The ever-growing scope and popularity of applications such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram finally inspired Lawrence Public Schools to provide some guidelines its coaches can implement this school year when dealing with students’ use of social media.
Ron May, the district’s director of administrative services, meets with school administrators every year to review their activities handbooks. He said those discussions recently inspired the district to take a proactive approach when it comes to student-athletes and what they post. May pointed out no one wanted to ban social media use amongst the students, but administrators agreed both middle schoolers and high schoolers in the district should be aware of the impact such networks can have.
The guidelines state: “Athletes should use good judgment when using social media. Extracurricular activities are NOT a right, but a privilege. Inappropriate use of social media may jeopardize an athlete’s good standing with their team and, therefore, be cause for disciplinary action up to and including removal from the team.”
The district also presented students with things to remember:
Think twice before posting. Do not post anything you would not want your coach, teammates, parents, fans, alumni, kids, teachers, etc., to see.
Be respectful and positive.
The Internet is permanent. Even if you delete something, it’s still in cyberspace somewhere. Once you’ve posted something, you’ve said it, and you left a date and time when you said it.
Free State High football coach Bob Lisher echoed those pieces of advice when meeting with his players earlier this week, and shared his personal expectations: “Don’t put anything out there that you don’t want me to read.”
Lisher, who doesn’t use any social media platforms, said younger coaches on the Firebirds staff will monitor the players’ social media activity. If some kind of negative post is brought to his attention, Lisher added, he plans to meet with FSHS athletic director Mike Hill and school administrators before handing out any punishment.
As for the players, senior Fred Wyatt (out for the season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee) said most shouldn’t have to adjust their activity much.
“We really don’t worry about it,” said Wyatt, who noted trash-talking to opponents via Twitter as something to avoid. “Most of the guys know what to put on there, what not to put on there. We haven’t felt the need to police it or anything (in the past).”
Free State senior receiver and defensive back Khadre Lane said posting photos is another thing to think about.
“It’s like the Johnny Manziel situation,” Lane said of the Heisman Trophy-winning Texas A&M quarterback who came under fire for party photos. “You’ve just got to stay away from the Internet, especially late at night.”
Lane didn’t think city athletes will necessarily utilize social media less, and said monitoring the activity shouldn’t hurt.
“We’re representing our school and ourselves,” he said. “No matter what we post, it could come up as being from a Free State football player.”
Over at Lawrence High, football coach Dirk Wedd addressed social media usage among players this week while also talking about bullying.
“We’re always concerned about what impact it’s gonna have on team unity, and things like that,” Wedd said of possible negative comments made through social media.
While Wedd himself has a Twitter account, he only follows a handful of users and almost never tweets.
“I’m 61 years old, so it takes me 20 minutes for one sentence on texting,” he joked.
Like Lisher, Wedd said the younger coaches on his staff have a more active approach to such things, but no LHS assistant has been designated to monitor players’ online activities.
Even before guidelines became available, Lawrence senior lineman Kyle Wittman said the Lions felt like if they posted something offensive about a teammate, opponent or anyone else, that news would get back to Wedd.
“I’ve never seen it being a big problem,” Wittman said, “but I understand why they’re doing it (providing guidelines).”
Lions senior linebacker Drew Green guessed those who post negative comments through such outlets do so for attention, and said most athletes take a respectful approach.
“You don’t want to say the wrong thing and get some bad karma on your side or anything,” Green said. “Social media is pretty much a big distraction. It takes a certain person to be able to handle that and not get too out of hand with it. I don’t think we have any problem with it on our team, at least.”
According to May, the district guidelines did not stem from any specific incident.
Wittman recalled last season one of Lawrence’s players posted something about an upcoming opponent and one of the team’s senior leaders, 2013 graduate Drake Hofer, confronted his teammate and said: “We don’t talk (trash) like that.”