Social Media do’s and don’ts for Athletes | part 3

What Should You Post?

1. Say thank you. This is always a good option. Teach student-athletes to take time to thank those who support them. Fans, teammates and family for example.

2. Support others. Student-athletes can provide a positive example for other students by sending positive messages about their peers in other sports or activities at school.

3. Share news and humor. Social media is meant to be fun. Join in conversations and share things you find interesting or entertaining.

4. Engage in discussion with those you admire. Petroff discussed how prior to social media, it was difficult to interact or even hear from famous people that student-athletes admire. But now, they can follow them on Twitter and learn what they’re talking about and even interact with them.

5. Post anything consistent with your personal brand. Again, how do you want to present yourself in public?

Finally, Petroff ended with a simple message we can all afford to remember sometimes: “Live your life, don’t tweet your life.”

Has your school hosted a social media seminar for your student-athletes? We’d love to hear what advice you think is important to give them. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Social Media do’s and don’ts for Athletes | Part 2

Four Things to Keep in Mind:

1. It’s a tool, not a toy. Social media isn’t just something for your own entertainment, Petroff says. If used effectively, social media can be an asset to help a student-athlete’s individual brand, their community, their team and the school they represent.

2. Nothing is truly private… ever. Petroff says there are two types of social media users: Those who realize they are functioning in public and those who don’t. While many kids think they can delete a tweet or delete their Facebook profile if need be, many don’t realize that content posted on the internet can last forever. Content can be captured in screenshots or saved by other users. And that message someone thinks only his or her friends will see? Student-athletes should keep in mind that tweets, Facebook statuses, or Instagram photos could end up being viewed by thousands of people.

3. If you retweet it (or share it), you own it. Yes, this even applies to people who put that cliche saying, “RTs do not equal endorsements,” on their Twitter profile. That phrase is basically worthless. As Petroff says, “Freedom of speech does not equal freedom from consequences.” This is something with which younger student-athletes struggle. They retweet a trash-talking tweet from a friend and all-of-a-sudden they can be caught in the middle of an ugly conversation over the internet.

Petroff shared the example of Ryan Spadola, now a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins. In 2011, Spadola was a top wide receiver at the FCS level of college football for Lehigh University. Before an NCAA quarterfinal game, he retweeted “an inappropriate and repugnant racial reference.

Even though the tweet wasn’t Spadola’s, he was still suspended for retweeting the message.

4. Personal branding: Every tweet reflects who you are. How are student-athletes choosing to represent themselves? Are they sending the right message about themselves to the public? Petroff reminded the Oregon high schoolers that coaches, college admissions officers and employers all use social media to learn more about candidates. What does your social media portfolio say about you?

When it comes to social media, there are plenty of examples of what not to do. But Petroff says it’s important to provide positive examples of how student-athletes should be using social media.

Social Media…friend or foe?

Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media For ABVM Players

If you want put yourself in the best position to be recruited to the best college it means you can’t use social media like your friends do, like it or not.

social media

Photo Credit: seyyahil via Compfight cc

As we’ve talked about in a previous social media post, college coaches are crossing athletes off their lists because of the content they’re posting on social media.

Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not against athletes using social media. At all. There are many benefits to using it and it’s a great way to stay in contact with friends and family and have some fun, but there are a few things athletes need to be aware of if they’re looking to impress recruiters.

Below I’ve listed 12 things I believe it’s important for athletes to keep in mind. Not all of them are compulsory, but they’re good for all athletes to know.

 

Do’s

1. Do use correct spelling and grammar

Not compulsory… but will make you look more mature than other players that recruiters may be looking at.

 

2. Do share your accomplishments

Some players I’ve talked to believe they may look arrogant by posting or tweeting about their accomplishments on social media. While it’s best not to go overboard on this, there’s nothing wrong with sharing the accomplishments you’ve worked hard to achieve. Remember not to disrespect the competition and to praise and thank others whenever you get a chance.

 

3. Do connect with coaches, skill trainers, and others that may help you

There are thousands of coaches and skill trainers on social media and they’re all out there looking to connect with others. Get in touch with them! Especially ones you find that live close to you. You never know what opportunities may arise.

 

4. Do remember that people can see the time of your tweet or post

If you’re sending out tweets at 2am and you have an early morning training the next day it’s going to explain why you’re struggling to give top effort the next day.

 

5. Do watch what you re-tweet

Don’t re-tweet anything you wouldn’t write yourself. Just because you didn’t write it originally doesn’t matter. By re-tweeting it you’re telling recruiters and your other followers that you share the same thoughts.

 

6. Do recognize the accomplishments of others

Recognize and give a shout out when other people you know achieve something great.

 

Don’ts

1. Don’t use an inappropriate Twitter handle

First and foremost, the Twitter handle or username you’re going to be using to promote yourself on social media must not make you look bad or immature.

 

2. Don’t get into arguments online

This is a must. As an athlete you’ll always be in the spotlight, and criticism, whether warranted or not, comes with being in the spotlight. There will be criticism directed your way and all players wanting to be great need to be the bigger person and not retaliate. The last thing you want to do is say something angrily online out of frustration.

 

3. Don’t post anything negative about your coach, team-mates, or the competition

There’s nothing that will cross you off a recruiters list quicker than bad mouthing your coach, teammates, or the competition. Doing so will show poor attitude and a lack of character.

 

4. Don’t use profanity or derogatory words

There’s no need for them and using them is a terrible habit to adopt. Using them makes you look very unprofessional and immature.

 

5. Don’t post about getting drunk or using illicit substances

Whether you drink alcohol or not, there’s no reason to be sharing it on FaceBook or Twitter. As for illicit substances, if you’re using them stop. They’ve wrecked far too many lives and they’re not worth it. Don’t succumb to peer pressure and use them.

 

6. Don’t share your password with anyone

You don’t want your friends giving you a bad name by posting inappropriate content trying to be funny.

 

Conclusion

To put it in a nut-shell, recruiters use social media to determine your character. They use your posts to find out who you really are. How you interact with others, what you like to do with your spare time, etc.

You need to present yourself the best way you can and following the tips above will go a long way to help you do that.

Players: If you wouldn’t want your parents or coach to read it, don’t post it.

Coaches: Consider running a social media seminar/meeting at the beginning of your  season. Let the players know the importance social media can play in their future.

I’d love to know… have you had any negative experiences with your players and social media in the past?

Social Media do’s and don’ts for Athletes | Part 1

Many schools are now going on the offensive. Social media seminars for student-athletes are becoming commonplace in high schools and colleges across the country. Last night, I attended such a meeting at Oregon High School near AB’s headquarters in Madison, Wis. Whether they serve as a refresher course or even as a guideline for those considering implementing such a program at their school for the first time, here are a few notes from the meeting.

The speaker was David Petroff, director of athletic communications at nearby Edgewood College. In his role with Edgewood, Petroff is charged with educating student-athletes on best practices for social media.

“I don’t want to scare them, but rather have them see the positives and the power of social media,” he says about his student-athletes. But Petroff noticed that by the time kids reached college, too many bad habits had already formed. Now he speaks to local high schools to try to give kids a head start.

Sports Photography

Shooting an action photo with sharp focus is really the ultimate goal in sports photography. Sure, there may be times when photographers try to show motion, and will intentionally let the action blur, but 98% of the time, you want to capture the emotion and incredible contortions an athlete goes through during the course of a game. Plus, you want to be able to tell that this is your son, daughter, spouse, or friend in the photo. Capturing the subject with crystal clarity is the way to get that done.

Focus is achieved in two ways: using a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action, or using your auto focus. This second option (auto focus) is what we will (ahem) focus on in this article.

Today’s cameras have amazing auto focus capabilities. We can set our camera to auto focus and let the camera do all the work. Some of the more expensive longer lenses even have ultra-sonic motors built in to help with the tracking of the moving subject. But, camera technology is only powerful if you know how to use it correctly. Auto focus has become something that most camera owners take for granted these days. However, there are a few camera settings that control how that auto focus works, and these are often overlooked. Here are three auto focus areas that every photographer needs to be aware of.

1. Auto Focus Modes
It seems as if you should be able to just attach a lens with auto focus capabilities, click the shutter, and the lens should snap into focus and take the photo. However, camera manufactures are always on the hunt for how to customize your settings. Sometimes it makes your life easier and sometimes it makes you have to work a bit harder to get the shot. In the realm of auto focusing, there are a few optional modes that are available to you. Let’s look at the two most important ones:

Single Shot Focusing (One Shot for Canon or AF-S for Nikon): This is the auto focus mode for subjects that are not moving. Push the shutter button halfway, let the camera find the subject and locks down the focus, then push the shutter the rest of the way to take the photo. This setting is perfect for still life, but not for sports.

Continuous Focusing (Canon calls it AI Servo and Nikon calls it AF-C): This is the mode you have to be on when shooting sports. In this mode, once you push the shutter button halfway, the auto focus will track the moving subject until you push the button all the way down. It takes some practice, but it is a necessity for all action shooters.

There is another mode called AI Focus, which is an attempt by camera manufacturers to make a hybrid of the two modes. If the subject is moving, it keeps on tracking, but if it stops, it will lock. This setting is interesting, but for sports photography, don’t mess with it. Stay in the continuous focus mode.

2. Focus Points
Another thing to be aware of on your camera is the focus points. Again, this is the camera maker getting fancy and allowing customization. Here is how it works: when you push your shutter button halfway to activate your auto focus, the focus point is the part of the photo that will snap into focus. It is basically like the cross hairs of a scope. If you set your focus point in the center, that is the spot that your camera will focus on. You can also move that around and make the hot spot at the bottom, top, or side. You can even increase the area of your focus point or make it smaller.

Many photographers prefer to keep the focus point in the center of the viewfinder. The camera and lens will put that spot in focus. To illustrate this point, think about this a common scenario: you are photographing soccer and there is an athlete with the ball and a defender trying to take it away. You have two people in your frame, one on the right and one on the left. Once you push your shutter halfway to focus, your auto focus springs to life and follows your command to put that center spot in focus. The problem is that center spot is now hitting a mom in the background under the bright blue umbrella. So when you view the photos later you see two out of focus athletes and a perfectly focused image of a fan in the background. Has that happened to you? Once that focus spot is chosen, you need to be aware that this is the spot the lens will focus on each time.

3. Back Button Focusing
Talk about a top secret sports photographer weapon! This is one of those customization tools that will dramatically improve your photography skills. While this is more on the advanced side, if you play with this and get good at it, you will never go back.

The auto focus functionality relies on a two-step process. Push your shutter button halfway, which engages the auto focus, and then snap the photo by pushing the button completely. The problem with that is the lag time and the instability of pushing the button halfway. For instance, let’s say a fantastic moment happens on the field very quickly. If you want to capture that moment you would push the trigger. Now your camera has to find the focus, then trip the shutter. In the sports world, that is an eternity. You need to catch it immediately.

There is a setting in your camera (do some research in your camera manual or online to personalize for your own camera) called Back Button Focus, which allows you to control your focus with your thumb on the back of your camera by pushing a designated button. Now you can follow the action through your camera and use your thumb to lock in the focus as the play progresses. When you see a moment you want to capture, simply push the shutter button and the shot is instantaneous. There is no lag time because you have already been tracking the focus, and your hands are steadier, which helps get a clearer shot. You are moving the auto focus command from the shutter button to a button on the back of your camera, giving you much more control.

To review, get your camera out of that One Shot mode and over to the Continuous Focus mode. Be aware of where your focus point is, and practice. Ready to step up to a new level? Try the Back Button Focus mode.

As always, have a blast!

The ABCDs of Being a Happy Sports Parent

As a sports parent, you have a choice in every situation. You can choose to yell at your young athlete, the coach or the official, or you can choose to stay calm and not take it all so seriously. You can choose to nag your young athlete to work hard, or you can choose to let them learn the consequences of their choices.

Recognizing that you have a choice and actually following through on that choice process are two different things. But once you understand that making a choice is a process and once you grasp what that process entails, you can take control of your reactions. I love the process laid out in the book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, where the author lays out a four step process: A,B,C and D. Let’s do that with youth sports parenting.

Awareness

Learning to make good choices in terms of behavior starts with an awareness that you actually have a choice. Furthermore, one must accept that maybe, just maybe, one’s behavior is less than desirable.

How many times have you said something and immediately knew that it was not the smartest thing to say? That’s awareness, and that’s the first step in the process of making good choices.

Breathing

Once you become aware that you are starting to overreact, then ask yourself this question: Do I need to step back, pause and gain perspective?

Obviously, this is not easy in the heat of a moment. The more you practice it, the more of a habit it will become. Sports parents are notorious for emotional outbursts, which would be avoided if they’d stop to breathe and pause before proceeding.

Curiosity

Once you step back and try to gain perspective, it’s time ask yourself this question: What’s really going on in this situation? Am I perhaps missing something? Asking yourself this question may require you to do some soul-searching.

For instance, you sit through a game where you feel your young athlete gets little playing time and it makes you very upset. You feel your blood pressure rising and are aware that you might explode at the coach after the game. You stop to breathe and pause before proceeding. You take a minute to ask yourself what’s really going on. Is your child frustrated, or is it just you? Is this a situation that your child should handle by talking to the coach him or herself? Does your child fully understand his or her role on the team? Do you?

Decision

At this point, you can decide what the best course of action is. Choose the action that will be best for your young athlete, not for your frustrations. Choose the action that will best help your young athlete to grow through the situation, not what eases your anger. Decide to take a big-picture view of your child’s youth sports experience, in hopes that he or she will truly learn and grow from it.

If you start practicing this choice process, there’s no doubt that you’ll have less regrets and more fun watching your young athlete play youth sports.

Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called jbmthinks.com. Her new book, 11 Habits for Happy and Positive Sports Parents, is on Amazon.

Top 3 Tips to Save Big When the Season Starts

Sorry to be Captain Obvious, but youth sports are expensive. You’ve got to pay for registration fees, equipment, drinks, snacks—and don’t forget there’s always someone who insists on having only organic snacks. And these costs double or triple if you’ve got multiple kids on multiple teams!

Worry not! There are plenty of ways to mitigate youth sports expenses. Here are three ways you can save big this season (and hopefully many more after that!).

1. Volunteer Your Time

One of the easiest ways to save on team fees is to volunteer your time. For example, some teams waive fees for parents who help out when and where they can.

With a career, kids and everything else life throws at us, this might sound tough. However, oftentimes teams only look for a few hours of volunteer help every season.

Don’t forget to check other places you can save as well. For instance, many leagues will offer price breaks for early bird registration.

2. Buy Gently Used Equipment (And Maintain It Well)

Buying used can be huge for young athletes who don’t mind previously loved equipment. You’ll be surprised at the condition much of the gear is in. Young athletes often outgrow their old equipment before they’re able to use it for more than a season or two. This often leaves used goods almost like new!

Of course, with things like helmets (especially for football), you might want something relatively new. While there are often great deals for used sporting equipment, make sure to hand inspect any safety equipment you buy. Also, make sure your young athlete tries it on first.

Also, take care of your old equipment and it will take care of you! Instead of buying new when a piece of equipment seems worn out, see if you can fix it up. Getting a little extra life out of a pair of cleats can make a world of difference.

3. Buy in Bulk

Soccer Ball ParentsIf you must buy new equipment (some teams require this), consider partnering with other parents and buying in bulk. You’ll be pleased at the deep discounts you can receive by purchasing twenty new helmets instead of just one.

This is also true for snacks and drinks. Take a trip out to your local bulk retailer and grab cases of low-cost snacks and beverages instead of going to the grocery store. Alternatively, some dry goods can be purchased in bulk online for pennies on the dollar.

Yes, youth sports can get expensive. But they don’t have to be! Try these simple ways to save.

5 Time-Saving Tips for Busy Sports Parents

Busyness is the unavoidable byproduct of the youth sports lifestyle. For sports parents, time is a premium commodity.

If you’re looking for more hours in the day, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. However, here are some tips that can save you time as you parent your athlete.

Don’t Sweat Messes

Parents SidelineThis may not seem like a time-saving tip, but it is indirectly. If you can adapt this mindset, then letting go of a certain amount of order will allow you more time to enjoy your family. Many weekends, the vacuuming did not get done because I was off at another tournament. Many nights, the laundry was not folded as soon as it got out of the dryer. We survived.

Fix Meals Ahead of Time

Many websites can help with this. There are even companies who deliver the ingredients to prepare simple meals. Another option is to cook ahead of time and stick some meals in the freezer, then bring them out at a moment’s notice. If you are a very particular cook, you may have to compromise your standards, substituting efficiency for gourmet quality.

Wash Uniforms Immediately

After each game, wash your young athlete’s gear and set it aside for the next gameThis could save hours of anxiety from last-minute searches and this phrase: “Mom, I can’t find my jersey!”

Supply the Car

Have stadium seats in the car, always. Keep a first-aid kit and a bag with extras, like socks, deodorant, hair bands, even a pair of sports shoes. Because no matter how many times you tell your young athlete to put their shoes in their bag, they will still forget them one day.

Keep a Family Calendar

As soon as you get the season schedule, put it in your personal planner, then post it on the fridge or a family calendar. Highlight each child’s events in a different color. This helps cut down on scheduling conflicts. At the beginning of each week, sit down with your spouse or family and look over the schedule. Figure out where you might need to ask for carpooling help to practices or where you might need to leave work early to be at a game.

The best way to save time is to think and plan ahead. You may assume that you don’t have time every day or week to do that, but I think that you’ll find the few minutes spent in planning will save you much, much more in the end.

Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called jbmthinks.com. Her new book, 11 Habits for Happy and Positive Sports Parents, is on Amazon.

Tips for Improving Your Club or League’s Communication

An organization without good communication is like a plane without wings. It just isn’t going to work.

No matter what size or sport your club or league is, communicating effectively is vital to success. Here’s how to make sure your organization is flying high.

Take Everything Online

Club and league head honchos sometimes use several tools to manage their organizations. Email for sharing schedules, paper for registration, digital spreadsheets for rosters—we’ve heard them all. And while these tools can certainly get the job done, they aren’t integrated. Which often means entering the same info in multiple places. Which takes valuable time out of your day. Which nobody likes.

Fortunately, you can consolidate. Club and league management software puts everything listed above (and more) in one place. Rosters, registration, schedules, communication tools and more are easily accessible on your phone or computer. Plus, club and league management software automates tasks that could otherwise take ages. Speaking of which…

Automate Your Scheduling

For many organizations, miscommunications arise when schedules aren’t clear. For example, let’s say you’ve got some league games coming up this weekend. If you construct your schedule manually, you could easily end up with scheduling conflicts, like having two games on the same field at the same time. And what’s worse, you might not even realize you’ve made those mistakes until the day of your games. Yikes!

When choosing league management software, find a solution that creates your schedule for you. Whether it’s league games or practices, look for a product that automatically catches those scheduling conflicts before they become problematic. And while you’re at it, make sure you can set blackout dates as well.

Try Before You Buy

Free trials are super helpful, especially when making an important purchase. Thing is, many companies that build club and league software don’t offer them. That might be a dealbreaker, because once you’ve paid, there’s no turning back (dun dun dun!).

Here at TeamSnap, we’re one of the only companies around that offers free trials of our club and league management software. We want you to be sure you like it before you buy it. And if you’d like to bypass the learning curve, we’d be happy to set up a demo and give you a guided walkthrough.

Ready to take your club or league’s communication to the next level? Start your free trial of TeamSnap for Clubs & Leagues today!

Kyle Massa is TeamSnap’s content manager. Outside of work, you can find him writing, reading and playing guitar for his cats.

Why Isn’t Enough Focus Given to Mental Toughness in Youth Sports?

Which is more important for a young athlete: The body, or the mind?

Baseball PlayerWhenever I ask this question to coaches and athletes, most tell me that the mental side of sports is just as important, if not more important, than the physical side. The funny thing is, when I ask those same coaches and athletes how much time they devote to mental preparation, they invariably say something to the effect of, “Not much at all.”

Why is that? Let’s start by considering what makes physical training effective, then let’s compare that to the use of mental training in sports today. Three key elements come to mind.

  1. Physical Training is Consistent – Exercise doesn’t work if you only do it every few weeks. Likewise, no one improves if they only practice once a month. Improvement can only be attained through consistency. Day in and day out, week in and week out, and month in and month out, athletes pour their time and effort into physical training.
  2. Physical Training is Structured – When young athletes participate in competitive events, they don’t just do whatever they feel like doing to improve. Rather, they follow a technical progression based on their level of development. Even the strongest five year-old probably can’t hit one over the fence. But once that same player grows older, his or her skills progress to a point where that’s at least possible.
  3. Physical Training is Comprehensive – Physical and technical training don’t just touch on a few areas. Rather, they are comprehensive, aimed at ensuring that every players develops to the best of their ability. For example, physical conditioning programs include strength, agility, stamina and flexibility. Technical progressions include stance, balance, upper-body position, footwork and much more.

Basketball TeamUsing these three criteria—a comprehensive, structured and consistent program—it’s pretty obvious that the mental side of sports isn’t getting the attention it is due. Based on my experience and feedback I have gotten from athletes, coaches and parents around the country, most exposure that most U.S. athletes have to sport psychology lacks these three criteria. And therein lies the problem.

Therefore, we should take a page out of physical training’s book. When we talk about mental toughness training, we should make sure it is consistent, structured and comprehensive. Only then will sports psychology, at long last, stand as equal partners with physical conditioning and technical training.

Dr. Jim Taylor is an internationally recognized authority on the psychology of performance in business, sport, and parenting. Dr. Taylor has been a consultant for the United States and Japanese Ski Teams, the United States Tennis Association, and USA Triathlon, and has worked with professional and world-class athletes in tennis, skiing, cycling, triathlon, track and field, swimming, football, golf, baseball, and many other sports. See more of his blogs at www.drjimtaylor.com.