Social media usage amongst young athletes is all but guaranteed, and as a coach, you have the difficult task of ensuring that your athletes are using it to enhance team culture rather than spread negativity. It’s tempting to ignore how athletes approach social media, but because it’s a primary method of communication for many of them, it needs to be part of the team culture conversation.
Here, TrueSport Expert Nadia Kyba, MSW, President of Now What Facilitation, is sharing some simple do’s and don’ts for creating a social media policy with your athletes that will improve team culture.
Do: Acknowledge Athletes Use Social Media for Connection
Social media isn’t all bad: It can keep athletes connected during the off-season, allow them to communicate more comfortably, and even create a sense of team unity when it’s used in a healthy way. “It's the way that people form connections now, especially young people,” says Kyba. “That’s important.”
Don’t: Try to Ignore Social Media Altogether
As a coach, Kyba says part of creating a healthy team culture includes an acceptance of social media. Your athletes are almost certainly using it, so rather than shying away from discussing use of social media, have discussions about social media and etiquette around it.
Do: Set Phone Use Boundaries Early in the Season
“Have an open dialogue with the team about what phone use and social media is going to look like at games, at practice, and on the team bus,” says Kyba. “When people can be on their phones, and when should they be out of sight?” Set these boundaries and include consequences if an athlete ignores those boundaries.
Don’t: Allow Poor Social Media Behavior from Parents
It’s disheartening, but Kyba says that some of the bad social media behavior she sees comes from parents of athletes who turn to social media to complain about referees, coaches, and even other young athletes. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about parental behavior as a coach, but if the posts can be considered bullying or are offensive, you can bring the issue up to an athletic director or school administrator to determine next steps, which may include barring a parent from competitions.