As a student-athlete, you are under a microscope. Everything that is posted on your social media accounts is under scrutiny, much more so than the average student. The following articles were posted on NewWaveLax, The Gazette and ESPN.
The web of social media is vast, spanning the globe and connecting us all. It gives us unlimited access to world events, information, news, and whatever else we happen to be interested in at any particular moment. It’s a play-by-play of thoughts, ideas, and dialogue. It can be said that social media is its own internet, of sorts. But with the ability of total transparency comes the responsibility to make sure that what we put out there doesn’t come back to haunt us.
It has been said that “social media is like a gun. Smart people will use it as a useful tool, not so smart people will shoot themselves in the foot with it.” Sadly, too many high school administrators and college athletics recruiters can recount stories of these virtual foot injuries.
One of the more well-known stories stems from 2012, when Yuri Wright, a senior from Bosco Prep High School in Ramsey, N.J., who was sought after by all major college football conferences, was expelled from his high school and his scholarship offer from University of Michigan withdrawn over a series of sexually explicit and racially charged tweets. Sadly, Wright was not the first or the last high schooler to have his scholarship withdrawn due to poor behavior online. Sadder yet is the fact that even more athletes who have already received scholarships to play in college have their scholarships or playing privileges revoked mid-season for bad social media choices.
Social media is not to be played with.
Social media is not a toy. If used properly and effectively, it can be an asset for the student-athlete’s individual brand, their community, their team, their peers, their coaches, and the school they represent. Student-athletes have the ability to provide a positive example for other students by sending positive messages about their peers in other sports or activities at school. Remember that you are always representing someone, whether it’s yourself, your family, your school or your team. So act accordingly.
Nothing is private.
Some social media users realize they are functioning in a public space and some don’t. While many kids think they can delete a tweet or hide their Facebook profile, they don’t realize that content posted on the internet can potentially last forever. Content can be captured in screenshots, saved by other users, or remain floating in cyberspace. Tweets, Facebook statuses, Snapchats, or Instagram photos could end up being viewed by thousands of people if that one friend you thought you trusted decides that something you sent is “too good not to post”.
If you share it, you own it.
Freedom of speech does not equal freedom from consequences. This is something with which younger student-athletes struggle. They retweet a sour tweet from a friend and, before they know it, they can be caught in the middle of something gruesome. For example: the case of Ryan Spadola, now a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions. In 2011, Spadola was a top wide receiver at Lehigh University. Before an NCAA quarterfinal game, he retweeted “an inappropriate and repugnant racial reference.” Even though the tweet wasn’t Spadola’s, he was still suspended. Thinking twice about RTing that one thing you thought was funny? Good.
Every tweet says something about you.
If your goal is to play in college then (whether you like it or not) you are going to have to think about yourself as a public “brand,” and your social media should reflect who you are as that brand. Decide what characteristics of your sport, your team, and your skills you will highlight. Decide what will always be off limits. Periodically go through your social media with an objective eye asking yourself “what would someone who doesn’t know me think of me if they read/saw that?” If you don’t like the answer, delete. Coaches, college admissions officers, and employers all use social media to learn more about candidates. So you need to assess what your social media portfolio says about you.
Keep it positive & express gratitude.
Social media lets student-athletes show who they are, what they do off the field, how they interact with teammates, whether they lead, and how they deal with wins and losses. College coaches can get a much better picture of a student-athlete and whether that person will fit into their program’s culture by looking at their social media outlets. Coaches look for born leaders who enrich the lives of those around them, so it is important for student-athletes to provide a positive example for other students by sending encouraging messages about their peers in other sports or activities at school. Colleges also look at whether the student-athlete is showing interest in their program on social media through retweets, posts, positive comments, and likes.
Surround yourself with positive outlets. Countless lacrosse players and organizations do social media right. Find them and follow them! Seek healthy messaging to fill your news feed. When you surround yourself with positivity, you become more positive in return. Use social media to remind yourself of the other things that are important to you as well.
Show gratitude for your support system. Stay humble. Thank your teammates, coaches, parents, teachers, and friends for being there for you during your athletics career. There is nothing a college recruiter likes more than to see a player who is grounded and who appreciates those who helped them along the way.
The bottom line in all of this is to THINK before you post.
Take a breath before hitting “send” or “post.” Ask yourself: Is this really something I should put out there? What will others think when they see this? What would my grandmother think if she saw this? Finally, practice discipline on social media. JJ Watt gave some great advice for student athletes: “Read each tweet about 95 times before you send it. Look at every Instagram post about 95 times before you post it. A reputation takes years and years and years to build and it takes one press of a button to ruin.”
“Never let a 140 character tweet cost you a $140,000 scholarship.”
-Brandon Chambers, Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach, Marymount (Virginia) University
- Be Positive!
- Only post what you would like Grandma to see!
- Check your PRIVACY settings! Find out who can see your stuff.
- Think before you CLICK! “Dude, you gotta un-tag me.”
- Remember you’re a role model!
- Accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
- Forget that a post cannot only affect you today but years from now. “Please hire me! Just don’t Google me first.”
- Give the opposing team the upper hand on your teammate’s injuries/personal information.
- Assume the other person on the other end of the computer is who they say they are.
“If you think it’s temporary, it’s permanent; and if you think it’s private, it’s public. It doesn’t matter if you delete it.” – Karen North, a communications professor and director of digital social media at the University of Southern California.