Jan 29, 2015Are You Connected?
If Facebook and Twitter are foreign to you, it’s time you jumped on the bandwagon. In this article, three authors share how they are using these social media outlets to their full potential.
By Luis Velez, Bill White, & Stacy Walker
A college strength coach communicates with one of his teams via Facebook in an effort to keep everyone up on their summer conditioning. An athletic trainer working in the industrial setting uses Twitter to keep up on what’s happening in the profession and network with his fellow colleagues. And an athletic training program director uses both outlets to disseminate her research and studies done by others.
These three authors are using social media in unique ways, and you can, too. All you need is Internet access and the drive to get started.
By Luis Velez
Luis Velez, MA, LAT, ATC, CSCS, is an Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist at Lenoir-Rhyne University, where he works with the men’s soccer and baseball teams. He is also an instructor in the School of Health, Exercise, and Sport Science and can be reached at: [email protected].
One of the biggest challenges facing college strength and conditioning coaches is motivating athletes to follow through on their summer training programs. For about three months, athletes are away from campus and the responsibility to continue training lies solely on them. The stakes are even higher for fall sport athletes because they need to arrive on campus in shape and ready to work hard–especially freshmen and transfer students.
I face this challenge annually with the Lenoir-Rhyne University men’s soccer team, with one additional difficulty: Many of our players come from other countries. A simple phone call becomes complicated due to time zone differences and long distance charges. E-mail is an option, but it can be difficult to explain an exercise via e-mail–especially if the athlete is a freshman or transfer and you are unfamiliar with their training background. Another option is to record the exercises and drills on a DVD and mail it to the athletes, but this can be cost-prohibitive when shipping to foreign countries.
Thankfully, due to the evolution of social media and the popularity of Facebook among college students, I’ve found an answer. Over the past two summers, I have communicated with all of the players through a private Facebook “group” that only the athletes and myself have access to. It has simplified our communication and is very cost-effective.
I treat our group page as a resource for the players. The team captain and myself created the page and we both have “administrator” access to it, which allows us to post and delete content and invite players to join the group.
When summer begins, the team captain sends all players a Facebook invitation to join. Once a player has accepted, they have access to everything I’ve posted, including videos of core exercises, calisthenics, and plyometrics. There are also videos showing proper technique, variations, and progressions, which are especially helpful to athletes who are new to the team.
The players who demonstrate in the videos are current team members or recent graduates who wear official team practice gear. I think that showing alumni or current teammates doing the workouts is important because it adds a level of interest and excitement for incoming freshmen and transfers.
Although the Facebook group has been a great addition to my traditional summertime approach, it has not replaced the materials I always send home with players. Everyone is still supplied packets that include the training program, goals of the workouts, sequences of the workouts, exercise progressions, diagrams of agility drills, picture progressions of exercises, nutrition guidelines, workout charts to fill out, and my contact information. The additional material players can access on the Facebook page is only a part of the benefit.
In addition to videos and updated team info, the Facebook group encourages communication. Players can ask me questions about their training on our group page, in a private Facebook message, or through my school e-mail address and cell phone number, which I post on the group page.
The group also gives players a chance to keep in touch with each other throughout the summer break. The captains the past two years have been diligent about updating group content, establishing contact with newcomers, and maintaining regular contact with their current teammates.
And the captains get a chance to establish accountability. For example, one of our fitness tests is traditionally conducted at dawn on the first day of preseason. Called the Cooper Test, it’s a two-mile run that has to be completed in less than 12 minutes, which is definitely a challenge for the players. In the team’s summer training program, the Cooper run is required twice. The captains post their times and challenge other players to post theirs. It turns into a fun competition to see who is running the fastest two miles, and leads to a pretty exciting track meet at our first preseason session. Knowing that teammates are working hard can be inspiring and instrumental in contributing to team success.
It has also been interesting to see how relationships and rapport among the players develop throughout the summer even though they never see each other in person or even talk on the phone. For the new athletes, these interactions help facilitate a seamless transition onto campus. Foreign players get to share their culture, sense of humor, favorite music, and more prior to arriving in the States. Ultimately, excitement is generated among the team for the upcoming season before they even set foot on campus.
ADVANCING YOUR CAREER
By Bill White
Bill White, ATC, is a Program Manager and the Director of Training and Employee Relations for Work-Fit, which provides injury prevention and rehabilitation solutions, as well as fitness and wellness programming, in the industrial setting. He can be reached at: [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter at: @atcref.
Does Twitter have any benefit to me as an athletic trainer? Can I really advance my career in 140 characters or less at a time? These are questions I asked myself before jumping into the land of Twitter back in 2008, and soon after I made the plunge I was able to answer them both with a “yes.” If you’re surprised, consider the following:
You’ll learn something. If you want the latest news nowadays, you don’t have to wait to turn on the six o’clock news or even refresh your favorite Web site–you can just go to Twitter. The same applies to our profession. You don’t have to wait for the latest sports medicine journal to arrive to learn something–you can go to Twitter for that, too. Whether it is a professional blog post, news on a recent study, a job posting, or other information relevant to athletic trainers, sports medicine professionals are sharing it on Twitter. Look no further than the NATA Annual Meeting, where athletic trainers in attendance tweet live about the latest developments as they happen.
You’ll make professional contacts. Networking is paramount to professional growth. Numerous athletic trainers and athletic training associations are on Twitter, including the NATA (@NATA1950) and the Board of Certification (@BOCATC). Twitter is a great venue to “meet” other professionals that you may never have made contact with otherwise. You can have a conversation with other athletic trainers via Twitter by joining dialogue about topics related to our profession. In fact, this past winter I was able to generate good discussion with several other athletic trainers about the NFL’s decision to assign independent athletic trainers to the sidelines during games.
You’ll share something of value with others. Growing professionally is also about giving. Twitter is truly a community, and if you simply take and don’t give, you’ll miss out on the full value of Twitter as a professional. No group appreciates members who only take, and the same holds true for Twitter. To be a valued member of the Twitter community, share links that are great resources, re-tweet interesting links or notes, and reply to other athletic trainers. Don’t just promote your own agenda without regard for others-that gets old quickly.
So, how do you start advancing your career through Twitter? The first step is to go to twitter.com and create a profile. Because you’re using Twitter to meet and converse with other professionals, I recommend identifying yourself as an athletic trainer or sports medicine professional in the visible part of your profile. This way, other athletic trainers will be more likely to follow you once you begin following them.
In order to follow another athletic trainer you already know or a professional group like the NATA, use the search function to type in their name. Then click the “follow” button. You can also use the search window to find others to follow by typing in “athletic trainer,” “sports medicine,” or other related terms. The list that pops up includes people from all over the world who have included these terms in their profiles.
Once you begin identifying and following people in the sports medicine profession, look at who they follow. I recommend following as many fellow professionals as possible who will likely then follow you in return. A great place to start is with our own NATA and BOC organizations. The NATA Twitter account has over 4,000 followers and the BOC Twitter account has over 1,500 followers. You’ll definitely find numerous sports medicine professionals who will be worth following.
Some people join Twitter, follow just a couple of people, post one tweet, get no responses back, and then wonder what the big deal is. They don’t understand why no one else is following them and see little value in the service. But think about it: If your Twitter community consists of two people, you probably aren’t going to get much out of it. Just because you “arrive” by logging on and creating an account doesn’t mean you’re finished being a part of the Twitter community. Your journey is actually just beginning.
You need to tweet often in order to converse with others. Each tweet consists of 140 characters or less, and in this space you can ask an athletic training-related question, share something personal, re-tweet something someone else has posted, or share a link to a news article, blog post, or photo. You can also reply to others’ tweets. If someone asked a question you know the answer to, tweet it. If you have an opinion about an article someone posted, tweet it.
Many of my tweets are links to news articles, studies, or other pieces of information pertaining to sports medicine. I also often re-tweet something of value that someone else tweeted. Other times I ask a question designed to get an answer, or I may ask an open-ended question designed to start a discussion among my followers.
The time you devote to using Twitter is completely dependent on you. The more time you spend on it, the more you will get out of it. A great place to start is to tweet a couple of times a day (you can even schedule your tweets ahead of time if you use an application like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck) and check your account one to three times a day. This will help to establish you in your community of followers and gain more followers yourself.
Though you are using Twitter for professional reasons, you don’t have to limit yourself to strictly professional topics. You may find that someone you’re following likes the same television show or sports team as yourself. Your conversations around the athletic training room aren’t simply about injuries and the same holds true for Twitter. It’s a great way to build further camaraderie in your professional community.
By using Twitter, athletic trainers can add to their “toolboxes” and grow professionally. Sharing knowledge, ideas, and experiences are extremely valuable to us as professionals, and Twitter gives athletic trainers the opportunity to do so across state borders–and even continents–with ease.
By Dr. Stacy Walker
Stacy Walker, PhD, ATC, is an Associate Professor and Clinical Education Coordinator at Ball State University. She can be reached at: [email protected] and you can follow her on Twitter at: @sewalkerat.
It used to be that the only way to share a colleague’s study or your own research was through face-to-face conversations with peers or via mailed hard copy. Then, e-mail and digital publishing made it easier to disseminate evidence to a group of your peers much more quickly. Now, we have an even faster and more effective way of sharing important research with colleagues: through social media.
Outlets like Twitter and Facebook have changed the way we share evidence with each other. Professionals are now sharing their own and others’ research with a few strokes of the keyboard and a couple clicks of the mouse.
What makes social media such an effective method of disseminating evidence is that research can be shared with numerous individuals at once. Instead of making and handing out copy after copy, one link posted on your Facebook page or Twitter feed can be clicked on by anyone connected to your social media outlets. If those colleagues then share or re-tweet the link, the information has the potential to be shared with your peers across the country and even internationally.
For example, the January issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research contained a study that found a correlation between the temperature reading obtained through an in-helmet monitoring system and rectal temperature. Because heat stress is such a sensitive and important issue in the athletic training profession, you may want to share the study with your colleagues.
You could compose a tweet that includes a short description of the study and a link to the abstract on the journal’s Web site. Everyone who follows you on Twitter would see it in their feed. Or you could post it on your Facebook wall for all of your Facebook friends to see. You can also link your Twitter and Facebook accounts so that anything you tweet shows up on your Facebook wall simultaneously.
Getting the link out there to your colleagues all at once is only one of the many great things about using social media to disseminate evidence. What happens after you post the info can also be very valuable to you and your peers.
For example, a fellow athletic trainer can comment on your post about the temperature study and include a link to another similar study or one that questions the findings. Then others can chime in with their own anecdotal experiences about heat stress and temperature readings. Your knowledge about the topic–as well as all your Twitter followers’ and Facebook friends’ knowledge–has expanded just like that. A very timely and hot topic can get people energized to post, ask questions, and question current practice.
One of the nice features you can use when posting a tweet is to add what’s called a hashtag: a word or phrase with the pound sign (#) in front of it to categorize the post. For example, anytime you post a research study, you can end your tweet with “#evidence” or “#NewStudy.” Any of your newer followers can then go back through your feed and search for any past tweets labeled #evidence or #NewStudy they may have missed.
An important word of caution when it comes to posting links to others’ research or studies is that you need to be careful with news articles or blogs about the research, which may not report the finding accurately or thoroughly enough. Since you are attaching your name to the post, try to link directly to the study or make sure you are able to defend the information you post.
Take advantage of the immediate sharing you can do on Facebook and Twitter. Time is everything today, and these social media outlets can save you a lot of it when it comes to sharing evidence.
Sidebar: BE A FOLLOWER
You can learn a lot by keeping up with research studies that your colleagues and professional organizations post. Here’s a list of some of Dr. Stacy Walker’s favorite organizations to follow on Twitter:
American Medical Association @AmerMedicalAssn
Athletic Training & Sports Health Care journal @ATSHCJournal
CDC Injury Center @CDCinjury
National Strength and Conditioning Association @NSCA
Training & Conditioning magazine @TrainCondition