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So Few Characters, so Much Impact: 3 Ways to Help Your Players Utilize Social Media

<p>Correctly utilizing social media can be tricky and a bad post can cost a player offers. But when utilized well, social media can be a boon for athletes.</p>

140 characters doesn’t seem like much. But sometimes that’s all it takes to make or break a player’s recruitment.

We’re in the peak age of social media, where Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram reign supreme. The thing is, it’s not just friends and family that are following your players.

College coaches and recruiters are monitoring social media like never before - the Clemson football team has an entire office devoted solely to perusing the accounts of potential recruits. How those players choose to use social media could help land them a scholarship or get taken off a recruiting board.

After speaking with both high school and college coaches, we’ve come up with a few ways to help your players get the most out of social media.

Talk It Through

Most athletes simply don’t understand the consequences that a poorly-worded or profane post can have. They’re not aware of the level that their tweets and photos are being monitored by recruiters and don’t think twice about firing off a post.

“I think the biggest thing kids fail to remember when being recruited is that coaches are watching everything,” Maggie Griffin, head coach of Volleyball Club Nebraska, said. “College coaches look at social media for players, especially now a days with all of the social media availability kids forget about those little things. Kids might think they go unnoticed but they are so, so critical in the recruiting process."

So bring up the subject. Make it a part of your preseason meetings. Let your athletes know that you are monitoring them, and that it’s for their own good. Just a general awareness of social media’s importance in recruiting could make a dent in the number of inflammatory posts.

Set a Precedent

If one of your players does trip up, there needs to be a set of procedures in place to dole out consequences. Your players should know what to expect.

Cameron Andersen, the head football coach at Gooding High School in Idaho, experienced this firsthand last season. One of Gooding’s best players took his smack talk with an opponent too far before the season opener. Andersen suspended him for two games, one of which Gooding lost. But the sacrifice was worth it.

“Our biggest push is make husbands and fathers and coworkers, and we’re trying to establish those things,” Andersen said. “When that (tweet) came out, we decided that we had to set the tone right now as to what’s acceptable when it comes to social media.”

The loss stung, but Gooding didn’t have any future incidents the rest of the year. Andersen hosted a team meeting explaining the dangers of social media and the punishments that could follow. He didn’t ban them from using social media (“That would have been hard on the players,”), but instead brought to light the impact their posts can have.

“The kids understood that 1) they would receive double the punishment of the first guy, and 2) they understood the process of how that affects the people around them.” Cameron Andersen, head coach at Gooding High School (Idaho)

Get Them Sharing on Social

There are benefits to social media, too. It’s an opportunity for athletes to showcase their abilities for all to see. Posting a highlight video and tweeting to coaches and recruiters can help get them on a school’s radar.

It also allows athletes to show their personality, who they are underneath the helmet or off the court. If they’re able to express themselves in a positive manner, recruiters will have a better feel for them as humans.

“Social media is so important to these kids. It’s how they express themselves,” Chris Fisher, the founder of the Texas High School Football Chat, said. “There are kids that earn scholarships because of their social media campaign, just getting information to college coaches. What happens with them on social media is an important part of who they are and what message they’re sending to the world. I think it’s really important that as coaches and influencers we show them the right way of using it.”

Make sure you’re following your athletes closely. It will help you nip potentially problematic posts earlier, and it can alert you to team motivations or issues you weren’t aware of. By putting your players into Twitter lists, you can closely monitor their actions and track what they’re posting.

The rise of social media has brought both new challenges and opportunities for coaches. You must educate your players on the dangers of social media, but also teach them to share highlights and express themselves in a positive manner. Chat with other coaches about how you can maximize social media on the Hudl Forum.