tweet, like or post is worth jeopardizing your opportunity to play at the collegiate level". Take it seriously young student-athlete - what you put out there for the world to see is indicative of your character and sometimes cannot be deleted. Parents – follow your children on social truly is not invasion of their privacy, it is protection of their lives and futures. I also gently remind them that texting is a tool and true communication is verbal and allows you time to consider the words you choose.


  • Physical proof is vital to them
  • Motived by pictures
  • Learning styles are more visually motivated

One of the most successful aspects of our recruiting program at Munciana was supplying our student-athletes with a tool that provided 'visual' confirmation that their communications and hard work were being acknowledged. All of our recruitable athletes are provided a profile on our software platform (SportsRecruits). The athlete can communicate with college coaches and received immediate feedback and notification that the coach is viewing their profile and watching their video. It also offers analytics that both the athlete and parent can view to track their communications. Regardless of the outcome, the visual affirmation fuels their motivation and their drive to succeed.

4. SOCIAL – Motivation & Support

  • Positive Social Interaction
  • Peer Support

Social interaction is at the core of this generation. Relationships are crucial to their self-esteem and their affirmation. They want feedback from their peers (advice seeking, problem solving, decision making, etc) As a recruiting coordinator, I must be keenly in tune with this. My communications with all of the athletes must be consistent, truthful, confidential and encouraging. They will share their recruiting experiences with one another and they must know they are all being treated equitably by me.

5. REALISTS – Tell them Like it Is!

  • Want to know exactly how things are
  • Don't want to deal with what if's – give them the facts

Simply put – ALWAYS tell your student athletes where things stand. Sugar-coating is not in their vocabulary and should not be in yours. I strive to give them the 'truth' in an encouraging manner. They value knowing what their options are and when guided can handle adversity and learn to overcome it when they know the reality of the situation.


  • Knowledge is literally at their fingertips!
  • Don't underestimate their level of understanding
  • Self-motivated to learn

Hungry for Knowledge and driven to learn is what best describes this generation. They have information more readily available than any prior generation. What I have found is they love to be challenged to learn and go outside of their comfort zones. I ask them to do the research on the school under grad programs, coaches' backgrounds, player bios, program successes/failures, academic success rates...whatever will arm them with the knowledge to aid them in their decision process.

In a 2014 study Generation Z Goes to College found that Generation Z students self-identify as being loyal, compassionate, thoughtful, open-minded, responsible, and determined.

Embrace what Generation Z student athletes self-identify them to bring out those traits as they seek to define their future. I would like to add that I recognize that each student-athlete is an individual but also know that there are characteristics to each generation and the understanding of such will better enable you to relate to them and direct them in the recruiting process. I consider it an honor to do so!

The Junior Volleyball Association (JVA) is a non-profit organization that promotes the growth of youth and junior volleyball through program and resource development, education and events. Nearly 1,000 clubs in 46 states and 3 countries are members of the JVA. For more education on the recruiting process click here. For education for coaches, click here.

About the Author

Patty Costlow is the Recruiting Coordinator for Munciana Volleyball, a long time JVA member club located in Muncie, Indiana.


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