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 World’s 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 Rushkoff, media 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:
- 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).
- 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.
- Create and have members (all – including coaches) sign a “positive social media” pledge.
- 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.
- Establish a team culture of “positive first – negative not.”
- Have simple and enforceable rules, if the culture is damaged by an athlete on social media.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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What did you think as you were reading this? Is this an issue for you.