IN DEPTH: Local officials urge student-athletes to use caution on social media

BEN DESTEFAN, The Record Herald Contact Ben Destefan at 762-2151, bdestefan@therecordherald.com or on Twitter at @bdestefan_RH
Social media websites such as Facebook are increasingly being accessed by coaches and recruiters to get information about prospective student-athletes.

It's become ingrained in the daily lives of most young people.

Whether viewing, posting or sharing, social media has essentially taken over the online world.

Like any open yet highly-visible platform, sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram offer enjoyable freedoms to their users. With such access, however, comes inevitable risks.

Utilized heavily today by coaches, recruiters and scouts at the college and professional levels, prospective student-athletes, including those at Greencastle-Antrim and Waynesboro, must be aware that more than just friends and family are viewing their profiles on social media.

Suggested guidelines

The continual growth of social media, especially among teens and young adults, has caused institutions to suggest guidelines for its student-athletes. Ultimately, the individual must make their own decision on what he or she will post. From there, it's available for all to see.

Locally, Waynesboro Area School District's 2015-16 athletic handbook contains the following section about social media guidelines:

“As a student-athlete you are expected to portray yourself, your team, your school and the Waynesboro Area School District in a positive manner at all times. The athletic department recognizes and supports the student-athlete's rights of freedom of speech, expression and association, including the use of social media. In this context, each student-athlete is a representative of not only themselves and their families but also an extension of the WASD athletic department.”

The handbook continues, “Student-athletes should be aware that third parties, including the media, faculty, future employers and college officials, could easily access your profiles and view all personal information. Once information is posted it is no longer your possession, rather it becomes the possession of the site. Inappropriate material found by third parties affects the perception of the student-athlete, team and WASHS. Inappropriate material can also be detrimental to a student-athlete's future options.”

While not mandatory, at least not yet, such suggestions are shared at Greencastle-Antrim.

“It's not mandated that we discuss it with our players, but we definitely chose to,” G-A head baseball coach Eric Shaner said. “If you don't want any problems, you have to address it. Like anything, it's their choice to push the send button. We just reiterate to them that a one-second decision could cost years of what they've worked for. It's something almost all recruiters check now and kids need to be aware of it.”

Shaner also recalled a scenario when a scout was clocking a pitcher who was throwing in the mid-90s. After watching several pitches, the scout put down the radar gun and immediately accessed the athlete's Twitter account with his phone.

While the talent is evident, scouts and recruiters are also interested in the type of person they're evaluating. Hence, the ever-evolving role of social media.

“If they see something on there that is really inappropriate, most of them will write you off,” Shaner said. “You don't get a redo. You see all the time where a tweet was deleted, but someone has already seen it or there's a screen-shot of it.”

By the numbers

A report released by Statista, which is an online database that combines statistics from more than 18,000 sources, said that 78 percent of Americans have a profile on a social network as of 2016. That 78 percent is more than a 20 percent increase from 2012.

Additionally, Statista's first-quarter report from this year found that Facebook had 1.59 billion monthly active users worldwide. Instagram checked in at 400 million monthly active users while Twitter boasted 320 million.

Those numbers are projected to increase, coinciding with the importance coaches, recruiters and scouts put toward evaluating a student-athlete's profile.