Rutgers Golf Coach Rob Shutte Talks Social Media and Scholarships

Hey there parents. If you’re bringing up a student athlete, as I am, I’m sure the idea of an athletic scholarship is an appealing one.

When you think about how many hours your kid has put in practicing and playing, and the time and money you have put in being equipment supplier, driver and #1 fan, it only seems right that there is a possible pot of gold at the end of that rainbow. A full scholarship to a top college is a dream worth dreaming, but very tough to attain. Since only 2% of high school athletes are offered a scholarship of any kind, you don’t want to do anything that may jeopardize your child’s chances.

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 7.41.19 AMI had the pleasure last week of speaking with Rob Shutte, Head Golf Coach at Rutgers University. Rob has just finished up his 3rd season coaching Rutgers and his 10th season as an NCAA coach overall, having also coached at Muhlenberg and Lehigh.

Rob knew ahead of time what I wanted to discuss – the role that a student’s internet and social media activity plays in his opportunity to earn an athletic scholarship – and I was very happy that he agreed. As follows are the highlights of our conversation.

Me – Tell me about your recruiting process

RS – Well, it depends on how old the kid is when I first hear about him. I might hear about a kid winning tournaments who is in 9th or 10th grade. In that case, I’m not allowed to talk to him yet, but I’m compiling information.

After his junior year when I can talk to him, if there’s a mutual interest I’ll get his resume and tournament record, and the process really starts.

Me – What role does an athlete’s online identity play in your recruiting?

RS – Once there’s a mutual interest and I’m evaluating whether to recruit a player, I do a Google search and check out his Facebook and Twitter profiles. I’m looking for anything that might indicate the player is not a good fit. I also follow him on Twitter and send a friend request on Facebook. If he doesn’t accept the friend request, that in itself tells me something. Maybe the player has something to hide.

In any case, if I see anything questionable in his online activity – it doesn’t have to be bad, just questionable – I move on to the next player.

Rutgers Men’s Golf Coach Rob Shutte

How important in your process is what you see online?

RS – Well, I look at it the same way I look at a player’s resume or tournament record. If I see something I don’t like, I don’t pursue that player. It’s a big time commitment to recruit a player, and I don’t want to spend time on an athlete who might not be a good fit for the program.

Does this happen often?

RS – It does. I’d say that I see 5 – 10 kids per year who are good players that I choose not to recruit because of something I see online. It doesn’t have to be really bad either; it could be something as simple as a game of beer pong.

Do you care about how much time they spend online?

RS – I definitely see kids who look like they’re online all the time. It does impact my decision. If a kid is tweeting a lot, or example, because he’s amped up about a tournament, that’s fine, but the kids who look like they are always online – that’s a red flag. I find that the kids who spend too much time online are kids who expect things to come easy to them, and this program is a lot of work.

So basically, you’re looking for great players who will be a good fit for the program…

RS – Absolutely. This program is my baby.

If you see something online that leads you to pass on a kid, do you tell him why?

RS – No, I don’t. If I do, it becomes a game of “he said, she said” and I don’t want that. If pressed, I just say that I chose to go after a different player.

In the years you’ve been coaching have you seen a correlation between what kids do online and how they perform?

RS – I have. Kids who are good online tend to be good for the program. They tend to work hard and have better self-control.

Once they’re on the team, do you do any ongoing monitoring?

RS – We do. By the time they’re on the team we’re already following them online, and keep any eye on what they’re up to. The players are bound by a code of conduct, and while it doesn’t spell out everything about social media, their behavior is under scrutiny. I’m watching and the school is watching.

In your ten years of coaching, what has changed?

RS – From my point of view, social media is a negative in terms of how kids mature. When I started coaching 10 years ago, a lot of people weren’t on social media. Now everyone is. 10 years ago kids made eye contact and were able to have a conversation – now they’ve grown up online and have communication issues, don’t make eye contact.


This should serve as a wake up call for parents of student athletes – even if your son (or daughter) is a dynamite athlete, his online behavior could be standing between him and a full scholarship to a prestigious school. Enlisting ThirdParent as a partner can help make sure that doesn’t happen.


Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

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