It’s an issue that just will not go away. Social media, and the proper path to handle athletes’ tweeting tendencies are a common recurring headache for football coaches across the country.
To help those coaches, particularly those at the smaller levels, the NCAA gathered three people who work in the trenches of social media and college athletics every day: Northwest Missouri State athletic director Wren Baker, Washington new media and recruiting services manager Daniel Hour and Fieldhouse Media founder Kevin DeShazo.
Baker has had his own Twitter account for two years but just recently began actively using it within the last six months. “Social media is part of what we do,” he said. “The impact you can have with re-tweets on game times, promotions, it’s amazing. We get borderline hate-mail when we don’t tweet game updates.”
Unsurprisingly, all three disagreed with the outright banning of Twitter that some programs enforce.
“They always ban Twitter. It’s never Facebook, just Twitter,” said DeShazo. “It’s amazing in 2013 we still see some programs ignore it. Seventy-five percent of college students are on Twitter. Last February, it was 31 percent.”
“I don’t think you’re doing the right thing by banning it. I think it’s just the opposite,” Baker added.
Baker uses Twitter not just to monitor his students, but to build fan support for his Division II program. “Any way that you can connect with your fans, you should.”
Hour believes banning Twitter has a negative impact on recruiting and creates a level of mistrust between a coach and his players before the first whistle has been blown. “If you tell a 17-year-old recruit, ‘Hey when you get here, you won’t be able to be on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram’, that’s not going to help you in recruiting.”
In the end, the panel agreed, Twitter is a tool that has become a necessity of modern life. The trio sees proper use of social media like anything else in a coach-player relationship, a real-world situation that is up to the coach to educate his student-athletes on its proper usage.
“We tell our kids to stay away from profanity and stay away from the refs,” said Baker. “They’re kids. They’re going to make mistakes. That’s where our jobs come in, to educate.” Baker then closed his thoughts with a quote that St. Thomas (D-III – MN) head coach Glenn Caruso invoked in his address at the AFCA Convention, “Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.”
For any coaches not sold on the beliefs of three professionals, DeShazo added this anecdote, “In the past two years, only one team that played in the BCS banned Twitter.”