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Managing the Matildas' Gen-Y army

by Ashley Morrison on Jun 29, 2011

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We may never get the real reason why Johan Cruyff chose not to play in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. Was it because he did not approve of the new national team coach, Austrian Ernst Happel? Or was it as he publically stated that he could not stand being away from home for so long and confined to a hotel?

Being in Germany for the Women’s World Cup, one has realised that times are changing, and it is vital that those running the game move with those times, and quickly.

The Matildas are the youngest senior national team to leave Australia with an average age of just 22. This makes them categorized as the “Gen Y” generation.

The FFA or coach Tom Sermanni chose a good location for their pre-tournament camp in Germany, Gottingen. The Hotel Freizeit Inn was an ideal location with, six indoor tennis courts, two squash courts, a state of the art gymnasium, Sauna and spa, Pilates classes, and even Kegelbahn lanes (A form of skittles or ten pin bowling which was very hard to master!). Perhaps most importantly it had unlimited internet access.

Generation Y grew up with technology. They rely on it. Generation Y is plugged-in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is the generation that prefers to communicate through social media and text messaging than face-to-face contact.

Is it in any surprise then that some of the younger members of the squad were heard to comment, “we were so bored, if it wasn’t for facebook I am not sure what we would have done.”

Sure they are here to play football, to represent their country, an honour and a privilege, but as vital as it is to keep players physically fit, so too is it incredibly important that their minds are kept fresh and active.

Back in 2001 when the Socceroos lost to Uruguay in Montevideo, following the small group that jostled and spat at them at the airport, they were not allowed to leave the hotel. Back then the only access to the internet was via the business centre computers. Like here in Germany, all of the television is in another language, and as one player commented then, ‘there is only so much time one can spend on the internet.’ This generation, however, is different and technology has moved a long way.

The team is now ensconced in the Hilton Dusseldorf, a stark, sterile and cold hotel in the heart of a business park. This is a FIFA designated hotel, and one that houses both Brazil and Australia. Internet access is now limited.

With the Generation Y’ers one outlet for communication restricted, and no where to walk close to the hotel, one wonders about their state of mind as they’ve waited the past four days for their first game.
According to people far more of an authority on Generation Y than this writer, these young people ‘seek the input and affirmation of others, they want to be included and involved. Generation Y craves attention in the forms of feedback and guidance.’ Facebook and Twitter give them the things that they crave, so it is vital that they be able to access these, or it would be like sending them to solitary confinement.

The times they are a changing, the days of a pack of cards or a good book have gone. Let’s hope that those in charge of our young talent get the memo… or the tweet, whatever the case may be.