Help for the 'helpless' generation

Schools, teams, corporations training millennials in leadership

WINTER PARK, Fla. - The distinction that his generation has been dubbed by some as a helpless generation doesn't bother Elliot Hammond.

In fact, the soon to-be senior running back at Winter Park High school said he sort of agrees with it.

"I think my generation has a very strong sense of entitlement and I feel as though we feel as though we should be handed stuff," said Hammond.

But he said don't be too quick to generalize everyone in his age group, especially when it comes to his teammates.

The football team, the crew team and members of various other varsity sports teams have been learning the Habitudes program over the past year.

They are shown images like a half-hearted kamikaze or an iceberg and then told the meaning behind them.

"With an iceberg you can only see 10 percent of what's above the water, and the other 90 percent you don't see. In high school it is a very judgmental place and that taught me not to judge because you don't know what's under the surface," said Ricky Robbins, a junior on the football team's offensive line.

Even though it was months after he'd first learned the lesson, Hammond vividly recalled the message of the half-hearted kamikaze: to not go into anything halfway.

"I think it's a great stroke of genius because it allows the players to remember it in a mental image and remember the lesson that goes along with it," said Paul Lounsberry, an assistant football coach at Winter Park.

Habitudes is the brainchild of Dr. Tim Elmore, an Atlanta-based author and educator who spent years as a corporate leadership trainer before deciding to develop a program specifically for young people.

In 2003, he founded Growing Leaders, a nonprofit organization with the mission of mobilizing one percent of the world's population under the age of 25 to think and act like authentic leaders.

"I always tell parents we've done a better job protecting than preparing, and I think it's time now to do some preparing," said Elmore.

He said he could spend hours telling stories about college professors who have been haggled by their students' parents to change grades and employers who've had young people show up to a job interview with a parent in tow.

Companies like Chick-Fil-A, Home Depot and American Eagle utilize Elmore's programs to help the millennial generation stand on their own and develop the leadership skills they need.

He said companies complain that young people lack soft skills like emotional intelligence, time management and how to handle relationships.

"These kids are using texting to break up with their girlfriend or boyfriend, so they aren't learning to have those messy conversations early on," said Elmore.

The Habitudes program for student athletes was brought to Winter Park High School and 15 other schools around the area by the Federation of Christian Athletes.

Neal Hayes, the director for FCA for Orange and Seminole Counties, said the program was a way to serve on high school campuses in a secular way.

He contacted Winter Park because he and his children went to school there and the football team was immediately receptive.

"We didn't know if we'd win a single more game because we were doing this. But that wasn't how we were going to measure their success, we were going to measure it by their relationships and how they grew personally," said Hayes.

The team ended up with a 12-2 record in the fall and won the district championship.

Both Hammond and Robbins said they credit the Habitudes program for that success.

"The year before we had a great amount of talent, we had a guy who went to UCLA and another who went to Kentucky. But we would get on the field and we would fight. It wasn't like that this year," said Robbins.

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