In the six years I’ve been covering high school sports in this state, the world of social media has emerged and expanded at a rate quicker than the country’s national debt (OK, not quite, but still). In 2008, it was MySpace, Friendster, and an up and coming site called Facebook (whatever happened to that?). In 2014 it’s Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook (oh, that’s what happened to that), YouTube….and new ones pop up every few months. Yes, it’s a fun way for people to stay in contact with their friends, but it also has another purpose for colleges recruiting Maine high school athletes: background checks.
“Before I make contact with anyone,” says Central Maine Community College Athletic Director and Men’s Basketball Coach Dave Gonyea, “I’m Googling them. Looking at the public Facebook profile, looking at Twitter, seeing if this is the type of kid that’s going to fit in my program and can represent it.”
Bates soccer coach Stewart Flaherty echoed the same sentiments. “Good use of social media is not really something that gets a kid ahead of another,” said Flaherty. “It does however, show us that they will not be potential trouble coming in.”
When Division III and USCAA schools are checking out social media before recruiting, you know the Division II and higher are doing the same. Flaherty has even stopped recruiting those who have red-flagged (no soccer pun intended, but it fit perfectly).
“We have found racist comments on Twitter from kids, and as a result dropped contact,” said Flaherty. “We did not think that train of thought was a good fit for our team, or a good fit for Bates College. We have also seen homophobic conversations laid out publicly on Twitter, and dropped contact with potential recruits over it.”
Kids will be kids, but make sure your kids are saying and posting the right things. In my time as a high school sports broadcaster, I have accepted friend/follow requests from many student-athletes that I’ve covered, and even those who are great kids can sometimes push the envelope. Even so much as Re-Tweeting a meme that pushes the boundaries can be a red flag for schools, ending or severely damaging a dream of playing beyond the high school level. Have fun, be let them be themselves, but be careful. That funny meme can lead to a lot more money having to be spent on student loans.