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Hit Em’ Where it Counts!Monday, August 8th, 2016

nicole1by Nicole Sohanic, Front Rush

Long gone are the days of snail mail and email correspondence as the main tools of communication. Historically messaging apps had a tone of being too casual and lacking in professionalism. Times sure have changed. Being the main medium of communication among ‘kids these days’, it has also found its place as a staple communication tool among working professionals.

What are messaging apps? These apps replace text messaging on your devices. Among them are WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, and many more. Using messaging apps, you can avoid text messaging charges and even communicate across country borders without worrying about a hefty bill. These messaging apps all have their special affordances that cater to individual’s needs. They can provide awesome bonus features that the regular text messaging app on your device just cannot do.

Competing with other coaches, you need speed and clarity when reaching out to your recruits. The quickest way to get in touch and express your interest is through messaging apps! That recruit will receive your message right away and can immediately start communicating with you in a medium they use every single day.

Casual is Comfortable

We all have at least one adult friend on facebook that will close their comment with their name as if they are writing a formal letter. No need for such formalities when you are messaging! Say hello and express your interest. Keep it light!

Short and Sweet

It is best to keep your messages on the short side! When chatting in a messaging app, sometimes it is hard to keep up. Messages can be long or can come in short, rapid bursts. Make it easy, give recruits time to respond to the messages you send. The more you get to engage with your recruit, the more you get to learn about them as an athlete and a person.

Timing is Everything

Even though recruits may receive your message right away, does not mean they can respond at that time. The tone of messaging apps can sometimes bring about some anxiety or impatience when someone doesn’t respond as quickly as we would like. Be patient, give the recruit some time to finish up whatever they could have been doing. If you have not heard from them in a day or so, feel free to touch base again to be sure they got your message.

Team Communication Tool

With your existing team, you can use messaging as a fast way to communicate. Group messages are your number one friend for mass communication. Inform your roster of practices times, schedule changes, and upcoming team events. GroupMe is a popular app among college teams. Allowing you to see when messages are sent, received, and read is super crucial to making sure everyone knows what is happening. This instills responsibility in your athletes to get back to you in a timely manner and acknowledge your message. You also have the ability to set up groups for your support staff, trainers, and current roster. Since these groups always remain, you are one click away from talking to who you want.

Get out there Coach! Jump right into these awesome messaging apps and take advantage of them for recruiting and team communication. Learn something new, talk it up, and have some fun along the way.

 

Digital Angel or Digital Devil?Monday, April 25th, 2016

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

There comes a time when I need to face the truth.

In this instance, there are three truths, digital truths, that I’m trying to process:

  1. Digital Truth #1: Digital is impacting coaches
  2. Digital Truth #2: Coaches adopt digital at different speeds
  3. Digital Truth #3: Screen sizes keep getting smaller

Here is what has me scratching my head … there is a positive impact (Digital Angel) and a negative impact (Digital Devil) to each of these truths. And I’m trying to understand how this will work.

Truth #1: Digital is impacting coaches

In a recent survey of sport coaches, over 35% of them told me they were significantly concerned about the impact digital was having on their coaching.

04-24-16 - impact of digital on coaches

 

Yikes — all those coaches worried about data flying around, media that’s called social, and powerful phones in people’s pockets.

Are their concerns valid?

At the other end of the survey results, 31% of coaches told me that they were NOT worried about the impact of digital. AT ALL.

Are they ignoring reality?

Who is right? On my end, I see the Angel and the Devil:

  • Digital Angel: One day I was pumped about the value of sharing a race video I just recorded, through social media, to team members.
  • Digital Devil: The next day I spent hours trying to sort out a “social media dust up” between team members. At the end of the day I was ready to condemn all things electronic.
  • Digital Angel: A huge percentage of coaches report the impact of digital on their recruiting is positive (>70%)
  • Digital Devil: Everyday there is another story about a coach who runs into trouble due to digital, like this one.

See, there’s an Digital Angel and a Digital Devil sitting there. On a shoulder. Whisper confusing things.

Truth #2: Coaches adopt digital at different speeds

Almost half of coaches in my survey (44.1%) told me as soon as they know about a new digital thing they want to try it.

04-24-16 - coaches adopt digital

That’s crazy stuff. What are these coaches looking for? A recruiting advantage? Easing of workload? Distraction?

Yet, the other half yawned when new digital popped up. They said they don’t care about the new stuff..

So, half of coaches are early adopters (that’s me, actually I’m a super-early adopter), and the other half are late (if ever) adopters.

Angel and Devil again.

Truth #3: Screen size is getting smaller

Thanks to Moore’s Law, digital gadgets are shrinking and so is their cost. And this is leading to smaller screen sizes.

desktop => laptop => tablet => smartphone => smartwatch

I have a theory. Here’s the first part: “smaller screen size means devices are becoming more mobile.” It is so easy to stick the smartphone in your pocket or slip the smartwatch on your wrist and take the screen with you — everywhere.

Here’s the second part: “smaller screens lead to greater human contact which leads to greater use.” And, of course there is an Angel/Devil aspect here.

  • Digital Angel: quick communication is at arms length
  • Digital Devil: distracted coaching becomes a reality (how many times do you check during practices?)
  • Digital Angel: everyone has a smartphone
  • Digital Devil: a smartphone in plain view, even if off, changes conversations

The list goes on.

So What?

Does any of this matter?

Growing up, rock-n-roll was just becoming popular. The adults around me were split between how great it was, and it being a sign of our society’s demise. Angel/Devil.

Digital is part of our coaching world. There are smart/safe ways to use it. I doubt if we will see a lessening of it’s popularity. Knowing there is both a Digital Angel and Digital Devil might be helpful as I (and you) keep moving ahead.

Preventing Athletes From Making Mistakes on Social MediaMonday, April 18th, 2016

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

I had a problem.

My oldest son, a college football player, was eating ALL the food in our house.

He ate everything. Every-single-crumb. Including stuff I cooked. (Even though I’m the son of a professional cook, my cooking skills have been classified as “lacking.”)

There was no stopping him:

  • Hiding food didn’t help — he found it.
  • Not buying food didn’t matter — we need to eat so WE need food.
  • Yelling at him didn’t matter — he had a teenager brain.
  • Locking the fridge would not have helped — it just wouldn’t.

We finally came up with several solutions:

  1. We bought inexpensive high-caloric food. Placed in the front of the fridge, he grazed on that before he found the good stuff behind it.
  2. We had him chip in money to help pay the food bill.
  3. We bought food that filled him up (I had no idea “super family size” even existed)

This kid was hungry. Often, I think that’s what social media is about.

How do I prevent athletes from making inappropriate posting on social media?

Today’s kids aren’t different than you and I were. They are hungry for attention, to be liked, to connect. Plus, they don’t want to miss out.

Social media, regardless of the app that’s hot today, helps feed those hungers. It is a way to get attention, to connect with friends, and to keep current with the latest happening.

That’s the good side.

The Flip Side

Of course, social media has a down side (more than one, some would say). My biggest issue with social media is that users don’t see the human response to their postings.

I think that causes most issues with social media and inappropriate postings.

Imagine for a moment. I come up to you, face to face, and say, “Hey, I know your momma gave you that shirt. I don’t like it. It makes you look dumb.”

Immediately I will see your response with my own eyes. Without you saying one word, I can tell by your expression, your eyes, your body english, that what I said was hurtful.

That doesn’t happen on social media.

I post something, but because of the digital-disconnect, I miss the human response. That distance opens the door for inappropriate comments.

And those inappropriate comments can have a wicked negative impact.

As a smart guy I work with says, “The internet is forever, and it’s unforgiving.”

So What’s A Coach To Do?

Having dealt with social media, athletes, and postings for sometime, I have a few suggestions. I’ll hedge my comments with this statement — you can’t STOP an athlete from making mistakes on social media.

You can help them make good choices, but you can’t stop them from making bad ones.

Just like you can’t stop a driver from making a bad choice behind the steering wheel.

It’s not a hopeless cause — athletes and social media. It just takes work, honesty, and like food and my son, some creative thinking.

Actions To Experiment With

I don’t have all the answers. I may not have any. I’ve written about what a coach can do for their own social media, but what about athletes?

Here are a few ideas. You might find one of these helpful:

  • See the repercussions. During a class, I had students send other students in the class text messages, trying to get them to laugh. All this happened while everyone was in the classroom. It was interesting to see the sender watch the reaction of the receiver in real life. There might be a lesson here trying this with social media.
  • Use a social media peer. If an athlete is posting something about your team, another team, your sport, tell them to send the posting first to a leader on your team. If the leader approves, post away. If not approved, fix the message, and retry. Might have to do this only once or twice.
  • Sign a contract. Do you have a policy about social media? One that gives them guidelines for posting? I’ve included a copy of one we use at our College. You can download that sample by clicking here.
  • Stalk their social media accounts.This sounds like a bad idea — because it is. Freedom of speech issue — maybe. Creepy — absolutely. There must be good methods of being alerted of inappropriate postings, beside a nuclear call from an irate administrator or parents. I haven’t found it yet. Still looking. (Yes I use Google Alerts, and spot-search Twitter, but whose got the time?)
  • Reading of postings at practice. What if the athletes stood up at practice, and read any of their postings related to the team, coach, sport? Would that help? Hurt? I dunno. I heard rumors of one coach who did this. Sounds funky. Maybe it worked.
  • Create a digital citizens course/class workshop. Have a team session about being a good citizen. Then extend that to their online presence. I bet everyone, including Coach, would learn a lot. I just might try this one. If I do, I’ll report back
  • Start with smartphone smart-use. Are you helping your athletes with their smartphone use? You should. Here’s how.

It comes to this, a coach can’t STOP an athlete from making mistakes on social media, but a coach can HELP them make good choices.

Maybe that’s the best we can do. What do you do? Send me an email or post in the comments below, and let me/us/everyone know. If you do, I’ll tell you how I solved the food-vacuum cleaner in my house.

When “Digital” Is Crushing Your CoachingMonday, March 7th, 2016

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

Years ago, I thought it would be great if I could contact my athletes each day. Maybe a simple inspiring message, or a “how’s it going?” connect.

I miss those old days.

Now, we coach in a digital world of constant connection, daily innovation, mega-communication challenges, bulging data bases, and information overload.

It can be overwhelming. I know this because you just told me so.

Hundreds of coaches responded to my recent digital impact survey. Hundreds of questions asked. Hundreds of problems identified.

Bam.

Following are your questions regarding coaching in a digital world and my whack at answering some of them.

A) How do I get everyone to read my emails & texts?

You don’t.

When you send a message, the percent of people who open it is called the “open rate.” The typical open rate for email in sport organizations is 26.03%. In the education world it is around 22.01%. Those percentages come from a study of billions of emails).  You are asking for 100% open rate. It won’t happen. (Yes, your open rate will be higher for your team, but …)

Texts have a different rate. The open rate for text messages, in one study, was found to be well over 90%. With those messages being read usually in the first 3 minutes of being sent. Better than email. Still won’t get 100%

One solution would be to use a program, such as FrontRush, that will track who opens your messages and when.

So, you send a message through FrontRush to your team. Wait a period of time, and check the stats page. You then know who didn’t open it. You can connect with that person at the next practice and find out why.

Seems silly to have a personal conversation about opening digital messages. But, if the information is important (it is, you’re their coach) then they should be opening it.

B) My athletes skim emails even though I have put a lot of thoughtfulness into them.

Building on the previous question … first, are you sure they are even  opening your emails? Chances are they aren’t — see A.

Second, if they are opening your messages, y’know, the one where you’ve crafted a beautiful missive, with all sorts of quotes, and inspirations and just an overall great piece of writing, guess what …

… you’ve wasted your time.

The generation of athletes most of us coach (Millennials) love information … heck, they demand it. However, emails and texts aren’t the best way to deliver it to them. The athletes are moving fast. Drawn in many directions. Overloaded with information. There are better ways to get them your missive, like …

  • in person
  • by phone
  • by letter

I say “better” because those different methods of delivery may well engage better. Because they are personal, those messages standout from the digital noise bombarding the athletes.

Third, keep emails brief. Use bullet points. Send lists.

A mantra to try … email or text for short stuff; reach out with a personal touch for long stuff.

C) What’s the best way to prevent athletes from posting inappropriate things on social media that hinder the reputation and the appearance of the team?

Put a power megaphone in the hands of 10 five-year-olds. Tell each of them not to use it. Walk away. Guess what, more than one of those human tornadoes will be screaming and singing in their megaphone in no time.

Why? Because the power and temptation overwhelm the small amount of guidance you gave them.

Fact — we have armed a generation with the World’s Largest Megaphone, with no guidance. And seemingly with no repercussion of bad use. So why wouldn’t the athletes post whatever online?

I don’t think there is ONE best way to prevent inappropriate postings. Multiple fronts are probably best.

  • Coach guidance will make a difference.
  • Parental guidance will make a bigger difference.
  • Appropriate penalties will help (if known BEFORE an incident).

• Tell stories to high schoolers who are interesting in college sports could help. For instance, as soon as an interested athlete’s name comes across our threshold, we go to the web and do a search. More than once we have been … um … disappointed. And that can change the recruiting process.

D) My athletes get distracted from school work because of social media and their smart phones.

I’m pulling the age card here — I grew up when TV was just catching on. We had a black and white set, and I remember the uproar it was causing. The parents and I would watch one or two shows together each week (like “To Tell The Truth,” and “The Wonderful World of Disney”). TV viewing was always under the control of my parents.

No TV until homework done. 

No TV unless good grades. 

No TV until all those thank-you cards are sent. 

Dirty dishes? No TV. 

“I want to watch TV.” A common response, “too bad.”

Without that parental guidance I would have been sucked sooooo deep into TV.

So, in terms of your athletes, where is the parent control? Whose paying the smartphone bill? Who gave the athlete the smartphone in the first place?

A buddy, found his daughter making unwise choices (after many discussions and warnings) with her smartphone. He asked her to step out into the driveway. He placed her smartphone on the pavement where he proceeded to destroy it with a sledgehammer. Dramatic? Yup. Overboard? His choice. Advisable? He was at his wits end. It made an impact.

E) Social media leaves coaches vulnerable to slander. As a coach I am vulnerable, because as we have seen before on the news, all it takes is one lie to ruin a reputation and possibly a career.

Yes, and it’s scary. The World’s Largest Megaphone means even lies get heard. And people are free to say almost anything they want.

So you need to protect yourself. These are steps you HAVE to take:

  1. Never ever meet with an athlete alone. Period.
  2. Always have another adult present when addressing athletes, such as team meetings.
  3. Have enough liability insurance to protect you and your assets (discuss with your insurance agent).
  4. Have a pre-season meeting. Layout to athletes and parents expectations on proper social media use and proper channels to voice concerns.
  5. Set up a social-media monitoring system for your name, and your team’s. There are several ways you can do this. A super simple way is to do a Google and Twitter search for your name once per day.

F) Yik Yak is the worst. Anonymous posting makes people feel like they can say anything without repercussion. Would love to get rid of that nonsense.

I’ve been told “anonymous” is another name for “absolutely worthless”, and that’s what I think those postings are. Unfortunately, anonymous postings can have serious negative impact, and the user has little clue.

If I march up to a person and call her a name I can see the impact of my words, how they make her feel. That is a human connection lost on social media — especially on platforms like Yik Yak.

Interesting, Yik Yak is not truly anonymous. The creator of a post CAN be determined, as in this case, where the college student faces felony charges. And this one, and this one too.

Share these stories with your athletes. Scare them. And tell them people are watching.

G) Is there a better way to utilize digital resources in recruiting/relationship building, without coming off like I’m overselling or keep asking them to be part of our program, etc?

Heck yeah. My favorite method is called “content marketing.”

Here’s an example, for 5 years I ran an event called RowingTalks. Each January we held a one day conference, modeled on TED Talks. We’d invite high school rowing coaches to come, learn from our speakers, have fun, eat, and, of course, learn about our College and build relationships with us. The price of admissions was only the cost of lunch. We supplied them great content and we didn’t spam, pester for recruits, or sell anything. And that one event resulted in numerous recruits, and friends I still have today.

All because we supplied content they found helpful.

You could do the same digitally, which is exactly what I do with these emails.

H) Unplugging and being able to put technology away when not at the office … I’d love to be able to turn it off without feeling like I’m abandoning the contact I provide to my players.

It all started with voice mail. At that split moment in time, a coach was then on 24 hours a day, and expected to always be in reach. Today, to be offline — unavailable — means one of two things has happened: a massive power failure, or you’re at your own funeral. Neither pleasant.

You are facing two choices, as I see it.

(A) be constantly connected, then burnout, and then turn into grump-coach. Y’know the type. Or …

(B) Unplug, catch your breath, rejuvenate. You’re a great person and coach — but not 24-7-365. The world will function without you for a while.

I) Since digital recording and video editing are being used so much more, is there a highly used/ recommended program/website that works best for shorter clips (at bats), that best uses smart phones/tablets, as well as quick sharing between players/coaches?

I use three tools.

  1. My iPhone camera. I video the athlete using the slow-mo feature, and show her the video immediately.
  2. Ubersense. I video parts of practice. Then use their program tools to mark up clips, add audio, etc. Then send a link to the athlete, who could watch the video at her leisure (and I could see when it was watched). Ubersense was recently absorbed by Huddle. Not sure how it will change.
  3. My assistant coach uses Coach’s Eye. She seems happy with the results. I haven’t used it yet, but need to try it soon.

J) How do we as coaches make the digital coaching world as personal as it was in the past?

John Wooden coached during a dynamic time. His values where somewhat different than his athlete’s, and the society bursting around him. Rather like today. By staying true to his values, and being a good person, Wooden was a success on and off the court.

Yes, there were challenges, well documented in books like this, but he navigated them. You can to.

To keep coaching personal, be personable. Have face-to-face conversations with your athletes (not alone, right?). Use your phone to actually call people. Hand write a letter or two. Ask the same of your athletes and those around you.

For more suggestions, read Dale Carnegie’s How To Make Friends And Influence People, one of the most popular books ever written.

— — —

These questions bothered a lot of coaches. Do you have other solutions to suggest? If so, pop them in the comment section, or hit reply. I’d love to hear what’s working in your digital coaching world.

You have more influence than you realize, both in person and digitally. Coach accordingly!

-Mike

Are Your Athletes Glued To Their Smartphones?Monday, February 22nd, 2016

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

Do they hear only half (or less) of what you say?

Is it hard for them to concentrate during practice?

Are you wondering why they don’t respond to your emails?

If so, then when I say “attention is your new battlefront” you understand.

Right now, it’s tough getting and keeping your athlete’s attention. 

But you have to, because if you don’t you won’t stand a chance of surviving as a coach.

Why?

Because a coach must guide, must nurture, and must protect — and that won’t happen if your athletes are zoned-out and ignoring you.

Curse You, Smartphones

It’s easy to blame smartphones for your athlete’s brains being somewhere else. But do that and you miss the big picture — and a few important reasons your words fall on deaf ears.

Here’s what I mean.

First, your athletes are a skeptical lot. If they are between 12 & 34-years old then you are coaching Millennials. A trait of Millennials is they are skeptical. They ask things like:

  • Why should I believe you?
  • What’s in it for me?
  • How can you help me?
  • Can I trust you?

You might not hear those questions but they are asked. And if you aren’t answering them to their liking, then why SHOULD they pay attention to you?

Second, a tidal wave of information is hitting your athletes square in the face — everyday. It’s almost impossible for them to hide from the incoming stream of messages/information/requests — making it hard for the athletes to concentrate. So, why SHOULD your words stand out? Is listening to your message more important, more engaging, more entertaining, more helpful then all the rest?

Third, the Millennials (yes, back to them) want to know what is going on. They want information — scratch that — they demand it. And they don’t like not getting it. Which means, if they feel that they are only getting half the story, they WILL stop listening.

Fourth, now to smartphones. At your athlete’s fingertips is that constant stream we just talked about. And it’s there all the time.

Most athletes don’t have filters or times limits on their phones. So they are the ones who have been put in charge of monitoring their own smartphone use. And you are a witness to how well that’s working.

As my dad used to say, “The kids have been given the keys to the candy shop.

Finally, social media is this generation’s Cheers. It’s the place they go because everyone knows their name. So when the real word gets uncomfortable, boring, or stressful social media offers an engaging haven. Can’t blame them, I guess.

It’s almost like a perfect storm between their generation, smartphones and the appeal of social media. What’s a coach to do?

I’m glad you asked.

Your Attention Strategy

Here’s the centerpiece of any attention strategy — athletes GIVE you their attention. You can’t grab it or steal it. Screaming and berating won’t work. They have to give it to you, and to get them to give it I offer a few suggestions that might work:

A. Set up a distraction free zone. Have them put their phones away, off and out of sight.

B. Don’t  be tempted to meet them half way.Just turn your phones off and put them down,” is not enough. It has been shown that a smartphone in plain site, even turned off, is a distraction. Not just to the owner but to those who can see it. “Phones off and out-of-sight,” is a good mantra.

C. Matter more. With their phones away, explain to them what you are trying to achieve, and why. They want to know the why. “Because I said so,” just annoys them, and their attention is gone. “Because we will be working on you getting better, that’s what’s in it for you,” goes much further.

D. Tell the athlete’s “support-people” what you are trying to do, and what you are noticing. Those people could be a youngster’s parents or a college student’s friend. Maybe they can help.

E. Be the example. Turn your own phone off, and put it away. “Ah, but I use it for video, and pictures.” Get a digital camera or use a GoPro Hero. See B, and phone away.

F. Set the expectations. Expect your athletes to follow your lead, and help them to do it.

G. Be Engaging. When you talk to them, make your content so engaging that they cannot resist giving you their attention.

I. Have them write. In a meeting or class session, have the athletes write notes on paper. The act of writing deepens engagement and snags attention.

J. Reward them. Rewards like self-satisfaction and a sense of purpose grabs and holds people’s attention. Identify the rewards that most appeal to your athletes and use them to get their attention.

K. Use Your Reputation.  If you’re trying to capture the attention of people who don’t know you, tell them about your expertise. Robert Cialdini calls this “directed deference.” His book, Yes: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, is a must read.

L. Use Mystery. We love stories, and our brains are fine-tuned to remember incomplete stories and tasks. We also dislike uncertainty. Using stories at a base level grabs people’s attention.

M. Be brief. Respect them by getting right to the point. Don’t waste their time.

N. Use images. Words are only one-half of the way our brain is designed to process the World. Images are the other half. Simple images can grab and hold attention, and are a great way to promote long term memories. I wrote about that here, on Copyblogger.com.

O. Love boredom. This sounds strange, but if an athlete says, “I’m bored,” tell him that’s good. Solitude and boredom are a respite from our crazy world, and are times when we do some of our most creative thinking. Personally, I believe boredom can be very productive, giving the brain an opportunity to free-style think. Boredom isn’t a bad thing. Your athletes should know that.

— — —

You, and everyone else in the world, are vying for your athlete’s attention. You’ve got to:

  • out-think
  • out-promote
  • out-engage

those others. It’s a battle you need to win. I’d love to hear how you are fighting it.

– Mike

Coaching Sports and Social Media SafetyMonday, February 15th, 2016

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

You sit down at your desk — there’s a call on your cell phone. As you answer you look over and there’s a voice mail on your office phone. Then your email goes nuts. Your Twitter stream starts rolling. What’s with all those freaky things happening on your FaceBook page?

There’s a pounding on the door. You forget all that other stuff, because standing there is your Athletic Director. Red faced. Giving you the laser eyes.

Then he’s waving HIS phone in front of YOUR face. “Tell me you’ve seen what your first-basemen posted on Snap Chat. Tell me you have a plan how to fix this! Tell me NOW!!”

The Worlds Biggest Megaphone

Humans are great at creating new things — new technology. But we are lousy at giving parameters on how to use them.

Look no further than social media for a current example. We have at our finger tips a digital megaphone that can amplify your voice so loud anyone on the planet can hear it. But no one has told us what to say, and especially HOW to say it in this megaphone.

Let’s be clear about one thing, the companies that created social media did not do so to help people. They did it to make money. That leaves you and I to figure out how best to use our social media megaphone. And when team members and/or coaches say the wrong thing on this wicked-big-megaphone there are prices to pay.

It’s a wicked huge issue

Last week I posted a survey about the impact of digital on coaches (have you completed yours?) Two results jump out.

First, 35% of coaches said that the impact of digital was one of their biggest issues. Second, several coaches asked questions like:

What is the best way to prevent athletes from posting inappropriate things on social media that hinder the reputation and the appearance of the team?”

FieldHouse Media conducted a survey of collegiate athletes and their social media use, in 2015. They reported that “43% [of athletes] spend more than an hour on social media each day with 37% of them saying they’ve posted something they regret.”

An athlete posting something he “regrets,” that impacts only him, is unfortunate.

An athlete posting something that negatively impacts you, your team, or your school, could mean your job. Or at least a significant part of your sanity.

It’s an issue. A big one.

But its just not an athlete issue

Athletes are NOT the only ones who misstep on social media. Coaches do, and when they do they get fired.

This is a bigger issue than just athletes — on so many levels. (The other day a coach complained to me about athletes always being on their phones, as he proceeded to fiddle with his all during the conversation.)

[Douglas Rushkoffmedia commentator, said, “Professionally, I’m thinking it may be good for one’s career and business to be off social media altogether.” Hm. There’s a thought, but is it realistic?]

Us First Then Them

Here’s the point I want to drive home. If we expect our athletes to use social media in a positive way WE need to be the example. Our own social media presence needs to be positive/support/constructive.

After that, being a good example is not enough. We, Coach, must expect our athletes to do the same.

We have to show them how to do it, and keep them accountable.

We have to bring them along with us. That’s what leaders do, and coaches are leaders.

We must show the example then hold other’s accountable to be at the same level as us.

Actions To Take

I am by no means an expert in this field, but I can tell you the following 10 ideas seem to make sense:

  1. Have the wisest person on the topic possible come talk to your team about social media safety and positive-use. Have them read this by Jim Seip (you should too).
  2. In the preseason, have a heart-to-heart with your team about their social media presence and your concerns. I’m sure there will be eye-rolling. Ignore it — some of your worries might sink in.
  3. Create and have members (all – including coaches) sign a “positive social media” pledge.
  4. Your institution/organization can get a subscription to a social media tracking service to check what’s going on. We don’t do this but there has been talk about it.
  5. Establish a team culture of “positive first – negative not.”
  6. Have simple and enforceable rules, if the culture is damaged by an athlete on social media.
  7. If athletes are negative/derogatory/damaging on social media it doesn’t mean they are the same in other areas of their life. It’s not just MEAN people who are MEAN on social media.
  8. Inform athletes of the laws per social media. In Maryland we have Grace’s Law. There may be similar laws in your neck of the woods.
  9. Don’t accept unacceptable digital behavior. Would you accept someone shouting at you from a speeding car that, “I quit!” No, you wouldn’t. So don’t accept it from an email message. Have the athlete come to the office and have that conversation in person.
  10. I grew up when rock-n-roll was just exploding, and it freaked out most parents. But it turned out okay, because many people kept repeating, “and this too shall pass.”

You can find more ideas here at viaSport British Columbia.

The digital impact as a result of social media will Ping-Pong from positive-to-negative-and-back. Our role as coaches is to help the impact stay on the positive side of the table.

— — —

What did you think as you were reading this? Is this an issue for you.

-Mike

The Not-So-Surprising Reason Your Recruits Prefer Text Messages to Phone CallsMonday, November 23rd, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 11.14.58 PMIt’s not that they “can’t” talk, its just that they have plenty of reasons to text instead.

Simple as that.

I find that’s challenging for many college coaches we get to work with closely on two fronts:

  1. There’s a resistance to switch from phone calls to text-based communication from college recruiters. Phone calls are more personal, and usually reveal more to a coach. Texting and direct messaging? It might seem disjointed and incomplete. Most coaches that I talk to just plain prefer a good-old-fashioned phone call over electronic messaging.
  2. Many college coaches don’t understand the “why” behind the recent switch in communication preferences by their prospects.

I can’t help with the first challenge. That’s up to an individual coach and his or her personal preferences in how they communicate with a recruit.

But when it comes to the “why”, there are some key reasons that drive this generation of prospects to prefer electronic communication. They actually mirror some of the communication challenges that companies are discovering with the millennials that they’ve hired (but can’t get to answer their phone calls).

If we take a look at the five primary reasons millennials don’t like talking on the phone that are outlined in the article, we’ll get some good insights into why many of your recruits just aren’t all that excited about the idea of spending time with you on the phone:

It’s distracting to your recruits. Phone calls tend to force them to stop everything, find a place to focus on a conversation, and devote time to you and only you. While you, as a college recruiter, kind of like that aspect of one-on-one phone calls, your recruit – like the millennial generation before them – often finds that a phone call distracts them from whatever they were doing before, while texting and social media direct messaging allows them to communicate with you when it’s convenient for them.

They might see it as presumptuous.  In other words, a phone call presumes that they should drop everything and talk to you. Texting and direct messaging is more collaborative, in their mind, because it allows them to think about the right way to reply to your message, and gives them time in which to do it. (By the way, you can lessen the potential negative impact of this reason if you remember these three rules we’ve told you about before, Coach).

Phone calls tend to get superfluous. Getting to the point in a phone call is sometimes a series of missteps, tangents and can involve a bigger time commitment than it needs to be. As we discuss all the time during our On-Campus Workshops we lead for college athletic department coaching staffs, that’s not how this generation of recruits tend to communicate. They like short bursts of information that are on point. Coaches that don’t get to the point right away in a phone call will risk losing the right to have future phone conversations with their prospect. Text messaging forces you to put your thoughts into words, and do it in a concise, to-the-point manner.

Phone calls can be ineffective in reaching your prospect. Especially if you end up leaving a voicemail. Trying to get this generation of prospect to return a call is challenging, to stay the least! But when you text your prospect, as the study in the article finds, it’s likely that your message will be returned within just three minutes. That kind of quick, engaged interaction has to count for something, right?

Phone calls always take longer than promised. Your prospect knows that all to well, which is why a lot of coach phone calls are immediately sent off to voicemail purgatory. In our previous research study that determined how high school prospects use social media in the recruiting process, they made it clear that one of the reasons they tended to like texting and direct messaging better than phone calls was because it was more time-efficient, and didn’t take up big chances of time trying to talk to a college coach on the phone.

I tell you all this because if you understand the why behind your prospect’s preference for texting and social media messaging over phone calls, it might be easier for you, as a serious college recruiter, to develop a strategy for using this kind of modern technology more regularly as a part of your overall recruiting strategy.

Your prospects are looking for something simple and to the point. That holds true for anything you write them in an email or a letter, and it definitely is true when you figure out what method is best for more personalized, one-on-one communication.

Get to it, Coach.

Today’s Social Media, Coaching Sports and 12 Simple Actions To Take NowSunday, March 29th, 2015

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

Are you using social media? If so, is it helping or hurting your coaching?

You walk, you leave footprints. Some prints are obvious, like through mud. Other prints, like walking on a basketball court, are harder to see. Regardless, you leave prints behind.

We do the same in the digital world when we use social media — and as coaches these digital footprints deserve some serious consideration.

Digital Footprints

You could say I came to social media late in the game — y’know, being an old coach and all. You could say that, but you’d be wrong, because social media is not new. It’s been around for thousands of years.

Socrates speaking in front of a crowd — was using social media. He presented info, and got immediate feedback. Same with FDR in his radio addresses. And through the years there are hundreds of other examples of social media.

Yet today’s version of social media is different — more powerful. At no time in history has it been easier for a coach to broadcast his thoughts out into to the world. And that’s fantastic, because you can do so many things so easily with today’s social media — such as give detailed info as it happens on any athletic event — a luxury until recently reserved for just a few ultra-popular sports. Or within seconds tell your team about a change in practice time.

There’s so much promise for coaches with today’s version of social media, and so much peril.

Over the past years I’ve been brought kicking-and-screaming into today’s version of social media. There’s been a lot to learn and I’d like to share with you 12 tips, ones I think you might find of value.

These aren’t power-user tips, you can find tips like those in many places, like here. Instead these are simple action tips, ones to help keep your social media use from derailing your coaching and your coaching career.

1) The World’s Biggest Megaphone

Once in a blue moon I run an experiment on my team. Here’s how it plays out.

Rowing coaches use a megaphone during practices — mine happens to be a very fancy L-O-U-D one.

I’ll purposely leave the megaphone sitting around at the conclusion of practice. It never fails, one of the rowers will pick it up, turn it on, and bellow something to the unfortunate souls around. It’s always something silly, like an impersonation of a coach, or a scream. Of the dozens of times I’ve done this, not once has an eloquent thought been shared, or an ephinany. It’s always goofy.

But here’s the thing, that same comment shared at a normal volume between friends will have little impact. Yet, that same comment shared at lawn-mower-loudness to dozens of people can annoy, distract, and reflect poorly on the sharer.

Just like today’s social media.

Simple action: Think of what you are sharing and the clan who you are sharing it with. Do they mix well? Don’t bother or annoy them, or they will tune you out. I don’t bother readers of my coaching site, such as you, with info about my stick figure business.

2) Don’t Let That Be You

It’s easy to be someone fake on social media, and if that’s the way your roll, roll on.

However, as a coach, honesty rules. Results, resume, recruiting, or whatever you are using today’s social media for, your mantra should “be honest, or be found out.” Honesty is the best policy.

Simple action: Be truthful in what you blast, and if you make a mistake, fess up. “I made a mistake,” is a powerful word combo.

3) Sharing Isn’t Always A Good Thing

Be cautious of how much you share in respect to personal details. Keep private-information just that – private.

Simple action: Don’t publish personal info such as your home phone number or home address. Be honest but not foolish. Many notables on social media keep their personal life very private. There’s very good reason for that.

4) Share Helpful Stuff

People, especially fellow coaches, are always looking for helpful tidbits and tips. If you are interested in building a following, share some of your secrets.

When I first started this blog three years ago, I only wrote fluffy stuff, with little meat to it. Now I share all my tips, and things I’ve learned, and my readership has grown significantly. Share to be helpful, and in turn you’ll get pleasantly rewarded.

Simple action: Answer someone’s coaching question — lend a digital hand. There are plenty of forums and sites where you can find coaches with questions (LinkedIn and FB being two). Share your tip and then follow up if asked. Don’t expect anything back in return, and see what happens.

5) Lock & Key

There are two types of social media users: those that have been hacked, and those who will be hacked. Believe me, it’s no fun getting hacked (I know — twice), or having Interpol send you a nasty-gram because your blog is being used by hackers to attack banks (I know that also).

Simple action: The following 3 simple actions are common sense but for some reasons are not common practice:

  • Use a password program, such as 1Password to protect your logins. Don’t get lazy on this part. I did, it hurt.
  • Use passcode locks or autolocks on all your devices. Having your six-year old tweet on your account that “dad is a fatso” is humbling, and also avoidable. (And not true at all ; ) )
  • Clear your browser history whenever you use a shared computer. Just do it.

Do those every time you use social media. Those 3 super-simple actions can save you sooo much hassle, and so many headaches.

6) Play Nice, Social Nicer

You are a coach, which means your words carry extra weight, so, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it. Make sense, right?

Simple action: Seriously, If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t. Really. Really-really. Especially since …

7) Once you hit send the world owns it.

You create a message and before you hit publish, that message is yours. But things change the milli-second you publish – then the world owns it – to do with it what it wants.

You have no guarantee the message you meant to keep “just between us” will stay that way. Or the forum rant will stay just in that forum. Coaching careers and lives have been changed by a simple social media posting that made it’s way to eyes the sender didn’t expect.

Here’s something else to chew on — in an educational setting, any message published about a student becomes their property. Tweets, emails, texts, whatever — if it has to do about a student, and if the person who publishes it works at that school, the student has a right to see that content.

Meaning, that derogatory content emailed to a fellow coach about the worst athlete on your team is now that athlete’s property, can be seen by him, and could be used by him as he wishes. (Hey, I’m not a lawyer, and have never played one on YouTube, but that is how this was explained to me by smart people in the know, so it’s how I operate.)

Simple action: Before you hit publish, think to yourself, “Who do I NOT want to read this, and if they did, what damage could happen?” You better be okay with the answer, especially since …

8) There Is No Place To Hide

You know every social media blast you send never disappears, right? “Oh, I use SecretBlast, and it’s gone forever once it’s read.” Don’t be foolish. Your digital footprints last forever.

Just because a company says your message will vaporize 30 seconds after it is read (Cyberdust) doesn’t mean the reader can’t record it (screenshot) and now that message is alive. There is NO PLACE UNSEEN DIGITALLY. By now you get my point: your message will be seen by someone you don’t want to see it, your words don’t disappear, and your digital footprint can and will be there to haunt you.

Simple action: Be smart. Be thoughtful. Be kind in all your postings. ALL

9) Stop Swearing

My favorite Sponge Bob episode (yup, I’m that coach who watches SpongeBob) is about SpongeBob and his buddy Patrick and their discovery of sentence-enhancers – those special words people sprinkle into sentences to spice things up. Its a silly story about cussing that really grabs the truth of swearing in social media.

Hey, the words you use in your own-private-world are your business. But on social media your own-private-world does not exist. Meaning, your words are everyone’s business. Cuss words are a sign you are not articulate, they demean, and in public they can offend.

Simple action: Drop the sentence-enhancers that aren’t acceptable. If in doubt what is and isn’t acceptable, ask your boss, grandmother, or better yet, the grandmother of the kid you coach. Then find other ways to make your words POP.

10) User Your Manners, Please

  • Say “please” and “thank you”.
  • Sit up straight.
  • Chew with your mouth closed.

Those are simple little manners that make a difference in social settings. Well, there is *social* in social media, right? So manners, aka etiquette, make a difference.

Here’s two quick examples: don’t hit people in the head with your “selfie stick”, and don’t post a photo of someone else without their permission. There are ton’s more, and the article below can remind you of many of them.

Simple action: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and then up the game, and use even more manners. You will stand out in a good way, and as a coach that’s a good thing.

11) Ghosts In The Machine

Social media magnifies your mistakes, and you will make mistakes. If there is a social blast you regret, see if the provider will remove it. That may/may not work.

Simple action: Have so many positive social media postings that the one-off mistake on your end gets buried under a pile of greatness.

12) Ignore & Snore

Not one coach has ever said they are a better coach because they read the negative social media reviews and comment about them.

Simple action: Stop reading social media posts about you, your team, your school. Just stop.

 

Actions You Can Take

Okee dokee, 12 actions you can take. Start with one, maybe #4. Then add another. Before you know it, you’ll be a social media expert for all coaches. Now there’s something to aim for.

Oh, and here’s something you might find of interest, if you have other coaches you work with:

What’s The Deal With Snapchat?Saturday, March 8th, 2014

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

Now that Snapchat is en route to being NCAA legal, we thought it might be a good idea to generally explain the app so that you can come to your own conclusions. First thing to know, your players and your recruits are snapchatting. Second thing to know, parents are not. That is a key differentiator, but we’ll explain that later.

The general concept behind Snapchat is one person takes a photo/video and shares it with their personal friends. The photo/video is then destroyed once it is viewed. This means instead of taking a photo and sharing it with the world like Twitter or Instagram, or posting a picture to a network of associates (whether close or not) on Facebook, Snapchat is very personal…sometimes too personal i.e. for the same conclusion that many people come too when they first hear about the app. With that said, its popularity is unquestionable and as a Snapchatter myself, I can attest to its habit forming addictiveness. So what’s the deal?

It’s like sending a text message, but you can tell more of a story with the video and it’s not difficult because the app opens directly to the camera. There is also little consequence because the photo/video will be destroyed so your guard is let down, which makes for less formality and a larger variety of content. Parents aren’t on Facebook which maybe is one of the reasons that their kids are…although Facebook did make a $3 billion dollar offer for Snapchat, which was turned down. The question is, should you be on Snapchat?

I don’t know. I think it’s personality driven at this point and some coaches may be able to partake without turning kids off because they see through the attempt to be “hip”. And for those that can, it could potentially be very effective. The constraints of an expiring video will certainly lead entrepreneurial coaches to have a leg up (at least in the early stages)..the same way that early adopters of Twitter did. Hopefully those coaches can keep it PG because if/when they do, it will be really cool to hear about. The argument that athletes want to be contacted via the medium that they already communicate is a strong one. However, Facebook is proving that their is a counter example so that’s what’s up.

Speaking of time saving tools, Front Rush is the best of the best.  If you’re a serious recruiter, this is one tool you don’t want to be without.  Click here for the low-down on this incredible resource used by thousands of coaches around the country.

Coaching Under The Microscope, Your New RealitySaturday, March 8th, 2014

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday 

Wisdom can come from the strangest places.

I’ve written about finding “coaching smarts” at partiesblogs, and growing up.

Now here’s a new one … bottle caps.

Specifically, the sayings under the tops. For example: Dance As Though No One Is Watching

DOSE OF WISDOM

That quote got me thinking, something clicked, I played with a few words, and came up with this …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT

There is a sense of deep coaching-truth to that morphed saying, which is becoming more truthful each and every day.

We do need to coach as if everyone is watchingbecause they are watching.

Ninety-nine percent of what you do as a coach, what you say as a coach, how you act as a coach can be, will be, and probably IS ALREADY, recorded, blogged, and archived.

You now coach under a microscope.

Not a telescope, where someone far away is watching, and could easily miss the intracies of what you do.

The days of coaching secrecy, of things said in confidence, of one-on-one conversations are long gone.

You are now on a slide, under a lens, being watched.

And it is not just one scientist (or referee, or compliance officer, or adminstrator) watching you. For good and for bad, everyone is watching.

DON’T BELIEVE ME?

That’s okay. Ignore me. Happens all the time.

But if you have 3 minutes, go to YouTube and search for *stupid coach*. Thirty-seven million results. I looked through just the first three pages. Numerous examples of a coach, trying to do his/her job, making a mistake, and now becoming an unwilling junior internet star.

That is just the public venue of YouTube. I would guess (don’t know, but would guess) that there are many times more examples on the internet behind the closed doors of some of the other social media platforms.

And it is happening not just during games … but practices, locker rooms, classrooms, parking lots.

Everywhere.

SHOULD YOU CHANGE?

So, should you act differently, coach differently?

Damn yes, if you are doing anything wrong or improper. Stop now. Immediately. First, from the POV that it’s wrong. Second, because you will be exposed, called out, on a world-wide platform. Have you forgotten the unfortunate example of Mike Rice?

But face it, if you are doing things wrong/improper/illegal as a coach … you’re not reading this blog anyways.

Damn no, don’t change, if you are trying your best to coach with the best interest of your players, the game, and those around you in mind. In this case, you can’t coach worrying about someone recording your mistakes. Full speed ahead.

And if your mistakes show up, like mine, smile, learn, and move on.

MY SCREW UP

Here’s an example of one of my screw ups.

We had a boat flip at practice. No one was hurt, just enough bruised egos to go around. We were all trying our best and an accident happened. In this case, we were the ones who filmed it, and posted it. Hoping that others might learn from our error.

I’ve had many emails and several phone calls about that screw up. Each one was either, “Oh, that’s happened to me!”, or, “How can we make sure that doesn’t happen to us?”

In this case, putting ourselves under the microscope was worth it.

Is that an iPhone over there, recording you as you read this post? Probably.

And it is also our new reality.

The bottle cap says so.

Dr. Mike Davenport is a longtime college coach and the man behind the popular website CoachingSportsToday.com.  He is a regular contributor to College Recruiting Weekly.

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