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:
- 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.
- We had him chip in money to help pay the food bill.
- 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.