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49ers Use Research, Technology to Coach Millenials

In this Thursday edition of Niners Daily, we highlight the innovative techniques the San Francisco 49ers have implemented to cater to the growing wave of millennial players in the NFL.

If you're reading this post, there's a good chance you're on your smartphone right now.

The 49ers coaching staff and front office know most of their players consume information the same way. The question the team faced was how to relate to and teach this generation – young adults ranging from 18 to 34 years old – that came of age in an era of constant connectivity.

Kevin Clark of *The Wall Street Journal *recently visited the 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara to document the changes the team has made to cater to how millennials learn best.

The team first consulted with experts, including researchers at nearby Stanford, to find out how the young brain works. The average age of San Francisco's roster last year was 25 years old – smack in the heart of the digital demographic.

With this knowledge, the 49ers set up a plan to install significant changes during the team's nine-week offseason program designed to positively influence players with shorter attention spans and a desire to multitask.

The most drastic adjustment has been shortening typical team meetings, often multiple hours in length, into 30-minute blocks, each followed by 10-minute breaks.

What do the players do with these pauses?

"Grab your phone, do your multitasking and get your fix," Jim Tomsula said.

"The [experts] are telling me about attention spans and optimal learning," the coach added. "I'm thinking, 'My gosh, we sit in two-hour meetings. You are telling me after 27 minutes no one's getting anything?' "

Another change has been sending alerts to players' calendars instead of a printed schedule. It shouldn't come as a surprise that young people keep track of their devices more carefully than a print out. And according to the article, no one has missed a meeting so far.

"We haven't handed out a piece of paper to a player this year and they love it," Tomsula said.

To help visual learners, the team has introduced enhanced digital playbooks that include video clips alongside drawn-up plays. Tomsula even attends a meeting per week about new apps and technologies that his players might use.

"Our whole lives, we've gone with a paper and pad," Tomsula said. "Next week, a young person's phone will be outdated. We decided we have to be on top of that."*

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