Whether you like it or not, social networking sites have transformed the way young people act. How they portray themselves, how they connect with others, and how they engage with their favorite brands or celebrities has all been influenced by social media. It’s also hard to keep track of the amount of social networks there are: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Vine, Pinterest, and probably several more that even I do not know about. As young athletes share more and more of their lives and interests on social media, it is important to take a moment and reflect on how their choices could affect their recruiting process.
Athletic recruiting is tough – you are competing with countless other talented and bright high school students for a small number of spots. Finding ways to stand out is an important trait that prospective student athletes need to foster. An easy way to stick out, but in a negative way, is with social media use. Making questionable decisions on social media can severely hinder a prospective student athlete’s chances at a scholarship.
I have seen it firsthand when college coaches are discussing prospective student athletes that they are recruiting. They go through the pros and cons of that student’s athletic ability and educational background along with their personality and how they would fit on the team. One aspect that was always discussed was their social media presence. Any showing of illegal activity or overtly crude behavior was an instant red flag and an almost immediate trip to the “no” pile.
I am not trying to sound like social media cannot be a place to express yourself because it is a great vehicle for people to express their thoughts, interests, and creativity with each other. There is, however, a line. Being able to tell everyone your thoughts in 140 characters or in a few motions of a keyboard disengages the ability in many people to just stop and think. You may have gotten in a fight with a friend and take to Twitter to vent your frustrations and it becomes a much bigger deal than you ever expected. The better way to approach social media is to sometimes just stop and think. The immediacy that social media has brought into our lives makes that hard to do, but I promise it is an important skill to have. Once you enter college as a student-athlete, the scrutiny and microscope only gets stronger. You start representing a school and a team, not just yourself.
My biggest word of advice, and something I was told earlier this year, is to think of your social media presence as a brand. Think about whether or not your posts are contributing to the brand you are trying to establish.