We've seen too many examples to count of how an ill-conceived tweet can ruin the promising career of an athlete even before it begins. Social media has become a powerful tool for athletic directors, coaches and recruiters to gain unique insights into student-athletes, and more athletic programs are taking a recruit's online voice. A recent study of 600 college coaches and recruiters revealed that 83 percent conducted online research of recruits during the 2013-2014 recruitment season.
When was the earliest moment in the recruiting process that they searched for a recruit online, 66 percent of coaches reported it was as soon as they heard of the recruit, according to the study by Cornerstone Reputation. The results of the survey illustrates the natural evolution from using the Internet to research player statistics toward putting together a holistic view of players through their social media presence.
It isn't just about the make-or-break posts that make media headlines. Social media empowers coaches to get a glimpse into the character and values of student athletes. Below are key ways social media enables coaches to make better-informed recruitment decisions, resulting in a more cohesive team dynamic:
- Plan ahead and provide better interviews and tailor recruitment experiences to potential candidates
- Envision how they will motivate the unique players and potential ways to leverage player personalities and team dynamics
- Look for examples of desired qualities maturity, competitiveness, and self-confidence in order to build a winning culture
The online content most likely to give coaches a positive impression of a recruit, according to 66 percent of coaches, is the mention of non-athletic achievements, including academic awards and other successes off the field. Coaches want to know that their recruits will be able to succeed in their classes as well as in their sports, as it reflects well on their programs, and ensures their continued ability to play. Coaches around the country agree that in addition to athletic statistics, social media should highlight mentions of good play and athletic achievements, through press coverage or well-made highlight films.
While a lot can be learned about a recruit from his or her ongoing social media voice, an astounding 97 percent of coaches believe a recruit’s prospects can be harmed by a negative online presence. Many coaches were able to more vividly recall negative online experiences than positive ones which they encountered. In order to counteract the staying power of a negative impression, athletic directors and coaches should highlight the imperative for student-athletes to ensure that their social media presence amplifies positive attributes of their personalities.
The free speech and expression that social media provide enables best-in-class college and university coaches and athletic directors to get a better glimpse of the overall character of an individual athlete. Coaches must be assured that recruits not only have the athletic capabilities, but that they also represent the culture and values that schools seek to perpetuate.
Carolynn Crabtree is co-founder of Cornerstone Reputation, an educational company committed to helping students manage their digital footprints.