May 18, 2018
Three Pitfalls

Social media use is prevalent and even may be considered part of your job. But it can lead to problems if coaches are not careful.

In his article on, Bryan Mann, PhD, CSCS, Professor and Assistant Director of Strength & Conditioning at the University of Missouri, relays advice about avoiding common pitfalls with social media. In general, ill-thought posts fall into three categories that avoid responsibility.

First, many social media users fall into the trap of posting about how another person is “an idiot.” Along with the potential lost contacts and allies is that information is often taken out of context in this scenario, due to what will likely be a short-lived time in the spotlight.

“Maybe it’s true that you have some insight into an area that they didn’t or don’t have,” Mann writes. “Maybe you are completely mistaken about what they tried to say in 140 characters. Maybe you are taking a tweet that someone else is quoting them on completely out of context. How many times have we seen someone come along and do this only to disappear shortly after? They often made a grandstanding gesture to get their 15 minutes of fame and then were never heard of again. If you’re trying to be famous for 15 minutes, go for it. You’ll be a twitter sensation for a short time and then never heard of again.”

Similarly, it can be easy to criticize your boss and decisions he or she makes. Often, we don’t know what influenced that decision — whether it’s past experience or other factors. Either way, venting about a boss on social media is rarely a good idea.

“Your boss has friends and contacts on social media even if he isn’t on it,” Mann writes. “If your boss’s friends see what you wrote after you went around bragging about how you’re working at their school and now you’re whining about them, do you think your boss’s friends might not send them a screenshot of what you said? Or is it possible that the other staff members might see it and pass it on? While this sounds stupid, I can tell you it has happened many times.”

The third trap that many athletic trainers and coaches may fall into is complaining about their student athletes. This is especially problematic when it is framed as them being the problem, rather than you as their coach.

“If you say something like this about your athletes, then guess what? They will quit on you. I don’t blame them at all for this. This is human nature, and you as a coach failed them. If you did do this, there is only one solution: own up to it, apologize, and try to make things right between you and them. As much as I love exercise science, we have to remember that coaching is a human endeavor. If the athletes don’t trust you, they won’t work for you. If you have violated that trust, it is hard to get back. I don’t envy your situation,” Mann writes.

Along with paying attention to what you say on social media, you may benefit by asking others to read your posts before they are published. This allows you to get unemotional feedback from colleagues as well as time for you to go back and re-read what you have written.

“Social media can be a very powerful tool to enhance your learning and your network, but you have to use it with some responsibility,” Mann writes. “I could go on and on, but something that just popped into my head was the one rule for our track team under Dr. Rick McGuire: always do the right thing. This entire article and rant could simply boil down to this. Always do the right thing. If you are doubting if you should do something or questioning how it might be perceived, don’t do it.”

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