Sunday, August 19, 2012

Social media in college recruiting

Upon browsing through the Women Talk Sports blog network, I found this post about social media and recruiting. The blogger cites a number of coaches who talk about the issue of TMI (too much information) on recruits' Facebook and Twitter accounts.

This is, to me, quite a fascinating topic as social media sites have become an issue only in the past few years and I am not sure if institutions and coaches -- let alond the NCAA -- quite know how to deal with them.

At my undergraduate institution, we had a strict Facebook policy and at other programs coaches (or other staff) often monitor their student-athletes' Facebook pages to make sure that they are not making complete fools out of themselves or their universities.

But recruits are a completely different category. They are not under direct supervision of the school (yet) and they might not have "friends" or "followers" who would tell them "hey, don't post that." I only spent two years recruiting and even after such a short time, I can certainly say that seeing inappropriate content on Facebook definitely made me question the value system of the recruit.

For some coaches quoted in the above mentioned blog post, social media "drama" was even a deal-breaker. I completely understand that. As a coach, you have to be certain before you commit to mentoring, educating, supervising and being overall responsible for a young athlete for four years.

However, I am concerned that kids are written off based on the goofy things they post when they are 16 years old. The recruiting process starts early (seems like it's starting earlier and earlier.). And I am not quite sure if the kid's high school "mediated" self-presentation is the best predictor of their future success in college.

How about the noble idea that people -- especially college-aged people -- change?

First year students, especially student-athletes, are exposed to an overwhelming number of trainings, orientations, meetings with coaches, meetings with administrators, hours with academic advisors to ensure that they understand the university policies and the responsibilities of being a student-athlete.

It is unfortunate that coaches (or whichever staff members) have to spend time browsing their student-athletes Facebook accounts. It's a complete waste of time that could be spent on other more important aspects of team development, but it is absolutely necessary. I believed that as a student-athlete and I believed it as a coach -- and my former players would tell you that I had no issue with telling them to get the inappropriate postings off of their walls.

But the passive-aggressive approach to recruiting whereby the coach follows the prospective student-athlete's social media sites and determines, as one coach in the blog post said, that they "don't need that kind of person in [their] school" without addressing the problem might not be the way to go.

Rather, coaches need to make sure that the recruit understands that the institution disapproves of the social media "mess" and that they would have to comply with the rules if they want to play for the team.

If kids know that, they might reconsider what they advertise on their "walls." And, perhaps, they will even warn their friends about it. At least, they will still have a chance.

-- Dunja Antunovic

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