EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Everyone has a voice nowadays. It doesn’t matter how sizable your social media following may be, your words, images and videos can go viral.
That includes the work of teenagers, for better or worse.
People older than 30 didn’t grow up with social media. Today’s high schoolers, however, are one click away from getting into trouble or even losing scholarship offers depending on what they post.
Monitoring what is said online is yet another task for high school coaches.
“Luckily, I’ve got young (assistants) because I’m too old for that,” Central (Evansville) coach Troy Burgess said as he chuckled during Monday’s High School Football Media Day presented by Evansville (Ind.) Teachers Federal Credit Union.
“We talked on the way over here about being smart and understanding whatever you put out there — whether it be to the media or on social media — it better be something you’re OK with mom, dad and grandma seeing because once it’s out there, it’s out there,” Burgess added.
There’s a fairly new trend where people dig up old posts – some from nearly a decade ago – to embarrass someone. The Twitter account @OldTakesExposed re-ups tweets from journalists and other public figures who made predictions that never came to fruition, and the account has amassed a following of 185,000 people who seemingly love public shaming.
In the past month, a handful of MLB players were exposed for posting racist and other offensive tweets back when they were still teens. The same happened before the NFL Draft. And as Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo was celebrating being named most outstanding player of the Final Four, his insensitive tweets made headlines.
What you say today can impact you down the road.
“Social media is going to be the death of a lot of people in a lot of places, so we try to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves every day to protect the program,” Princeton (Ind.) coach Jared Maners said.
A Pew Research Center survey from earlier this year found one-third of teens are on Twitter, half are on Facebook and over 70 percent are on Instagram and Snapchat. The technology landscape is constantly changing.
Basically every team has its own account run by the coaches, plus many have their own personal accounts as well. Some have fun with them, such as Boonville’s Darin Ward, who jokes about keeping spray paint companies in business because the Pioneers are one of the few teams without field turf.
Being on social media also subjects coaches to angry parents and fans, but high school sports Twitter is fairly tame locally. It’s mostly student-athletes bragging about receiving an offer (no matter how obscure the school) or sharing news about their team.
“We’ve had one or two problems with social media, but we have good kids so it hasn’t been too much of an issue,” Gibson Southern (Fort Branch, Ind.) coach Nick Hart said.
Reitz (Evansville) coach Andy Hape described the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference coaches as a fraternity. He’ll call Memorial’s (Evansville) John Hurley one night and Mater Dei’s (Evansville) Mike Goebel another night to catch up. They all know what’s going on and keep each other posted.
“You’re never going to be able to control what 16-, 17-, 18-year-old kids say,” North (Evansville) coach Joey Paridaen said. “But we do talk about how we conduct ourselves and I’m pretty confident in our kids that they’re smart about what they’re doing.”
Since 2011, Clemson University’s football program has banned social media during the season to avoid outside noise. Yet for high schoolers, it can’t be any more distracting than Fortnite or tomorrow’s history test.
There’s never an excuse for saying something racist, homophobic or misogynistic. That’s obvious. But coaches and schools proactively taking measures for student-athletes to be smart about what they say and do online will save them from embarrassment.