Use social media effectively in track and field recruiting

Use social media effectively in track and field recruiting

NCSA Recruiting

Use social media effectively in track and field recruiting

USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Kyle Winters was a standout high school pitcher who tossed seven scoreless innings in a major tournament during his senior year. That performance against some heavy-hitting future MLB draft picks helped Kyle earn a full-ride scholarship to the University of New Mexico. However, Kyle opted to play professional baseball and was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the fifth round and played seven seasons for various minor league teams. Kyle is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.

Now, more than ever, social media is essential to track and field as a tool for awareness and recruiting, perhaps more so than to some other sports. Why? Because track and field does not always get the national media exposure of other more high-profile sports, such as football and basketball. “It’s not often you turn on the TV and see track meets,” Allison Vincent, NCSA senior recruiting coach for track and field, notes with a laugh. “My family and I walked into a restaurant recently on a Saturday night and the National Championships were on. I was shocked. I always talk to my kids about not watching TV when we’re out to dinner, but I had to say, ‘I need to switch spots so I can see the meet.’”

As a result, college programs and coaches have to get creative in using social media to get the word out on their programs. “I went to Indiana University,” Vincent states. “The media department was focused on basketball and didn’t really spend a lot of time with track. Coaches understood that if they were going to market their program, they would have to do it themselves. It’s been good for the sport overall.”

Track and field athletes have come to rely on social media not only as a recruiting tool but as an education resource and as a way to engage with the sport. “I went through my entire high school career without a coach who could teach me throws,” Vincent states. “I had a book and a VHS tape that I literally wore out. Now, kids can find anything they want on YouTube in terms of workouts. It’s not perfect; it’s not like someone standing there coaching you day in and day out, but it is more helpful than reading a book.”

“Social media provides the opportunity to communicate directly to our fans and participation base,” notes Jill Geer, CMO of USA Track & Field (USATF), the sport’s national governing body. “It’s really regenerated our relevancy with young athletes. We can communicate with them in the places they are communicating with each other.”

How can track and field athletes make the most of social media in their recruiting and to foster their relationship to the sport? Here are a few suggestions:

Follow the college programs on your target list

First and foremost, athletes should follow the college programs in which they are interested as well as coaches and individual athletes. “You can get a lot of great information,” Vincent recommends. “(silver medalist pole vaulter) Sandi Morris posts phenomenal stuff, from tips for traveling with poles to plans for recovering from an injury.”

Social media is an effective tool for an athlete to express their interest in and knowledge of a program, whether it’s tweeting about a meet result or sending congratulations to a coach on their latest victory. Vincent recommends a deliberate strategy for following teams. “Don’t follow a team from a program that isn’t a good fit for you,” she states. “Focus your social media efforts on the top 10 teams on your target list—25 if you’re an underclassman.”

It’s a no-brainer that track and field athletes should be following USATF on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter which combine for more than one million followers. “Our social media platforms are where athletes can interact with college coaches—who are also USATF elite coaches—and athletes,” states USATF CMO Jill Geer. “It provides a channel to have their profile raised in the track and field world. Parents often tag our handle: ‘Hey, USATF, check out my son running the 200m. That’s when you get other people to comment. At the same time, we provide access to behind-the-scenes video clips of elite athletes that are exclusive to USATF, as well as clips from international competition from our NBC broadcasts.”

Also recommended for athletes to follow are Runner’s World magazine, Athletic.net, which shows results from meets across the country and Dyestat.com, which covers high school and NCAA track & field.

DM: Get the conversation started

Sending a coach a direct message with a video attached is an effective introduction that could lead to getting on a coach’s radar. Coaches tend to respond to these quicker than they do an email. “It’s a personal connection,” Vincent states. “A coach who has watched a video might offer comments, improvements the athlete can make or drills they can do.”

But recruits should be mindful of recruiting rules. While athletes can contact a coach any time, the track and field coach cannot reply if the DM is received before the summer between a high school recruit’s sophomore and junior year (June 1 for D2 and September 1 for D1).

Is there something to be gained by reaching out to a coach and expressing interest in their program even though they can’t respond? “If you do it right, yes,” Vincent says. “It’s about saying, ‘Here’s my NCSA profile, please follow me. I know you can’t contact me yet.’

Acknowledging the rules is always a good idea. It lets the coach know you know about the recruiting process. A lot of kids (not mindful of the recruiting rules) will simply DM and say they’re interested in a school and ask what the next step is, and the coach can’t reply. The result is that the recruit gets frustrated with the process. The coach gets frustrated, too, because they’re getting these emails they can’t reply to.”

Above all, keep your social media professional

It is no secret that coaches check out athletes’ social media as a gauge of their character (so why do athletes keep posting inappropriate material?). “Social media is a fantastic opportunity to present your best self,” Geer states. “We encourage athletes to realize they should only post things they would be comfortable with their family and coaches seeing. Young people think of social media through the lens of interacting with their close friends, whereas we encourage them to view it as having an online press conference. Anything you post can be seen by a college coach and that can be bad news if you are posting things that are inappropriate. Exercising good judgment is part of the growing up process.”

READ MORE: How to use social media in your recruiting

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Use social media effectively in track and field recruiting
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