When you think your job is a headache, try being a high school athletic director. Once you handle the scheduling, the rescheduling, the disgruntled parents, the facility setup, the budget, the still disgruntled parents and the re-rescheduling, you have just enough time to appreciate your student-athletes' hard work and success before talking to another pair of disgruntled parents.
And then a few years ago a monster started lurking at the edge of the athletic directors' consciousness. The monster was named "social media." Try as they might to convince themselves that it wouldn't bother them, athletic directors are now facing reality.
Waunakee High School athletic director Brian Smith knows the struggle well. "The biggest challenge is getting them to understand when you put something online in social media it stays there, and anybody can see it." Social media is here to stay, and, like it or not, student-athletes are going to use it.
And they do use it. A recent study from the Pew Research Internet Project indicated 91% of teens share pictures of themselves on their favorite social media platform. A majority of social media users tweet and post positively, or to neutral effect. But it's the minority that can ruin a good thing for everyone.
Athletic directors are left with a few choices. Ignoring the problem hasn't worked, and as much as it might seem like a good idea, banning high school students from social media isn't practical.
Athletic directors must do what they do best: be educators. Educating means more than issuing a list of do's and don'ts. Educating means helping to shape their student-athletes' online behaviors with an eye toward the future. Turn social media from a toy into a tool, and responsible student users will become responsible adults who leverage social media to advance in their careers and expand their education.
"We want our student-athletes to represent themselves, their families and the community in a positive manner on and off the field of competition," says Smith. "This includes the world of social media."