Like it or not, social media has woven itself into the very fabric of our lives. No matter what your age may be, it seems like everyone has a twitter account and Facebook page.
From an athletic standpoint, university/college athletic departments now must take appropriate measures on how to educate their student-athletes. All student-athletes must be aware of how to conduct themselves in these public realms. It is part of a learning process, just like their classroom or athletic experience.
How do universities/colleges educate their student-athletes? Some do not allow twitter or facebook accounts, which although may be effective from a public relations perception, does not address the real issue of having a filter/boundaries. Other departments and even professional organizations have hired ex-players/ex-coaches to remind players of the dangers of social media. Who could forget Herm Edwards classic “Don’t press send” speech at the June 29, 2011 rookie symposium?
Needless to say, coaches also have to have a filter. Just like players they not only represent themselves but their families and institution too.
Therefore, I wanted to put together a “Don’t Press Send” list of things that head coaches should try to avoid. Having been a head coach and assistant coach at a variety of levels, I felt my perspective was unique so I decided to offer my Top 10.
“Don’t Press Send” Top 10:
1. Don’t get on officials before the first media timeout – Yelling at the refs too early gives off a negative vibe. You need to build a rapport with and then pick and choose your battles as the game develops. In addition, your overall body language will go a long way in how this rapport is built throughout the contest.
2. Don’t pit players against each other – If playing time is the issue do not get players in the same room and have them defend themselves against one another. This will deteriorate team chemistry and relationships.
3. Don’t not worry about your next job – Each player and institution deserves your undivided attention while you are with them. Make each head coaching job your masterpiece, no matter what. Plus if you aren’t focused now, what makes you think there will be a next job for you in the future?
4. Don’t not “big time” your assistant coaches – As a head coach, be a shining example of teamwork for your coaching staff and players. Be a leader, not a dictator. As a head coach, I used to drive vans, carry equipment, do laundry, etc. No task is too big and no task is to small. Also be sure to say “thank you,” “please,” and “I appreciate you.” It goes a long way.
5. Don’t treat your managers as merely managers – Your managers are working for free and volunteering tons of time. I was fortunate to have been associated with two GREAT managers, Amy Green and Jocelyn Wensel, as a Head Coach at Penn State Beaver. They were both instrumental to our success and I always reminded them of that, I always said my managers were just as, if not, more important than my players. Therefore, making sure they are geared up, traveling them on all road trips and setting expectations for them are musts.
6. Don’t treat players differently – No matter if it’s your #1 or #15 player on the roster, take your time to get to know ALL of your players. No matter where they are on the depth chart, if you make it a point to spend time with your players and communicate with them, they will have a bond with you. It is on the head coach to build trust and communication. “Invest the time, or suffer your own crime.”
7. Don’t bury their legs – At the college or professional level, it’s all about having legs for the playoff run. As head coaches, it is your responsibility to give your team some “light” days to recover for competitions. I try to treat my players like professionals, so it’s a give and take relationship. It’s a healthy relationship built on trust, in that the head coach gives the players a medium to light practice before game day and the players give the head coach maximum effort on gameday. As I always say, “if I am still having 2-3 hour practices in February, then I’m either a bad coach or the players just don’t get it.” Either way long practices at the end of the season will catch up with you.
8. Don’t discuss budgets or budget constraints around your student-athletes – Players to do not need to know certain things. Some things are better left unknown. I had a very embarrassing budget as a head coach. However, if I bought something for my program (which I did a TON!) with my own money or we went without, I never let my players know or gave them a guilt trip. You have to make sure all of your players believe they are at Kansas or Kentucky and they will “buy-in,” no matter where you are coaching.
9. Don’t want players wanting more – This is not the final episode of Seinfeld or when Jay-Z “retired” after The Black Album prematurely. Make sure your players are getting enough. Players need enough reps, shots, in-depth scouting reports, community service opportunities, etc. If they don’t get want they need/want in your program, they will get it somewhere else.
10. Don’t forget Herm – as Herm Edwards once said “Don’t press send.” Use social media as a promotional, informative, thoughtful tool. Avoid using social media to promote unnecessary controversy or to make a fool out of yourself or your program. Eventually, someone will tweet or Facebook a nasty message which will cost them their job. It’s only a matter of time.
Hopefully, this friendly public service reminder was thought provoking for coaches at all levels.
I have had the opportunity to coach many talented players and coach with many dedicated coaches.
However, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes the best things you learn is what NOT to do.
Follow Bert DeSalvo on twitter @CoachDeSalvo