Archive for Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Montemayor: Don’t tweet your way out of a scholarship

September 12, 2012, 4:05 p.m.

Updated: September 20, 2012, 12:00 a.m.

At any given time of the day, Twitter and Facebook can be a party — only the blinds are wide open, and the whole neighborhood (and well, well beyond) can see inside.

Nowhere is this more evident, and potentially problematic, than among high school student athletes and student bodies at large.

In a matter of seconds, a student can knock out several tasks at once: fire off a hateful/profanity-laced/homophobic/drug-or-alcohol-referencing tweet while also drawing the attention of parents/administrators/authorities and perhaps sinking his or her chances at a scholarship offer from a college program.

Think this is just tough talk, a lame attempt at playing Scruff McGruff on a high horse?

Before he joined Bonner Springs in 2011, Lucas Aslin was head football coach at Garden City Community College. As someone who recruited athletes from all over the country, Aslin has firsthand knowledge of what college coaches make of ugly social media conduct.

On one hand, Aslin once actually had a kid from Florida, with whom he had only conversed on Facebook, make a commitment to join his program. Now, that isn’t the norm. Not even close. What’s far too common, Aslin said, are the potential offers he had to hold onto after just a few minutes looking at Facebook or Twitter pages.

One day, Aslin would be blown away by a kid’s highlight film, ready to offer him a scholarship. The next, when he saw a drug- and profanity-laced profile more befitting a bathroom stall?

“No way I’m signing that kid,” Aslin said.

This is not written to single out high school students, but to serve as a reminder that what we share online is permanent, lodged somewhere in the dark recesses of the web. Once we hit ‘Send,’ it’s out of our hands. We don’t get to choose how it gets consumed, or when it can come back to bite us.

Think high school students are the only ones to sink themselves online? Aslin said he also does his homework on potential assistant coaching hires.

“The interview process is a 10-minute to an hour, one-shot type of deal,” Aslin said. “Facebook is an accumulation of years and you can look back and see things that can help gauge what type of person you think someone is, good or bad.”

And earlier this month, the official Twitter account of the Kansas City Chiefs had to tweet a public apology for its author’s correspondence with a fan. Whomever had Twitter duties for the Chiefs account that day sent a direct message to a fan telling them to “get a clue.” The fan then shared the message online, where it suddenly went viral, egging the face of the Chiefs’ account.

The great thing about social media is its ability to enhance and build communities. At the Chieftain and Sentinel, we use Twitter and Facebook to both share our stories and to also provide real-time updates and photos from sporting events. Social media has also allowed you, the reader, to join the conversation, to report your own scores and share your own observations and photos. That’s why early this year we started using the hashtags #BasehorSports and #BonnerSports: to allow anyone using that hashtag to contribute to a feed of area sports news, and for others to find an easy way to get that same information.

Like anything that can be used, social media can be abused. Unfortunately, the banter between rival schools — especially leading up to sporting events — doesn’t always stay respectful.

Such talk before the Aug. 30 Basehor-Linwood vs. Tonganoxie boys soccer match, which would feature altercations both on the field and in the stands, seemed to signal storm clouds on the horizon for that evening.

Basehor-Linwood boys soccer coach Austin Knipp, speaking after the Bobcats’ 9-0 victory against Immaculata last week, said he reminds his players that what they post becomes permanent, and to keep in mind whether what they plan to post is something they could easily explain to a coach or parent.

“I think the main thing is if you’re questioning that I would say something or your parents would say something about it, it probably shouldn’t be on there,” Knipp said.

That college coaches are out there, hoping your conduct online matches your play on the field, should add extra incentive.


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