Social Media, Athletes, and Recruiting

When it comes to our kids, we want to protect them and keep them safe, so it’s easy to be scared off by social media. After all, look at all the negative publicity social media receives around cyberbullying, pedophiles, and cyberstalking. My husband and I have maintained a strict no social media policy for our middle school son. But as he prepares for high school, and by extension for college, we must ask ourselves: Will our son’s lack of social media presence in high school hurt his chances of getting noticed by college recruiters?

Life is different in the digital age. When we were growing up, we used to talk to our friends in person and on the phone for hours. We rushed home from school to meet up with neighborhood friends, and fought with our siblings over who got the phone first or who had it longest the day before. Those days are gone. Today’s teens and preteens communicate through text and instant message in abbreviated short hand that seems like some cryptic foreign language:

Teen Text Conversation:

Jim: WRU

Sara: AH

Jim: WRUD

Sara: HW

Jim: WAN2TLK

Sara: CTN TTYL

Jim: KK

Translation:

Jim: Where are you?

Sara: At home.

Jim: What are you doing?

Sara: Homework.

Jim: Want to talk?

Sara: Can’t talk now. Talk to you later.

Jim: OKAY

When it comes to social media there are concerns, but there are some benefits to recognize as well. In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a report, “The Impact of Social Media Use on Children, Adolescents and Families” offering recommendations on how pediatricians, parents and youth can successfully navigate this new mode of communication. “For some teens and tweens, social media is the primary way they interact socially, rather than at the mall or a friend’s house,” said Gwenn O’Keeffe, MD, FAAP, co-author of the clinical report. “A large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while on the Internet and on cell phones. Parents need to understand these technologies so they can relate to their children’s online world – and comfortably parent in that world.” See Dr. O’Keefe discussing social media at the following links:

So, how can we as parents help prepare our teens for life in a world where social media and instant messaging thrive, and face-to-face conversations are a thing of the past?

    Step 1: Understand the technologies. We can’t teach what we don’t understand. What are the benefits? What are the risks? How does privacy and security factor in? The more you know, the better you can help your kids understand.
    Step 2: Talk to your kids about the impact that social media has not only on friendships they have today, but potential connections to be formed tomorrow. We taught our kids how to talk, walk, write, and now we must teach them how to flourish in the digital world.
    Step 3: Monitor together and be involved. You know who your kid’s friends are, and you have the right to know what they are doing online as well.

Think of your young athlete’s social media profile as his or her brand. Promoting a young athlete to prospective schools is comparable to marketing yourself to a prospective employer. Parents and teens can form a social media partnership they can build an online resume to showcase achievements, skills, and who young athletes are on and off the field. These are things that might otherwise go overlooked by college recruiters. Some of the same rules apply whether you are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or any combination of social media accounts, and even though the NCAA is extremely strict about the recruiting process; that doesn’t mean social media can’t be used to help a young athlete get his/her name out there.

Megan Gibbs, Assistant Director of Online Marketing, Carnegie Communications documented 22 Essential Social Media Tips for College Sports Recruitment. She has some fantastic points that made me stop and reflect about how I can teach my son to use social media in high school to help attract the attention of college recruiters.

FACEBOOK

(98% of US Universities have Facebook pages)

  • Be visible.
  • Become a fan.
  • Watch your posts.
  • Watch your comments.
  • Promote yourself.
  • Be active.

TWITTER

  • Connect with coaches.
  • Actually tweet.
  • Engage with the admission office.
  • Use hashtags.
  • Help get a conversation going.
  • Watch your mouth (again!).
  • Remember: once it’s out there, it’s out there.

YouTube

  • Upload. Upload. Upload.
  • Spread the word.
  • Be active.
  • Fill in the details.
  • Show your off-the-field side.
  • Be realistic.
  • Watch what you post.
  • Choose a chill username.
  • Don’t feel pressured to be too fancy.

If done correctly, social media can help provide those one-on-one connections between coaches, staff, and prospects. If done incorrectly it can seriously hurt an athlete’s chances if their social media presence gives athletic recruiters any cause for alarm. Remember, once it’s out there, it’s out there. We not only need to monitor our kid’s social media accounts, we need to teach our kids that their choices can make or break them for a prospective coach or employer.

 

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