The hope of most high school athletes is to play their chosen sport at a Division One college. Truth is, if you are being recruited by any college, you have worked hard to get into that position. You have beaten the odds by getting this far. Seventy-five percent of youth athletes have given up playing by the age of fourteen. When you have done all the hard work and colleges are interested in recruiting you, you are on the brink of becoming a part of the approximately 6% of high school baseball players that go on to play NCAA sponsored baseball (or professional ball).
That being said, US D1 Colleges have only 11.7 scholarships to divvy up in a program likely to carry 35 players on their roster. You should expect that the coaches, under the scrutiny of the alumni donors and with their career and the school’s reputation on the line, are going to do their due diligence before allocating those precious resources. The rapid growth of social media like Facebook and Twitter has provided unprecedented access to your private life. Aside from a comprehensive background check, you should also expect that your social media will be monitored as schools look for any potential red flags. Even after you sign your National Letter of Intent, the school is intent on avoiding anything that might impugn the reputation of the institution, or worse still, lead to the imposition of athletic sanctions by the NCAA. Do not destroy your chances in 140 characters or less.
If you can research a college baseball team using Bing or Google, so can the college recruiters. What will an in-depth look at your Facebook page (or the MySpace page you forgot to delete) reveal about you? What about your friends? It might have seemed hilarious at the time to post a semi-naked picture of yourself with a red Solo cup in your hand celebrating your beer pong win, but don’t expect a coach to stake his career on you. Do you Tweet with the knowledge that your every word could be followed? Your peers probably howled at the witty comment posted at one o’clock in the morning denigrating your coaches and teammates but don’t expect your prospective head coach to understand the intended tone or appreciate the humor in the cold light of day.
As a potential student-athlete you are going to be held to a higher standard because you are likely to represent the student body in the public eye. You will be monitored and judged. As you have surely been told countless times by your coaches, when you first arrive at the field, it is always good to assume that somebody is already there watching and judging you. Similarly, social media gives prospective coaches a window into your life. Don’t do anything that would cause your coach to take your name off the recruiting board.
Make sure that you monitor who your friends are on Facebook and who is following you on Twitter (and get rid of your MySpace account). If they are posting inappropriate material or tweeting negative and profane messages, “Unfriend” and “Unfollow” them immediately and always check to see that the latest person to “Follow” you is legitimate. More often than not, they have significantly less to lose than you and you do not want to be seen as condoning that type of behavior.
Keep your online persona clean and positive. There is no need to share every wart, blemish and regrettable incident online. Change your settings to limit access to others. You need to ensure that you control the content that appears on your site. It is a good practice to log out of social media sites whenever you are away from the device. We’ve all seen the cute messages posted by friends masquerading as you, but not everyone has pure intentions and the more successful you get, the bigger the target on your back.
As silly as this might sound, be careful what you “like”. There are no hard and fast rules by the NCAA Eligibility Center relating to social media but the “like” of a company or product could be construed as an endorsement and affect your ability to obtain your final amateurism certification.
Social media is a great way to share ideas and experiences as you embark on this exciting journey. Stick to the guidelines above and you should have no issues.
Keith Lovegrove, D1Prospect.com