USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Fred Bastie, the owner and founder of Playced.com. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and their recruiting experts provide a recruiting experience that is backed by a money-back guarantee.
Social media can have a significant impact on your college recruiting journey. Since anyone can take a screen-shot and share it, nothing you post is ever really private anymore. Think about your social media accounts for a minute. Do you personally know every one of your friends and followers? And a better question might be, can every one of your friends or followers be trusted? If you answered yes to both of those questions, then you apparently have less than 10 followers! I would guess that you really don’t know most of the people associated with your social media platforms! Given that fact, when you post anything on social media, there’s no telling who will see it and that includes college coaches.
Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Pinterest: most high school students have an account on every one of these social media platforms. In fact, tweeting, posting and sharing have almost replaced talking for many young adults. Based on that fact, college coaches have become more and more active on social media as a way to research and communicate with potential recruits. Right or wrong, college coaches will assume that your behavior on social media is an indication of how you will act on campus. For that reason, your actions and habits on social media in high school may be important if you expect to play in college.
For the most part, the right way to handle yourself on social media is common sense, but potential college recruits need to be more careful than other students and they need to understand the ramifications of poor decisions on social media. Here are some thoughts to consider with respect to your social media accounts.
It may be a college coach’s first impression of you
A college coach’s first impression of you as a student-athlete will most likely happen sooner than you think. In fact, it might have already happened. That’s right, college coaches may have already looked at your social media accounts. College coaches generally do their homework on recruits well before the first phone call or email and many times they start with your social media accounts. If your heart just skipped a beat, don’t panic. What’s done, is done. Just clean it up going forward.
You really need to understand how serious college coaches are about each recruit’s social media behavior. Many college athletic programs actually have someone in charge of reviewing and monitoring the social media accounts of prospective athletes. They’re hoping to not find racist, sexist, vulgar or profane posts. If they do, they will move on to the next recruit on the list. There have been thousands of recruits scratched off recruiting lists based just on their social media accounts. In fact, if a coach doesn’t like your Twitter handle he or she may not even consider you as a prospect.
When a coach reviews the social media accounts of a potential athlete, they are looking for more than just inappropriate posts. They can learn a lot about an athlete based on their behavior online. For example, if a student-athlete has the time to be on Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat 24/7, coaches might question that recruit’s priorities. If gaining followers, likes or re-tweets is a priority, then those habits might take away from homework, practice and/or just being a kid.
Finally, while consistent profanity or negative posts are certainly red flags, college coaches also monitor social media for other warning signs. If it’s obvious from your posts that you don’t get along with your coaches or teammates, that you dread practice or hate homework, then your name will most likely get moved down on most recruiting lists.
Think twice, post once
There is an old saying carpenters use to avoid making a mistake: “Measure twice, cut once.” The same thought process should be used for social media: “Think twice, post once.” If you have any doubt whatsoever about something you’ve just typed into your phone, delete it before you post it.
Alternatively, you could go with the J. J. Watt approach. Here’s his advice for student athletes:
“Read each tweet about 95 times before you send it. Look at every Instagram post about 95 times before you send it. A reputation takes years and years and years to build and it takes one press of a button to ruin it.”
Based on the above, every high school athlete looking for an athletic scholarship should seriously think about each and every share, post or tweet. For some reason it sure seems like many people feel the need to share, post and tweet every detail and activity of their life right down to the egg salad sandwich and Cheetos they had for lunch. If you’re one of those people, I highly recommend the J. J. Watt approach.
Keep in mind that whether you like it or not, your social media accounts are a reflection of your character – good or bad. I’m not suggesting you should stay away from social media, but you have to be careful, because anything you post might be seen by a college coach, a scout or an alum from a college you might be interested in.
If you make a mistake on social media, fix it immediately
The best thing you can do when you make a mistake of any kind is to admit it, learn from it and try not to let it happen again. Don’t make excuses or try to hide it. If you realize that you tweeted or posted something you shouldn’t have, delete it immediately, AND take responsibility for it. I’m not telling you to issue a blanket apology across all your social media platforms, but if the subject of an inappropriate post comes up with a college coach or anyone else, just be honest, take responsibility and let them know it was a mistake that won’t happen again.
Here’s the deal
Obviously, athletic ability is the primary deciding factor for a coach, but when candidates of similar abilities are considered for the same roster spot, a player’s academics, behavior and character BECOME the deciding factors. How an athlete handles the responsibility of social media speaks to their ability to use sound judgment.