By Matt Musico
Many high school athletes with aspirations of playing in college dream about the ideal situation when it comes to athletic recruitment. The media covers four and five-star recruits every year who can pick any college they want to attend who sometimes don’t have to put much effort into the process itself.
Based on numbers from the NCAA, though, we know this type of situation is the exception, not the rule.
Everyone wants to be a blue-chip recruit, but the majority of prospective student-athletes are yellow-chip recruits. The biggest difference here is yellow-chip recruits need to be invested in the recruitment experience by putting effort into getting on the radars of coaches they’d like to play for. Outside of playing well when the opportunity to be evaluated happens, high schoolers need to become expert marketers on what can potentially be an uncomfortable subject: themselves.
Many teenage athletes have never had to actively market themselves in the past, and especially not to people they’ve just met. This is all part of the process that goes into building your brand as an athlete, which we talk about in Part 2 of our Recruitment Playbook. An important piece of this brand building is your social media presence.
An increasingly digital world has made this area of life more important than ever, and with COVID-19 forcing nearly all interactions to the internet, it will remain a top priority. Let’s not forget that college coaches aren’t just looking for great athletes, though — they’re also looking for great people with high character.
Sure, the overarching goal is to build a winning program, but they’re looking for leaders on and off the court/field/ice to make a deeper impact within their program and throughout campus, as well as in the surrounding community. All the little details count, like how you carry yourself as an athlete, as a student, and in your personal life.
This includes social media. We’ve seen how it can be both a blessing and a curse depending on how it’s utilized, and it’s something coaches are paying attention to now more than ever. With that in mind, here are some tips and tricks for whenever you log on to one of your social media profiles and scroll through the timeline.
It’s Not a Toy… It’s a Tool
Social media is fun, but don’t forget it’s essentially one big advertisement for yourself. In today’s world, one of the first things people do — whether they’re coaches, employers, or potential new friends — is check out another person’s social media activity to get a sense of their personality and values.
If you view social media as a tool for your future, it can be an asset to building the type of brand you’d want to eventually have. This is not to say you can’t have fun, but it’s never a bad idea to second guess a post before sending it out to be sure it’s in line with your values. All it takes is one ill-advised post to erase months, or even years, of a personal brand you’ve been building.
Nobody wants to be the jack-of-all-trades but a master of nothing. What you focus on is what you win at, so there’s no reason to be on every single social media platform. Choose the ones that work best for you and be mindful of those most visible to college coaches. That answer can vary depending on who you ask, but generally speaking, the most visible platforms include Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat.
And since we’re talking about using social media as a tool, make sure you give college coaches something to look at: your highlights! Especially during COVID-19 and this yearlong dead period for in-person recruiting at some NCAA levels, coaches are doing everything possible to get a glimpse of a prospective recruit’s athletic ability. Even if you have a highlight video to send, it’s a good idea to periodically take clips and post them on your timeline. Coaches are always on the hunt for talent, and with in-person recruiting being basically non-existent over the past year, searching on social media has become increasingly popular.
You Own What’s on Your Timeline
This is where taking responsibility becomes vital. You see plenty of people on social media — especially professionals on Twitter — noting in profile descriptions that retweets aren’t endorsements. That’s all well and good, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t actually matter. If you retweet, like, or share a certain post on social media, you’re associating yourself with it. So, before you hit that button, ask yourself if that content is something you’re willing to put your reputation on the line for.
A number of people like protecting social media accounts by setting their Instagram account to private or protecting tweets so only their followers can see them. It’s a good idea, but not for prospective college student-athletes with hopes of getting discovered — the goal is to get your content (mostly your highlights) in front of as many eyes as possible. Even if you choose to have a private profile, nothing is ever private on the internet, even if it’s deleted.
Remember -- the internet never forgets. Everybody makes mistakes because we’re human and humans aren’t perfect. However, that’s why you need to double, and sometimes, even triple-check yourself before sharing something.
Build Your Reputation… Don’t Ruin It
There’s a lot of negativity in this world, and especially on social media. Simply being positive on a consistent basis will help you stand out. Remember that while the main person you’re representing is yourself, you’re also representing those associated with you — family, classmates, teammates, coaches, and the local community.
Use this opportunity to be an ambassador by supporting others, being thankful to those who support you, and promoting school and/or community events.
We’ve covered the importance of thinking before posting already but know that your posts don’t have to solely revolve around sports. Sure, you’re an athlete, but you’re more than that. Your brand reflects your character, whether it’s on Twitter, Instagram, or your mygotgame Profile. Work with others to share things that will show coaches and recruiters who you really are.
If this feels like a lot of work and a lot to consider, you’re not wrong. But just like how no team accidentally wins the World Series or the Super Bowl, nobody accidentally builds a strong brand. They can accidentally tear it down if they’re not paying attention, though. Every social media post is a story about you. Make sure it’s a positive one, and we’re here to help you share that story in the best way possible.