Three Rea­sons Why Ath­let­ic Direc­tors Should Use Social Media

It’s time to go where the kids are. Ath­let­ic direc­tor and coach James Cof­fey explains how social media can ben­e­fit high school ath­let­ic departments.

Three Rea­sons Why Ath­let­ic Direc­tors Should Use Social Media

It’s time to go where the kids are. Ath­let­ic direc­tor and coach James Cof­fey explains how social media can ben­e­fit high school ath­let­ic departments.

I don’t mean to brag, but I think I invent­ed tweet­ing for ath­let­ic direc­tors. I start­ed tweet­ing in 2008, and it took me less than a year to real­ize how use­ful it could be for my role. In 2009, I start­ed fresh with a new Twit­ter account geared toward our ath­let­ic depart­ment specif­i­cal­ly. I’ve used it ever since.

In the ear­ly days, Twit­ter was pop­u­lar with a lot of sports­writ­ers but very few ADs. Back in 2008 – 2010, the talk around social media for high school ath­let­ics was all bad. Many con­fer­ences had forums on the dan­gers of social media. Nobody real­ly dis­cussed the pros. 

Ten years lat­er and near­ly every high school ath­let­ic depart­ment has a Twit­ter or Face­book account. Now it’s com­mon­place. Ath­let­ic direc­tors and coach­es need to evolve with the times. If you’re not on board yet, here’s why you should be.

You need to be where the kids are. (And that changes.)

We moved from pri­mar­i­ly using Face­book and Twit­ter to adding Insta­gram and Snapchat into the mix. Eight years ago, most high school kids used Twit­ter reg­u­lar­ly. Now they rarely do. In fact, a lot of the kids in my school just have an account to get noti­fi­ca­tions for my tweets, they don’t actu­al­ly tweet themselves. 

So where are they now? On Snapchat. It’s a social media app for shar­ing pic­tures, videos and mes­sages — and it’s king in the world of high school stu­dents. So why wouldn’t you want to use it too? 

If you’re not famil­iar with how it works, in addi­tion to shar­ing con­tent with spe­cif­ic peo­ple, each account can also post to their per­son­al sto­ry”. After 24 hours the pic­tures or videos you’ve added dis­ap­pear from your sto­ry. It has fil­ters you can add to the pic­tures as well, with inter­est­ing lens­es, cap­tions, and loca­tion-based tags. Most high schools already have a Snapchat fil­ter with the school’s name and logo.

Celebrate with your teams through social media apps like Snapchat.

Snapchat is prob­a­bly the eas­i­est way to reach your stu­dent-ath­lete audi­ence. Each snap of mine usu­al­ly gets around 200 views. Replies are com­mon too — I’ll receive snaps from stu­dents with fol­low-up ques­tions or just gen­er­al excite­ment about what I post­ed. Some­times a stu­dent will respond and ask what time I’ll be in the office so they could stop by. It real­ly opens the door to communication.

As time has gone by, I’ve changed what social media sites I use based on what con­tent I’m shar­ing for my school. I still use Face­book and Twit­ter to share infor­ma­tion and updates from games, but Snapchat allows me to post pic­tures and short video clips from games and events.

And that brings me to my next point.

There are a lot of ways to use it.

Use social media how­ev­er it will work best for your pro­gram. There are no rules (except the ones you make). For me, Face­book and Twit­ter are more infor­ma­tion-based, and Insta­gram and Snapchat are where I have a lit­tle more fun. Basi­cal­ly, I gear my Insta­gram and Snapchat con­tent to kids and my Face­book and Twit­ter to adults. 

I might post goofy videos of my kids on Snapchat in the morn­ing, then that night add videos from a big bas­ket­ball game at our school. I’m even start­ing to gain fol­low­ing from par­ents and guardians on Snapchat now, so it’s becom­ing win-win.

Keep everyone in the know about your school's big games.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to man­age it.

If you’re wor­ried about the amount of time you’ll have to spend on social media, don’t. There are pro­grams out there to help.

Like I’ve men­tioned, in our depart­ment we use Face­book, Twit­ter, Insta­gram and Snapchat. It might seem like a lot to do all togeth­er, but I use an appli­ca­tion called Hoot­suite to help me man­age it. It actu­al­ly allows me to post to every account but Snapchat all at once. That’s a huge time-saver.

Check out Hoot­suite, or do a lit­tle research to see what oth­er pro­grams are out there to help.

If you want to reach and engage your stu­dent-ath­letes bet­ter, I’d high­ly rec­om­mend div­ing into the social media world. I found it’s a good thing to let peo­ple (espe­cial­ly stu­dent-ath­letes) know you’re human. 

James Cof­fey attend­ed Endi­cott Col­lege in Bev­er­ly, MA where he got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Sport Man­age­ment. He has spend the last four­teen years as an ath­let­ic direc­tor at three dif­fer­ent high schools. Cof­fey was named the Mass­a­chu­setts Sec­ondary School Dis­trict A Ath­let­ic Direc­tor of the Year in 2012. He has also spoke about the pos­i­tive effects of social media on ath­let­ics at sev­er­al New Eng­land conferences.