Athletes see pluses and minuses of social media

Important to keep posts positive and appropriate, sources say

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Her friends react to an Instagram post from senior Emily Timberman.

Annika Garwood, Sports Editor

According to the Pew Research Center and a poll taken in May 2018, 95 percent of teens have access to a smartphone, and 45 percent say they are online “almost constantly” for a wide variety of reasons, including specific uses for specific audiences.

Athletic figures post on social media to promote brands such as Nike or Under Armour. Although high school athletes are not promoting any brands, they are looked at by potential college coaches. Not only is their safety online important, but the items they post on social media influence the way college’s monitor a student.

Counselor and women’s head volleyball coach Mrs. Mary Hemer ’09 says that she uses different social media sites now, but when she was getting recruited to play collegiate volleyball there were not as many websites as there are today.

“We used different platforms for different things. We really only had Facebook and Twitter, then Instagram became a thing right at the end,” said Hemer. Facebook, according to Hemer, was used to keep in contact with friends and family. Twitter was a way to get information and to show support, while Instagram was for personal use.

Hemer said that there was only Facebook when she was getting recruited and any student who had an account had to use a student email address. “It was definitely something that coaches were not on. Coach (Ms. Jean Kesterson) checked ours and when I got to college I had to be Facebook friends with one of our coaches, but it wasn’t something they really focused on,” said Hemer.

Checking what students are posting and retweeting now is “so important”, according to Hemer. “You can’t take anything that you tweeted back. Once you post something, even though it’s deleted, it’s out there. You can’t take it back. So any post that has anything to do with illegal or negative behavior is definitely going to be looked at,” she said.

“Coaches are going to see through social media what you find important and regardless of what level you play, you are on a platform for that community. So you are going to get support by have eyes on you so what message you are sending out there is going to get scrutinized and looked at in a different way than you are just a normal student,” said Hemer.

Hemer also said that coaches are going to look for how much the athlete mention their sport and how they talk about the other teams. “If you’re trash talking someone on social media, it’s dumb. And there isn’t a better word for it,” she said.

One thing that Hemer is trying to teach the women of the volleyball program that she also tells her students with counseling that is if a message is not positive, do not send it online. “If it is not in support of someone without bringing any negativity to anyone else, don’t do that. If it’s an inside joke, if it could be taken the wrong way, it’s not worth it,” she said.

“It’s one of those things if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all,” said Hemer. “You never know where you are going to be in five to 10 years. You may think it isn’t a big deal now, but it is eventually. You don’t know if you will be an Olympian or running a small business then all of a sudden these things resurface that honestly you probably won’t even remember and that never helps you,” said Hemer.

“Always err on the side of caution when it comes to tweeting and posting.”

Lily Jennings ’19, a former four-year varsity softball player, is now playing collegiate softball at DePauw University. Jennings has played softball for 13 years, nine of which has been in travel softball, the most competitive league. She uses the social media sites Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter and explains that her recruiting process influenced her use of social media.

Posting about big accomplishments and wins was more of what Jennings used to do, but now she says less of her social media content is about that. “I used to post a lot about softball on my Instagram, but the amount has decreased over the years. I still post consistently on my stories when we have a big game or win a championship, but other than that I rarely do,” she said.

According to Jennings, she “loves seeing athletic content on Twitter. Whether it’s relatable athlete tweets or funny bloopers, I appreciate all of it.” She follows several sports accounts, mainly Cathedral accounts, on Twitter because it helps keeps her updated whenever I can’t be there. “Personally, I tweet out about upcoming softball games. I think it’s a great way to inform people about what’s happening.”

Since she had known years before that she wanted to play in college, she had monitored her social media usage. Then, when it came time to be recruited she was ready. “When I was going through the recruiting process, a lot of the coaches I was talking to asked for my social media accounts and they would follow me from their team page. They would also have girls on their teams follow me as well. When I committed to DePauw we had to fill out a paper that asked for ever social media account.”

Even though there are hundreds of inappropriate videos posted on social media accounts every day, Jennings said she never tweets anything that she shouldn’t. She said, “Sometimes I repost funny videos and then delete it after realizing the caption isn’t appropriate. I do my best not to retweet inappropriate content because you never know who is checking through yours retweets and likes.”

Jennings said that social media has, and always will be one of the most important factors in an athlete’s recruitment. “Every coach I have been in contact with has told me that social media is the first thing they check when looking at a player. I know of two different people that have lost their scholarships because of inappropriate posts or language they used in a caption.”

Advice Jennings said she would give to prospective college athletes is that although social media seems private, she would recommend monitoring it because all it takes is one screenshot or text to break your future.

Senior Emily Timberman also will attend DePauw University next fall and playing softball with Jennings. She has been playing softball for 12 years, and got a phone when she was 11. For softball, recruitment to play in college can start as early as 14, so Timberman has always cautioned on her social media accounts.

Timberman said that since social media is public to everyone, she always regulates her post to keep them appropriate. “I had multiple college softball coaches tell me that they check an athletes social media page because it reveals the true nature of that person. If an athlete is posting inappropriate stuff a coach would not recruit them to play for their program. That’s why I’m very careful to never curse or post inappropriate stuff on my social media pages,” she said.