Social media can make or break young athletes


We’ve all heard the phrase “Think before you speak” but the 2018 version of that saying should maybe be changed to “Think before you tweet."

If you’ve been following along with what’s been going on in Major League Baseball recently, you’ve probably heard about several young MLB stars having some of their old tweets resurface. Players such as Milwaukee’s Josh Hader, Atlanta’s Sean Newcomb and Washington’s Trea Turner have faced scrutiny after homophobic and racist tweets of theirs from their high school and college days were brought to the limelight.

With social media playing such a huge impact on athletes of all age levels, local high schools are trying their best to guide their young student athletes with the knowledge to be smart when deciding what to put online.

“We tell our kids that anything you put out there, anybody can read it at anytime,” said Forest Park football coach Ross Fuhs. “You never want to say anything about another team or dog them or give them fuel for the fire, so to speak. It’s definitely something that we talk about often.”

Southridge athletic director Brett Bardwell says that while the school doesn’t necessarily have a written policy regarding social media tactics, he has made sure that coaches know to discuss it with their student athletes early and often.

The topic of being smart on social media is something the players aren’t learning from just their coaches however, as Southridge has promoted ‘smart tweeting’ throughout the high school and even in the middle school.

“Not only have our students gotten information from our athletic department but they also get it from our guidance department, their teachers and other adult figures,” Bardwell said. “It’s becoming pretty commonplace in terms of trying to educate and communicate with our kids about what they do on social media because obviously we know it’s accessible by everyone and people will look at that. It’s a message that’s pertinent in our educational system and it’s something we’re continuously educating our kids on.”

One group of people that pay extra close attention to high school athletes social media accounts are college recruiters and scouts.

In fact, Fuhs said when Forest Park took a visit to Indiana University’s football camp over the summer that it was a main point of discussion in head coach Tom Allen’s speech to the high school participants.

“He told the kids that there’s no doubt that colleges do look at those types of things,” Fuhs said. “They’re going to look at everything and anything on you that they can find. Just like we’ve seen with the MLB players recently, that stuff can resurface at any time as well.”

In fact, there have been national examples where high school student athletes were either not recruited due to stuff that was found on their Twitter or Instagram accounts or athletes have had scholarship offers taken away due to inappropriate content posted after they received an offer. This goes to show that social media has the opportunity to make you or break you as a young athlete.

“It sometimes can be the difference between one kid and another kid based off of what type of person they perceive them to be on social media,” Bardwell said. “What are some things they have posted? What does it say about them? A lot of times when you’re getting recruited, especially if there’s money involved in terms of scholarships, if two kids are equal in most areas except what they post on social media then a lot of times it can take them out of the running for that scholarship offer depending on what they’re posting.”

The main lesson for high school student athletes is to be smart when posting things on the internet — you never know who might be watching.

“A young student athlete can cause themselves problems if they make mistakes,” Bardwell said. “With us being able to work with them from the high school level, it helps us educate them from the get-go.”

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