Social media has taken the world by storm in recent years, with sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allowing people to be connected more now than ever. The smartphone boom has given individuals a way to constantly update their life by the second. Through friending, following and liking, athletes now have more soundboards than ever before- linking them to fans, coaches, schools, and teams all over. For how great social media is for all of sports- providing instant updates, stats, and scores, and connecting fans with their favorite players- in recruiting it can often times be a place where athletes ‘press send’ and wish that they hadn’t.
Social media, especially Twitter, has become so easy and such a part of people’s lives that we often don’t “think before we tweet”; instead we fit what we can inside of 140 characters and wait for the retweets, favorites, and replies to start rolling in, without considering who has the abilities to read what we have put out across the internet. For athletes this needs to be something they constantly think about, especially those who are looking at playing their sport in college and beyond.
College athletics programs across the country are taking full advantage of social media to connect with their fan bases, with their coaches and players using social media for program awareness, as well as a closer look into their daily routines. Coaches also use these services as a recruiting tool and as a way to keep up with their current players. If you think as a HS athlete that college coaches do not see your tweets think again. Numerous players have had schools stop recruiting them because of things they have said on social media.
Yuri Wright, a four star football recruit out of Don Bosco Prep, was one of the more high profile cases. Wright had scholarship offers from schools around the country, was the 85th ranked prospect in the country according to Rivals.com, and all signs were pointing to Michigan for the talented cornerback. That was until he decided to send out several profanity laced tweets (If you want to see the tweets Google them), which had him expelled from school, in turn causing Michigan to pull his scholarship and stop recruiting the young man. In a sense, the social media of recruits is a constant press conference for many people are looking for information and tid bits on them, such as beat writers, fans, and college coaches.
A non-recruiting related case was the Greek Olympian who was kicked out of the Olympics for her racial filled tweets. All of the training and work put in vanished for one 140 character comment. Athletes need to realize that pressing send before thinking can have bigger consequences than one can think. Here are a few ways to make sure you are putting your best foot forward via social media:
1. Language, grammar, and topics – If you are going to send out something across social media, the old rule of thumb of thinking about whether you would want your mother or grandmother to read it applies. Chances are if it’s something that might get your ear pulled and a stern talking to from them, you probably don’t want to post it to the public. Social media can be highly effective for athletes in so many positive ways, which doesn’t include going on profanity laced tirades, using grammar subject for a 4 year old, and posting on topics that don’t deserve a place in a public forum. A quick fix for this would be to proofread your own tweets and posts. If you are reading it over and think to yourself I shouldn’t send this or this sounds like it was written by a 2nd grader, chances are you shouldn’t send it. Taking ownership over what you say is the first step in using social media in a positive light.
2. Photos – Everyone loves looking at photos, look at the meteoric rise of Instagram and that should tell you all you need to know. Your pictures of food, sunsets, friends, and game action are great to keep your friends and followers in the loop. Photos of drugs, weapons, and offensive material will get you red flagged by more than just schools. Be smart, and again take ownership of what is on your page. Use your privacy settings and make sure your photos are protected. Though you have control over what you post, you do not have control over what other’s post. The all too common photo tag may not be a photo you do not want to be associated with. Using your privacy setting effectively can guard you against this.
3. What kind of image do you want to portray – Social media has allowed coaches to get a closer look at each player and understand what kind of character and person he or she is. College coaches want high character kids who will represent their program in the best way possible. What you have on your profiles is a microblog of your life that gives them a glimpse of who you are as a person, who you hang out with, what you do in your spare time, and your personal opinions. Think about what image you want to present, and whether posting certain things is worth tarnishing that image. I am not saying to not be yourself, as we are all unique and should be who we are as people, and coaches often appreciate the different personalities players display. Still, you should though go through your profile and clean it up make sure you don’t have things that you wouldn’t want seen. If you don’t want to clean up your profile, create a new one specific to you as an athlete and use it to connect and contact college coaches as well as put information out about your games and journey.
Social media is a great tool and has connected people all over the world of sports. Athletes need to realize that what they say has an effect and consequence associated with it. By educating yourself you can use social media in an effective and positive way. Simply “thinking before you tweet” may seem tedious but it’s better than the alternative.