The impact of social media on student athletes

With controversy surrounding the use of social media and its relationship with athletics, coaches at the college are left to make their own policies. Coaches said it’s not only what athletes post themselves, but what they share and retweet. Photo illustration by Aaron Switzer, The Campus Ledger

Kim Harms & Alessandro DeBrevi

Social media has its advantages and disadvantages just as other technology does. For student athletes social media can be used to their benefit, but it can also taint their image if used without caution.

Randy Stange, athletic director, said there is not one specific policy that every team and coach must abide by. Instead, individual coaches create policies and monitor their own teams’ social media use.

The Golden Girls on campus are reminded by their coach, Amy Sellers, they represent their team and the college at all times. Sellers said she makes the dancers aware of what they post on their social media accounts.

“Our biggest thing is we want to make sure we are representing the team at all times and in the most positive light possible,” Sellers said. “We’re in the community, we represent the college and I just want to make sure the team knows it reflects on everything that they are posting on social media.”

Sellers said it’s important for the dancers to keep in mind whatever they post on their social media account is online forever even if the post is deleted. Everything on their social media accounts reflects themselves as well as their teammates.

“The big thing is just I want them to keep in mind that they are representing us as a team at all times,” Sellers said. “They are not just themselves once they’re on the team; they are a member of our team, they’re a Golden Girl. Everything they post, everything they say and share is [similar to] the team saying and sharing that. They’re always keeping that in mind when they’re on social media.”

When posting on social media, it is not always what someone said being found offensive or inappropriate, sometimes it is what someone retweeted on Twitter or shared on Facebook. Sellers said she encourages the dancers to take time and look at what they share on social media and look at the people they follow to make sure everything on their account is appropriate.

“I try to get them to read through everything because it’s not what they’re saying, it’s what they’re retweeting or sharing,” Sellers said. “There could be [usernames] that are inappropriate or something else in there might not be appropriate. I just try to get them to look at [those things] and be more aware so that they’re representing us the best they can at all times.”

In terms of recruitment, social media can be used as a marketing tool for student athletes. Videos, statistics and awards can all easily be promoted on social media leading to responses from recruiters. Sellers said social media is a great way to display strengths and network with recruiters.

“A lot of times I’ll get a dancer that knows they want to use [Golden Girls] as a stepping stone and they want to transfer to dance at a university or even at the pro level,” Sellers said. “Social media plays a big part in marketing yourself and advertising what you’re good at and what your strengths are. You can really use social media to play into and show your strengths. It could really be a good marketing tool.”

Georgia Vernardakis, women’s soccer player, thinks social media is a great way to bring attention to recruitment, however, she said she does not recommend contacting recruiters through social media because of how informal it is. Vernardakis said she prefers contacting recruiters formally through email or a recruiting company.

“In terms of recruitment I don’t think social media plays a big role,” Vernardakis said. “I think it’s a very informal way to contact coaches. In terms of publicity, social media is a good thing. [For example], using YouTube to get your videos out there so coaches can see it. I definitely think that’s a good one because that’s how I came over to America. Getting some footage on YouTube, emailing coaches to watch [the footage], that helps [with publicity].”

Vernardakis said maintaining an appropriate social media account is important for student athletes. A post on a student athlete’s account reflects not only on themselves and their teammates, but also their coaches and the athletic program.

“As an athlete you have to be more preserved because you are representing the college,” Vernardakis said. “You have to set an example because people look up to you. If you’re posting stuff that is inappropriate on social media, it gives you a bad look and also gives the college a bad look. I think it’s really important that you keep appropriate stuff on your social media throughout your life as well.”

Vernardakis is a first-year student. Although she is one of the new members on the team, she has advice for the women joining the team next season who may not understand the role social media plays in their athletic career yet.

“Look at [social media] from an outside perspective,” Vernardakis said. “If they were looking at someone else’s social media, what would [they] think is a good athlete social media, or what is bad athlete social media. When people are looking at your social media they shouldn’t have any negative thoughts or think bad of you or the school. I think athletes all together, in terms of social media, they just post about athletic stuff so I don’t feel like [social media] is a big problem. There is a few people, depending on what crowd they’re in, doing things that they shouldn’t though.”

Jennifer Ei, volleyball coach, recognizes the prevalence of social media today while also stressing the need for her team to communicate without the use of electronic devices.

“I understand that today’s generation is all about social media as their form of communication,” Ei said. “But I also find it important for our athletes to be able to interact with other adults and peers.”

Ei encourages her players to do this, especially when the team is on the road. She does this so that the players can come together as a team, as well as grow individually.

“Our policy is to keep their phones at the front of the bus on away trips so we can either work on homework without distractions or bond with our teammates,” Ei said. “We also do not allow for our phones to be out at the table whenever we are having meals. We believe this helps each player to grow socially without hiding behind a text, tweet or video.”

Ei has not had issues when it comes to dealing with social media and her players. She attributes this to the players themselves more than her policies.

“We have been fortunate enough to have recruited respectful people to our program and they understand this is our policy when traveling,” Ei said. “To be honest, I really have not had to have much of a conversation about this subject.”

Social media clearly plays a large role in today’s society, especially when it comes to young people. For Ei and other coaches and players on campus, there is a clear way to avoid issues and use social media for beneficial purposes.

Ei said, “We talk about respecting and representing the school, team and self in a positive manner.”



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.