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Using social media to communicate positively

This is an excerpt from Successful Coaching-4th Edition by Rainer Martens.

Coaching and Social Media

When we think of coaching, we think of face-to-face interaction, but of course coaches communicate by phone, through written messages, and by appearances on such media as radio and television. And today you have more ways of communicating thanks to an array of social media, which is defined as any type of shared social interaction between individuals, groups, and companies via the Internet. It includes blogging and podcasting, using social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, sharing videos on YouTube and photos on Flickr, and using e-mail to send and receive messages. You and your athletes might also use instant messaging, online chatting, or texting on cell phones to communicate.

Another way to communicate with your team is to set up a team website. Companies make it easy for you by providing the structure to create your own website. Using a provider's templates, you can post your schedules, rosters, player profiles, and team and individual statistics. You can communicate other information to your team such as team policies, playbooks, and athlete codes of conduct. You control the content and access to the site. For examples of these website services, go to and

Facebook and Twitter have become major ways of communicating with athletes and fans. Coaches are using these social media to

  • keep in touch with their fans, seeking to strengthen their fan loyalty,
  • keep themselves informed about the public perception of their team,
  • communicate with donors, sponsors, and the media,
  • recruit athletes to their program,
  • keep members of the team informed, and
  • monitor what their athletes are communicating through social media.

After several instances of college athletes communicating negative information about their coaches and fellow teammates, sports programs are placing restrictions on student-athletes' use of social media to comment about the team. We should anticipate that the inappropriate use of social media by athletes will not be confined to the college level. Thus high school and club coaches, as well as college coaches, will need to establish policies and educate their athletes about the use of social media.

Some coaches are choosing to ignore social media, dismissing it as simply an electronic version of neighborhood gossiping, but that is a mistake. Your athletes are frequent users of social media, and you need to be prepared to help them use social media wisely when communicating about your team, in the same way you would help them in learning how to talk with the press.

And don't overlook the value of these social media in helping you fulfill all your duties as a coach. If your team relies on parental, corporate, and community support, you need to become informed about the use of social media to help you communicate with your public. Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks is a skillful user of social media to build fan loyalty, and John Calipari of the University of Kentucky has over a million Twitter fans with whom he communicates.

Social media gives you a powerful way to interact efficiently with your public. E-mail is a great way to communicate directly with your team and other individuals involved with the team. However, some young people do not check their e-mail often, so you might find Facebook and group texting more effective ways to communicate with your athletes. When you want to be more personable, when how you say something is really important, use the phone or meet face to face to communicate. Some people avoid speaking directly with individuals by using e-mail or instant messaging when they anticipate a difficult conversation, such as a confrontation or conflict. That's almost always a mistake. Face-to-face conversations allow you to see facial expressions and hear tone of voice, important aspects of working through conflict. So not only do you need to be skillful in what you communicate with your athletes, you need to be wise in what medium or media you use to communicate your messages. See Successful Coaching, 4th edition, for seven guidelines you should consider in developing policies regarding the use of social media for your team.

More Excerpts From Successful Coaching 4th Edition