Student-athletes are natural leaders and represent more than their name; they represent their team, their school, and everyone in association with them. Social media has given athletes an opportunity to be seen and heard on a grand scale before going pro. High school and college student-athletes can become influential and affect change on a grand scale, but there are many obstacles and challenges involved.
High schools and universities have suspended and even dismissed players due to their presence on social media. It has become more frequent as coaches, administrators, and parents have learned how to police the social media platforms and discover less than savory conversation. Most of the time, the teenagers don’t think in the moment and appreciate the gravity of their online presence. However, the i-SAFE Foundation discovered in a bullying statistic that 1 in 3 youngsters experience cyber-threats online. In fact, 25% of teens have been bullied through social media repeatedly.
Administrators and coaches cannot ignore these issues, but shouldn’t police social media. Change starts with leading by example and frequent communication and education regarding social media behavior. Schools have been scared to harness social platforms because of the dangerous pitfalls, especially the glass-door aspect. Everyone is under a spotlight, especially coaches and administration. Instead of shying away from social media, they can be proactive in conducting meetings with student-athletes focused on their social responsibility.
Relating and communicating with student-athletes through their preferred modes of communication like social media may reach them deeper than any educational seminar or classes. Coaches can begin to focus on what they should be doing and send a positive message instead of simply focusing on what shouldn’t be done.
Information, communication, and platforms are evolving and growing so fast that a defined line of acceptability has yet to be clearly defined. However, focusing on a positive message and an authentic positive online presence avoids flirting with the line altogether and sets an example for future student-athletes. Social media use among high school and college student-athletes is a controversial issue, but there are positive ways in which coaches and athletes can use social media platforms to promote their teams.
#1: Report scores
While major colleges are in the national spotlight and covered almost continuously by the sporting news world, high schools can have a harder time spreading the word about their programs and successes. Through social media high schools can report scores, teams’ news, and victories as soon as they occur. Until recently, high school news was relegated to snippets in the local paper or updated weekly on their website. These updates are too slow and don’t reach the potential target audience social platforms offer. With Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, high school news can be shared by the local community and create a positive, open relationship between student-athletes and people.
#2: Share pictures
Boosting interest and enthusiasm for the teams by sharing pictures of events is another positive use of social media. Frequently posting pictures and videos of events help the student-athletes feel important and supported. Coaches will be leading by example when they post a positive message and picture of the team in camaraderie while cultivating further interest in the program. Sharing helps keep people connected and reminds the student-athletes that they represent more than just themselves; they represent the team.
#3: Show benefits and core values of programs
People want to know where the school budget is being utilized, and if it is a positive influence on their children. Using social media to present benefits and core values of programs can help alleviate any concerns as well as gain athletes support and opportunities. Sharing individual profile stories, sportsmanship experiences, and community involvement remove any incorrect perceptions about one or more programs at the school.
#4: Promote sporting events
Attendance is physical proof of support that can be raised through social media platforms. They allow schools to keep the community and fans up to date with game schedules and relevant sporting activities. Football, basketball, and baseball are usually the most popular sports, but social media promotions can raise awareness for other sports as well. Track, crew, waterpolo, and tennis may find stronger support because they can generate support and create a spotlight in which to compete.
#5: Social media marketing is more affordable
Working with a TV service provider, buying TV time, newspaper ads, bench ads, and other marketing channels can be too expensive for a school’s budget. People are sensitive to how schools spend their money, so extra costs such as marketing are heavily scrutinized. Social media platforms offer a free marketing option that actually performs better than most paid options. The concept of sharing stories and information freely offers an infinite reach that is bolstered through the personal touch it requires. Communities are more willing to read news and stories from a student-athlete or coach than paid advertisement.
#6: Students create positive image for recruiting
“If you want to be a good recruiter in today’s college football, you have to be on social media,” John Kuceyeski said. He is the Iowa State director for recruiting, and believes in positive social media use. He went on to say, “If you’re not doing it, you’re going to get beat by somebody that’s doing it. You have to be out there. You have to be different. You have to be completely visible and be accessible, and the best way to do that in today’s recruiting world is through social media.”
Recruiters are using social media as a way to familiarize themselves with potential recruits. They have discovered that student-athletes may be a much different person online than who they are with coaches and administration. It’s important for student-athletes who are serious about recruitment keep in mind their social media presence is permanent. Things said are archived, shared, and repeated, making social media platforms giant echo chambers. Keeping their online identity respectful and positive will help when recruiters are doing research and deciding who potential stars are.
#7: Highlight student-athletes
Validation and acknowledgement are strong tools when reinforcing student-athlete’s positive use of social media. Social media allows users to invest in the players and highlight who they are through write-ups and exciting iterations of intense game play. Coaches can be emphasized as well, showing people who works with their kids and what kind of influence they are. People naturally want to be recognized for their deeds and talents, so this can be the strongest use of social media. Student-athletes will naturally uphold the positive, strong image that has been created and set a good example for younger generations.
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