Posting positive: The impact of social media use
At any level of athletics, one negative Facebook post or rant on Twitter could mean a storm of controversy, a dent to the athlete's reputation as a whole or, even worse, the loss of a scholarship — it wouldn't be the first occurrence for any of these things.
Without a warning, a high school athlete can lose a chance to play at the next level because of their actions online — no matter how much talent they have on the field.
Seemingly every week, a new big name — professional or collegiate — has to publicly apologize for something they've posted on their account. Those actions have caught the attention of local administrators and coaches and have paved the way for campaigns that call for awareness behind a computer screen.
"Our students have an expectation of 'acceptable use of technology' and this includes social media," Chillicothe High School Principal Jeff Fisher said. "We have a document in our athletic handbook that every student has to sign, stating they understand their responsibility to represent their community, school, family and most importantly themselves in the athletic arena, in the classroom and even on social media."
While most students may blindly sign this agreement, not taking it as seriously as they should, consequences can be passed down if they refuse to hold up their end of the bargain.
"Unacceptable use of social media will result in the loss of athletic privileges such as game suspensions," Fisher said. "Repeated inappropriate use can and will result in removal from the team. We refuse to allow a 14-year old them to cost a 20-year old them future opportunities. We care enough to be involved in our students' lives, even on social media platforms."
Fisher and CHS may have an aggressive policy aimed towards the use of social media, but rightfully so.
"To me, it's vital to have a positive presence on social media just as it is in person," Fisher said. "I've seen social media cost student athletes scholarship money and future opportunities. I've had recruiters call us and the first words out of their mouths aren't questions about GPA or points per game but about a tweet that was sent two months ago that referenced drug use. And it doesn't matter if those words were song lyrics. If you represent yourself that way, you hurt your family and injure the reputation of your team, teammates, school and community."
In conversation with Fisher, he shared two separate photos that he calls 'two of his favorites' on the social media issue.
One states, 'Before you post, think!' and the other, 'WARNING: Never let a 140-character tweet cost you a $140,000 scholarship'.
Fisher isn't the only area administrator that is stressing his student athletes to post positive on their social media platforms.
"The kids for the most part do a pretty good job," Piketon Principal Jeff Reuter said. "All of our teachers are on Twitter and Facebook so we try to model positively as a staff. Our kids know about the digital footprints. That's anything that you're putting on Facebook, Twitter, etc. If you're going for a job interview, that boss will check your accounts to make sure you are who you say you are. If you have a bunch of ridiculous things on there, it'll cost you a job."
Paint Valley Athletic Director Pete Hollon has been the Bearcats' football coach for more than 20 years. Hollon takes an old school approach to the issue but still knows what dangers lurk around the corner if a student athlete posts the wrong thing.
"Kids are going to be kids, regardless. I don't want to have to be monitoring them 24/7," Hollon said. "But once they put it out there, it's there forever. You never get that back. We've had recruiters call and they've said that they've looked at the kids' website and they don't like what they saw."
Hollon offered some advice to all student athletes when it comes to posting online.
"Just be smart and think about what you're putting out there," he said. "If it's something that you really need to say, pick up the phone and call them. Basically a private conversation becomes worldwide with the click of a button. Don't do anything to embarrass the program or yourself."
By Derrick Webb, posted on chillicothegazette.com