USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where 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 delivers an online recruiting game plan unique to athletes of all talent levels and ages.
When I was in high school, long before the Internet and social media, there was a saying … “You should always be on your best behavior, because you never know who might be watching.” Today, in the age of technology, EVERYONE’s watching, especially college coaches. They monitor social media on all their recruits, because they don’t want to bring in players they have to babysit. Initially, talent is the most important factor for a coach, but when two recruits are being considered for the same roster spot, a player’s academics, character and conduct become the deciding factors.
Be careful with social media
Every high school recruit should view the recruiting process the same as looking for a job. Potentially, every tweet and post affects how your “job search” is progressing. Today, more than ever, we are sharing, posting and tweeting every detail and activity of our day — from walking the dog to eating a jelly donut for breakfast. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest all reflect an athlete’s character and subsequently affect “job offers.”
Imagine this: You are a four-star football recruit, talking to the top colleges in the nation. Not thinking about the consequences, one of your tweets is inappropriate or even misinterpreted. Suddenly, the top colleges stop calling.
This has happened numerous times to the top recruits in the nation. How do you think it might affect your recruiting process if you aren’t a four-star recruit or if your post is truly inappropriate? Does this mean you need to delete every social media account you’ve ever created? No. But you should heed caution before you post or tweet.
Florida A&M Athletic Director Patrick Chun described a tweet or Facebook post as a “virtual tattoo.” When you tweet something or post something on Facebook, it is permanent.
Coaches are serious about monitoring their players’ and recruits’ social media activities. Their opinion of you can change with the click of a button.
With National Signing Day next week, this is a sobering thought as our world is consumed by social media. However, as an athlete, your character reflects your school and it should be of the highest standard.
Positives of social media
So far we have covered the potential negative aspects of social media on the recruiting process, but there are also positives.
You can use social media to connect with college coaches in a helpful way. The NCAA actually places fewer restrictions on communication via social media than on phone calls and text messages. Also, college coaches are making social media a more important part of their recruiting strategy.
Let’s be realistic; they aren’t expecting high school athletes to be perfect. They just want players who make good decisions and will represent their university in a positive way. Chris Yandle, the director of communications at the University of Miami (Fla.) might have given the best advice I have ever heard when he said, “Live your life, don’t tweet your life.”
How to avoid the pitfalls
You don’t have to give up telling the world about your jelly donut! Before you post, just remind yourself that “Grandma’s watching.” Never post photos and language you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see. If your post would get Grandma’s approval, then go ahead and post it. Grandma would approve posts that avoid profanity, sexual comments, racial comments/slurs, and she would also remind you to spell things correctly.
College coaches understand that they are not just recruiting talent, they are recruiting a person as well. They want to be sure that they are recruiting an individual who would represent them well on all fronts, especially social media.
Think before you post, and remember… Grandma’s watching.