By Alec Branch
Like many high school athletes today, Taron Hampton, a highly sought-after offensive lineman from St. Joseph’s Prep, used Twitter to announce his commitment to play football at Lafayette College.
“I know that when I released it on Twitter the other coaches that had been recruiting me would see it,” Hampton said when asked why he decided to announce his decision on social media. “And universally that would be the quickest way to send out information.”
In this age in which social media is king, more and more high school students have begun to use Twitter in hopes of attracting attention from college scouts and recruiters.
“When you post your highlight videos online it allows your video to be seen by college coaches,” said Hampton. “And college coaches on Twitter have more free rein than talking to recruits on the phone or through email.”
While the main goal for posting highlights online may be to attract college coaches, it also allows high school athletes to increase their mainstream popularity.
Many of the top high school athletes are already household names in the sports world by the time they step on campus. The YouTube highlight package for Malik Monk, a college basketball player at the University of Kentucky, had already surpassed one million views before he went to Kentucky.
While social media use can increase an athlete’s popularity, there is a downside. There have been multiple incidents where a young athlete’s use of social media has come back to haunt him.
Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss was projected to be a top five pick in the 2016 NFL draft. Ten minutes before the start of the draft, an old video of him allegedly doing drugs surfaced online. This caused him to be picked at least five spots later than he had been projected to be selected. He ended up being drafted by the Miami Dolphins, but Tunsil lost between $8 million and $13 million in salary because of this incident, according to Fortune.com.
Mistakes on Twitter have also cost high school athletes awards and recognition.
In 2014, the Bleacher Report published a story about how the player of the year in New Hampshire Division II high school basketball was stripped of the award because of a tweet directed at an opponent that was considered obscene and inappropriate.
In a 2015 interview with USA Today, social media expert Pat Hade talked about how college coaches check the online activity of their recruits during the recruiting process and how it could potentially harm the students’ chances of receiving a scholarship offer.
“Generally, if a student-athlete’s social media feeds are derogatory to women, sexually explicit, predominantly negative, have complaints about teammates or coaching staff or are filled with obscenities, coaches will turn away from the athlete as a potential recruit,” said Hade.
While social media has helped many young athletes gain exposure, it is important for them to not lose sight of what is really important.
“I think some kids get so caught up in the recruitment over social media that they forget the main goal, which is to go to college,” said Hampton.