Do you friend your athletes? What do you do when you see one of your players (who’s underage) drinking a beer or something from the infamous red cup? Or, if you’re working with younger athletes, what do you do if you see one of your players bullying someone else online? Or using inappropriate language?
I know that some coaches, especially at the collegiate level, force their team members to friend them so they can ensure that everything is on the up and up. I know other coaches who barely know how to email, can’t figure out texting, and want absolutely nothing to do with social media sites. Regardless, whether you’re actively managing pages or putting your head in the sand…you need to have an official stance on how it’s to be used by your players.
Why? Because I heard a talk about social media that scared me a bit. Basically the speaker said that not having rules was the same as complying with what your team is putting out there online. My reaction was something like, “ummm, what?” After that talk, I quickly ran to my hotel room and added a social media section to my team handbook and I think you should too…here’s why.
3 reasons why you need to add a social media section to your team handbook
1. To give your athletes “rules of the road” for their pages. I’ve chosen not to friend my athletes. Because I don’t friend them, my statement on social media can be a little lighter: “Be aware of what you put onto social networking sites. Only friend friends! Set your privacy settings so that only people that you want to see your page can see your page.” Of course, as we go through the handbook at the beginning of the season, we go more in depth about what things should not go on their page: pics of them drinking, not fully dressed, or just behaving inappropriately are no-no’s.
2. To give them repercussions for inappropriate posts or updates. If I were to require them to friend me, I think my social media stance would have to be a bit stronger. Meaning, I’d have to tell them what would happen if I found inappropriate pictures or updates on their pages. This is even more important for you high school and club coaches out there. I received a direct message from a club coach recently that asked what he should do because he’s friends with most of his players and he’s seen some inappropriate things. I told him that he needs a policy so that his players know what they’re getting into. Something like a 3-strike system. 1st strike: verbal warning. 2nd strike: meeting with your parents. 3rd strike: missed playing time. This way, they’re not sucker punched when you confront them about that update they posted on the way to practice.
3. Cover your back. Like I said at the beginning, silence on this issue can be seen as compliance. But beyond that, your players need to realize that it’s a possibility that you’ll talk to their parents or their principal about their pages. That alone should scare them straight and keep them from posting nonsense online. If that doesn’t do it, lack of playing time (or whatever other things you have set up) should help them realize that you’re serious about this social media stuff.
One day, while looking up information on a recruit, I found a page that her “friends” at school had created. It was called “Suzy Q is lazy, fat, and ugly”. What would you do if one of your athletes was mean enough to create something like that? What if they didn’t create it, but they “liked” the page?
We can’t control everything that our players do, but we can try our best to manage it!
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