Online media find new influence in athletics
It’s a trend changing the world of journalism as we know it.
Traditional media such as newspapers and television have taken a backseat to social media in sports, said Louisiana Tech head golf coach Jeff Parks.
“You do not have to a read a newspaper to find about student athletics,” Parks said. “You can just get on the Internet and find different information about an athlete (or sport).”
In today’s sports world, fans, recruits and scouts can find several things about a program or student athlete through social media. Social media has not only changed sports, but it has revolutionized the usage of different social media sites by student athletes and their fans.
“It starts as soon as a student athlete signs their national letter of intent to an university,” said Patrick Walsh, associate media relations director at Louisiana Tech University. “You see fans out there following them on Twitter and they are still in high school.”
Once a student signs to a university he no longer just represents himself, he represents the school as well said Malcolm Butler, media relations director at Tech.
“A lot of student athletes think they can do what they want on social media sites,” Butler said. “You do not only represent yourself but also Louisiana Tech University, so you cannot just post anything you want.”
At the beginning of the school year, the school’s media relations sits down with all major student athletes in the major sports to explain the impact social media has.
“All you have to do is Google about different players who have gotten suspended, lost their scholarship or gotten in trouble because things they have posted on Facebook or Twitter,” Butler said. “We try and educate our student athletes about being smart on things to post on a social media website.”
In 2012, senior high school football player Yuri Wright from Ramsey, N.J., lost his scholarship to his dream school, the University of Michigan, because of tweets he sent out on Twitter.
“He was sought after by all major college football conferences. Wright got expelled from high school and lost his scholarship over sexually explicit and racially-charged tweets,” according to espn.com. Wright was ranked 40th in the ESPNU Top 150 high school players in the country.
Even though social media can have a negative impact on a student athlete, it allows fans to interact with the athletes on a daily basis.
“Social media have allowed your average fan to feel a sense of bond with the student athletes,” Walsh said. “They are able to follow the kids after wins, after losses, after practices and their days off. It gives them different ways to interact with the athletes.”
Even though the average fan can form a bond with an athlete, it is important fans do not break National Collegiate Athletic Association rules with the use of social media sites, Walsh said.
“If you are a fan contacting a potential athlete, it could be considered an NCAA violation,” Walsh said. “It is important to step back and be a spectator and do not reach out and talk to the students until they are on campus. Also, make sure you respect the wish of the coaches and the university.”
Despite the controversy surrounding the use of social media by a student athlete, not all of them are negative, said Butler. He said there are positive ways a student athletes can use social media sites.
“We encourage our student athletes to use it to promote games,” Butler said. “It is another way to communicate with the rest of the student body.”
The Lady Techsters softball team uses Twitter to update the schedule of their games and the scores of each game throughout the season.
“Don’t ever use social media when you are emotional: like after a loss or a bad practice,” Butler said. “When you are emotional you tend say things that you don’t mean.”
Readers can also find The Tech Talk Sports Desk’s Twitter page at twitter.com/techtalksports.
Email comments to dki...@latech.edu.