Social Media for Athletes: To Embrace or Not To Embrace

Today’s teen athletes are actually very similar to those in the past couple decades. They make good decisions and they make bad decisions. The difference is, now, those decisions are amplified a billion times and spread faster than anything the previous generations could even fathom. An athlete can make a slip up on a social media site and it can be shot around the world with a single click on a smart phone in less than a second.

So, the question arises….should an athlete be involved with social media?

My answer is….ABSOLUTELY….but they should be monitored!

There are several types of social media formats out there. However, I am going only going to discuss only the two head honchos at this point along with the goods and bads of each, for a soon-to-be college athlete.

Facebook and Twitter
– Obviously, Facebook is the big dog of the group but Twitter is gaining steam. Pretty much the entire student body of any high school and college has a Facebook account….and they should. It is a tremendous way to stay connected with one another. If you don’t have an account, I am not even going to explain it to you because you are not reading this and you are currently in a coma.

Facebook Positives
– Keeps people connected. You always get to see what people are up to regardless of geographic location. I live in Northern Idaho, but am easily connected with people in Los Angeles, Chicago, Lousiana, Georgia, Maryland…you get the point. Facebook is a tremendous way to keep up with people. I was speaking to some good friends of mine about how Facebook basically is going to wipe out the High School Reunion market. Why even go? Who doesn’t know what is happening with someone simply through their Facebook account?

Facebook Negatives – Imagine your high school hallway, add that group of really annoying girls/guys that are waaaaay too into themselves and amplify that all over the world. That is what Facebook can be. It is a drama-filled machine, if you let it be. The trick is not let yourself get involved. Don’t comment on someone’s post and you will not be involved. If you have a problem with someone, deal with them directly. Don’t just walk outside and scream it. That would be pointless….side note: that is what making a statement or subtweet (sent out to all, but directed at one) is actually doing. You are making yourself look worse than the person you are attempting to ridicule.

Twitter Positives – You can find out information INSTANTLY and you can spread information INSTANTLY. One click and it is gone, to anyone, in the world, that is following you.

Twitter Negatives – Again, y
ou can find out information INSTANTLY and you can spread information INSTANTLY. One click and it is gone, to anyone, in the world, that is following you. Therefore, you say something ignorant and press “tweet” it is out there. Even if you delete it later, someone will have it on their Twitter account.

Facebook Recruit Advantage
– Still pretty much under the radar from the NCAA so college coaches can use it to contact you without penalty. And, if they can’t, they can have assistants (people that work for the program but usually are not getting paid) contact you as somewhat of a “middle” man.

Facebook Recruit Disadvantage – You take a trip to a school or show some interest. Within a couple days, a beautiful student of that campus “friends” you on Facebook. You are amazed and almost break your keyboard clicking “accept!” Not to burst your bubble, but she doesn’t find you attractive…at all. She is on the athletic staff to “friend” you, then search through your account for any incriminating posts, messages, likes and especially photos. She will report everything you have done back to the coaches. Why don’t you take some time and go clean up your account now:)   Don’t want to or think I’m wrong? Check out this excerpt from an interview with Houston Head Coach Tony Levine (thanks M.F.)

Q: How  do coaches monitor social networks when it comes to recruiting? TL: “We monitor it for all of our recruits in more ways than one: position coaches, recruiting coaches, our recruiting coordinator, I do as well. Two things that come to mind: number one, if they’re taking other visits, it’s a great way to find out. When a kid posts a picture of himself at another school on a Saturday with a jersey on, you know he’s on a visit. The second thing is, what they’re posting. The same kid that we dropped because he took two other visits, on his Facebook page, and obviously I was friends with him — posted things nightly that we’re not looking for in our program”

Q: So a recruit can hurt himself by what he posts on his social media pages? TL: “Without question. And he did. In that respect, I think social media has changed (recruiting) for a number of reasons.”

Twitter Recruit Advantage – Still pretty much under the radar from the NCAA so college coaches can use it to contact you without penalty. And, if they can’t, they can have assistants (people that work for the program but usually are not getting paid) contact you as somewhat of a middle man. Easy way to follow your favorite coach or team and feel like you are part of them. Easy way to find other people in your situation, ie: Long Snappers.

Twitter Recruit Disadvantage Anything you say, anyone you follow and/or retweet represents you. You say something asinine, you look asinine. You follow morons, you look like a moron. You retweet something ignorant, you look ignorant. Remember, whatever you put out there, EVERYONE will see. Someone bad mouths your lady, speak to them directly. You post on Twitter and everyone sees it….NOW! You don’t look like a chivalrous man, you look like someone airing their dirty laundry and no one cares. 

Trust me, I get it, there are tons of VERY funny things out there that I would love to retweet, but I don’t…because I am using my brain. Have common sense. You may get the funny line from a movie or inside joke, but just stop and think if the older football coach might not. Even if there is the slightest possibility that something could go wrong with a message or someone could decipher it wrong, don’t do it!

Would I Let My Kid(s) Have an Account
– Yup, but as stated earlier, I would monitor it. It is the old theory of when a teen learns to drive. You are worried about how they will drive but almost more worried about the other drivers out there. Same difference here.

I would insist that I was their “friend” on Facebook or followed them on Twitter. If they put up a stink about that one because they are still at the “it isn’t cool to be friends with your parents on Facebook and/or Twitter,”  I would say “Ok. No problem. I won’t be your ‘friend’ on Facebook or follow you on Twitter, but then I have to have your accounts password to make sure everything is Ok.” If they still rage, then it is simple. They lose their computer, cell phone or any other way they can access their Facebook and/or Twitter account. You most likely bought them and/or pay their bills (yup, electricity counts) so the upper hand is yours.

Parents, I repeat, you have the upper hand AND you are just trying to help your child for the future. If they don’t get that, there isn’t much they will get.


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