A large number of high school coaches and administrators have embraced social media — mainly Twitter — as a way of relaying information in a timely manner.
When used in a positive way, it can be a great resource. However, as coaches are finding out, they need to be concerned about what athletes who use Twitter post to the site.
That old saying, “Talk is cheap, prove on the field,” is not always applied in the age of social media.
It is easy for high school athletes to post something to Twitter without thinking. Instead of just worrying about game-planning, coaches now have to worry about what their players are saying online.
“You have to be proactive,” Granville football coach J.R. Wait said. “Twitter is a monster right now, and that’s why we have a coach monitoring it. We are not trying to catch kids saying bad things, but they are representing our football program and our school, so it is important they are representing themselves the right way and are saying appropriate things.
“We have been discussing it for a couple of years, but we never really followed up with it enough. We’ve had some issues with it, which is why we are on top of it a lot more now.”
Wait said it’s tough to punish athletes because of freedom of speech and, most of the time, students aren’t on school grounds when they tweet. He said the only option in punishing an athlete if he or she puts something inappropriate online, is to decrease playing time.
“You have to be clear and transparent with them,” Wait said. “You would hear things about kids, and it used to be all speculation. Now, when they put something online, it’s out there. If they delete it or not, it’s permanent.
“You want kids to put their best foot forward, but sometimes, they don’t understand that a spur-of-the-moment statement can do a lot of damage. Coaches have to be diligent about what kids are saying.”
Heath boys basketball coach Devin Fulk has a Twitter account and uses it to monitor his players. Andrew Chacey, who was a senior this past winter, said Fulk would punish his players with running if he spotted foul language or trash talk.
A player forgot about Fulk’s presence on Twitter one afternoon.
“There was kid that got kicked out of class,” Chacey said. “Nobody knew about it. He tweeted about it, and that is how coach Fulk found out. He had to run for that.”
Newark Superintendent Doug Ute said he is a big proponent of social media, especially Twitter because he thinks it is a great way to relay information to students, parents and the public.
“I think it’s great because it is a great way to promote our school,” Ute said. “We use it a lot to communicate. I don’t look at it as a way to bash people. Most of the stuff I see on there is positive.
“As far as I know, we haven’t had any issues with our athletes. I would like to think our athletic director (Jeff Quackenbush) has a good handle on what our expectations are from our students.”
Ute said the school district plans to be more proactive in educating its students.
“I’ve always looked at it from the positive side,” Ute said. “We have been fortunate because we haven’t had any problems, but we will certainly educate our students and discuss it more.”
Quackenbush said it can be a tough thing for coaches, especially a football coach, who has to monitor more players.
“As an athletic department, we haven’t put in a certain rule as far as what the punishment would be,” Quackenbush said. “We know it’s becoming a bigger and bigger issue. In basketball, there is not as many kids to worry about like there is in football.
“I know our basketball players have a good understanding of what our expectations are, and they know if they put something negative out there, it’s going to hurt the program. We stress that to them and their parents. They all know they are representing Newark High School, and they need to be careful what they say.”
Newark Catholic football coach Bill Franks said parents need to take ownership of what their kids are putting on Twitter.
“We talk to the the players all the time about it,” Franks said. “We are constantly educating them to say the right things because everything you say can make or break your future resume — not only in sports, but your life after college.”