It is more and more common these days for disappointing news to surface about promising high school recruits being ignored by colleges because of social media profiles and activity. We’ve read the news reports, wrote about some of them and reviewed the social media accounts of hundreds of high school athletes.
As colleges look to protect their reputation and sports programs, they appear to be increasingly unwilling to overlook social media evidence that a player might be a less than a top rate digital citizen. It’s a valid concern that lack of judgment in posting online might be indicative of a future proclivity to use bad judgment once a member of a high profile college program. According to a coach at Old Dominion:
“Ron Whitcomb Jr., now in his eighth year as an assistant football coach at Old Dominion University, said he’ll research a recruit’s social media presence before he even makes any contact with the player…”
What to do?
Of course players can, and should, do a better job of policing themselves. The stakes are high for getting into a premiere college and attaining a valuable scholarship. Unfortunately, youthful indiscretion often gets the better of them.
Parents can help too, by frequently reminding their teens that people are watching their posts online. Results can be permanent.
Can the high school coaches do more? Many of them probably are doing something already, in part because some state athletic associations have rules prohibiting trash talking that extend to social media. Some might be doing something in the interest of protecting players’ reputations and futures. What we’d like to see from coaches:
Talk to the players – Coaches should meet with players specifically to establish a code of conduct for online activity, particularly on Twitter where much of the bad behavior happens. Twitter’s rapid-fire one-to-many broadcast platform makes it a favorite of athletes. It happens in real time, just like sports do.
Talk to the parents – A lot is already asked of parents – from donating to booster clubs to volunteering at games. Coaches should also make clear to parents what the guidelines are for the players’ social media use, and what the repercussions are for indiscretions.
Appoint a player social media captain – This should be independent of the existing player captains. A coach can easily figure out which player is both well respected by the team and very active on social media. The coach can make that player responsible for the players’ posts not getting out of line. If he has some extra skin in the game, he can head off problems before they get out of hand.
Every team has its own culture. By including in that culture a spirit of positive social media citizenship, players will have the greatest shot at success on and off the field.
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