Cody Snyder is frustrated. A distance runner for the University of Virginia, he wrote a piece published in the CavalierDaily.com on what he calls the unfair restrictions put on student-athletes who use social media. He invoked the #FreeAthletes Twitter hashtag, which up until now has only been used to promote stories of an assortment of imprisoned Arabic athletes.
Snyder claims that the UVA athletic department forces student-athletes to "friend" coaches on social media channels under threat of punishment. He lists a number of grievances, but his main gripe is that the rules are arbitrary and confusing with no clear lines. Now this may or may not be true, but you can bet the NCAA is taking notice.
The ongoing dilemma of student-athletes on social media has many athletic departments and universities scrambling for answers. Some have resorted to bans, some strict rules, and some have adopted the ostrich response hoping that nothing goes wrong. Some student-athletes have left social media behind (or so they say) because of the increased hassle, most recently Johnny Manziel from Texas A & M.
Snyder's solution to the problem: "There need to be clear guidelines telling each of us what we can and cannot say on social media sites. It's not rocket science. The frequent banning on Twitter needs to calm down as well. The administration shouldn't be passing out Twitter bans like red solo cups at a frat party. Until we are no longer put in Twitter jail as the result of arbitrary judgments, we athletes will be unhappy. #FreeJohnnyFootball and #FreeAthletes."
More than ever, the need for educating student-athletes on how to use social media well is rising. Schools and coaches that ban are doing so out of fear, and fear is never a good motivator for education. In my recent series on how to handle student-athletes on social media, I cited the #FeaturedAthlete program at the University of Washington as a flagship example of what schools could be doing-educating and promoting student-athletes that use social media well. I wrote about the need for schools to be educators first and policemen second. It's time to consider a partnership between athletics and student-athletes when it comes to social media. It's about taking our jobs as educators seriously.
Consider being proactive. Schedule a knowledgeable trainer to come in and show your student-athletes how to use the media well. At CKSyme.org, we train student-athletes how to use social media responsibly while boosting their personal brands. Good training should include:
- Privacy settings and the pitfalls of public sharing
- How to use the tools wisely
- How to manage and build your online profile
- How to build and protect your online reputation
- The impact of a negative social media reputation
The next step is giving your student-athletes the opportunity to make wise decisions on social media. And if you're up for it, you can copy what the University of Washington is doing and make their online presence a win-win for everyone involved.
(image: online censorship / shutterstock)