Generational Differences in Sports: Communicating with Today’s Athletes

Day One: June 11, 2018

8:15 – 9:15am


Speaker: Joi Thomas, MS, ATC

Associate AD for Health and Performance, University of Minnesota


Session Description:

With four generations working side by side—and a fifth generation entering high school and college—understanding generational differences is imperative for successful leaders. The fiercely competitive (and urgent) nature of athletics can add a heightened awareness of these differences. Instead of our differences being a point of contention, the strengths of each generation should instead be capitalized upon and embraced. This session encourages participants to be “anthropologists” in their own workplace to observe and understand what happens when generations define success differently. Leadership, communication, work, learning, and motivation styles should all be flexible when working across generations. Additionally, Generation Z is coming, and there is a paucity of research to help us understand and define this group. Utilizing research from different disciplines, and remembering that humor can blunt the sharpness of critical reflection, this session is intended to help those in the field of athletics develop strategies to effectively lead, teach, and motivate across all generations. The session is intended to be conversational, with examples presented to participants for their reflection, thoughts, and conversation.


By the end of the presentation, attendees will be able to:

  • Identify and compare the different learning, teaching, and collaborative styles of different generations.
  • Evaluate the participant’s own learning, teaching, and collaborative styles and understand how that impacts their leadership, communication, and collaboration style when working with different generations.
  • Develop strategies to capitalize on intergenerational differences in the workplace.
  • Extrapolate potential learning and work styles to develop appropriate approaches to working with Generation Z athletes.


Speaker Bio:

Joi entered her first year as a member of the University of Minnesota’s Athletics Department in October, 2017. In her role as the Associate AD for Health and Performance, she provides leadership for athletic medicine, athletic performance, sports nutrition, and the contracted medical services of the department, while serving as a member of the senior management team. Previously, Joi was at the University of Wyoming for 12 years, where she served in a number of roles, from Associate Director of Sports Medicine to Associate AD for Health, Wellbeing, and Sports Performance and Senior Woman Administrator. Prior to the University of Wyoming, Joi served as the Head Athletic Trainer at Carroll College in Helena, Montana for five years. Joi is a member of the Women Leaders in College Sports and served on their Education and Professional Development Committee. Joi is an alumnus of the University of Wyoming earning her bachelors’ degree in Exercise Science and masters’ degree in Kinesiology and Health.