Student-athletes tread cautiously on social media

BEN SIECK | ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR

Social media can connect people and spread information from across the globe. But it can also come with dangers and pitfalls.

Butler’s athletic teams—from the coaches to the student-athletes—know those drawbacks all too well.

For the typical Butler student, posting something regrettable through Facebook, Twitter or any other social media outlet could mean a call from a parent or dismissal from a job or internship.

Butler student-athletes face those same dangers, but also need to worry about painting Butler in a negative light and providing extra motivation for opposing teams.

Butler assistant football coach  Kenan Smith, who instructs the team on proper social media use, said the school’s athletics department provides a general guideline for social media posting, but the football team has additional concerns.

“In simple terms, [the policy is] don’t do anything to embarrass Butler, operate in the Butler Way at all times, and you’re speaking on behalf of Butler when you post these things,” Smith said. “The football program’s twist on the policy is you never want to provide anything that we call bulletin-board material.”

The Butler athletic program has about a page long sheet of social media guidelines within the department, according to Smith.

The football team’s coaching staff does its best to keep up on what its players post.

“We’re constantly checking our guys to make sure that they’re not doing anything to embarrass the program, embarrass the athletic[s] department, and more importantly embarrass themselves,” Smith said.

Smith and the rest of the football coaching staff are not only concerned about the image of the program and its players. They also don’t want their upcoming opponents getting fired up over a tweet or message one of their players sent out.

“Our guys have been good about it this year, but we’ve gone out and seen some things that opponents have posted and shown them to our guys as what isn’t a good idea to have up,” Smith said. “They use it as motivation for themselves, so what we tell them is, ‘Don’t give the other team any more motivation than they already need.’”

During the team’s fall camp, Smith held a social media training session to teach players that companies, parents and anyone else on the Internet can find a player’s social media posts, tweets and messages if they look hard enough.

Senior quarterback Matt Lancaster said he understands that what he and his teammates post online reflects upon the university.

“We have to be aware of what we put on social media, and be aware that we’re not just representing ourselves, but also Butler, and the university and our team and our class,” Lancaster said.

Smith said the team hasn’t had any recent incidents with social media, but there is a disciplinary system in place should one occur.

After the first offense, players will be subject to 6 a.m. wake-up calls where they work with one of the coaches. If it happens again, the player’s entire position group wakes up with the offender. Anything beyond that is treated on a case-by-case basis and falls under the umbrella of a violation of team rules.

“They made it a team policy that if we have something posted on there that we shouldn’t have on there, we could face a possible suspension,” Lancaster said. “(Coach Smith) drilled that into our heads pretty good.”

The Butler baseball team doesn’t keep direct tabs on social media like the football team, but head coach Steve Farley said that he tells players to watch what they say.

“We basically have a simple discussion somewhere in the fall when we are talking about team rules and behavior,” Farley said. “Usually it is one of my topics of discussion on the Twitter and Facebook stuff. It’s not so much what you can and can’t do, but it’s more of doing things the right way.”

Farley said that he isn’t on any social media himself, but he is well aware of the ramifications a tactless post can have.

“[Social media] is getting bigger and bigger every day, so it’s definitely out there,” Farley said. “There’s something I can read about in the paper, I’m sure, everyday where someone’s abusing it or getting in trouble for it. But so far at Butler, we seem to know what we are doing.”

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