Dear Athletic Support: My grandson is the quarterback for his high school and has a shot at playing college ball. He’s also convinced that social media is his ticket to the next level. If you ask me, though, he spends too much time worrying about Facebook and not enough time focusing on his game. He’s convinced a college coach is going to find him through this medium, but I just don’t believe Facebook is the ticket. What impact does social media have on today’s high school athletes? — GRUMBLING GRANDPA
Dear Grumbling: My momma calls social media, “The Ruination.” At least that’s what she used to say before she finally broke down, bought a smartphone, and created a Facebook account. Now, she’s on Facebook more than I am, constantly uploading pictures of her dogs, her trips, her granddaughter — everything.
The difference between my momma and your grandson is that one of them has a team to worry about, a potential college career, and there is nothing more dangerous than an 18-year-old with an iPhone.
Let me get this out of the way first: Yes, social media could (emphasis on “could”) help your grandson earn a college scholarship. Let’s say he did a backflip, or threw a pass to himself, or completed an 80-yard bomb, and somebody filmed it with a smartphone. There’s a chance that clip could go “viral.” There’s a chance a college coach could watch the “viral” clip and offer your grandson a scholarship. A slim chance…
And that’s it. That’s the positive side of social media for athletes.
The negative aspects of social media aren’t quite so simple. You’ve already mentioned the distraction involved with kids and smartphones. A quarterback whose main focus is attracting Facebook likes is not going to be a very good teammate, much less a leader.
I have a great friend and mentor, a legendary coach in Arkansas, who’s completely banned cellphones from his locker room. He did this about five years ago, and at the time, I thought it seemed a bit harsh. Then stories started breaking about kids posting messages on social media at halftime, or texting their parents, complaining about their coach’s first-half calls.
Maybe banning cellphones wasn’t such a crazy idea.
Maybe your grandson could benefit from such a rule, too. Because here’s the honest truth: kids LOSE scholarships over social media.
Once a player is on a college coach’s radar, that coach is watching his every move, scouring his tweets and Instagram posts, looking for any reason why this player may not be worth the investment. Coaches are putting their own jobs on the line when they offer kids scholarships. They’re saying, “This kid’s a winner.”
And if a coach finds videos of your grandson on social media in compromising situations — doing the sort of stuff that many kids do as teenagers, the stuff you and I probably did before there were cameras around to record it — your grandson will not get that scholarship. Period.
If I were you, I’d urge my grandson to turn away from “The Ruination” and focus on hitting a fade route in a Cover 2 window. It’s a hard throw to make, one that will attract the eyes of college scouts, even if they don’t watch the clip on Facebook.
Previously published here and reprinted with the author’s permission.
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