In the past year, social media has become an increasing part of our everyday lives, especially in school communities. We use it daily to communicate with student-athletes, parents, students and fans. Lately, though, we’ve seen a massive shift. While in the past, social media was used mostly to inform people about travel plans, game schedules or delays, we now use it to produce workouts, provide resources and give athletes a platform to express themselves. This kind of engagement can feel unfamiliar. But the world has changed, and coaches must be willing to change along with it. In fact, when used as a tool for learning and connection, social media can elevate and even help you develop your program, even if you’re limited by distance. Focus on these key items as you increase your social presence.
- Engage in social activities. Create social challenges to engage your student-athletes. Work with other coaches to create fun challenges like “Most Steps in a Month” and have your athletes compete against their teams. I would have a small group of students be on my social activities team. Get their input and feedback, learn from them on what is important. Growth goes 2 ways.
- Engage in live workouts. Create sports-specific workouts and host an Instagram Live. Hold your athletes accountable by asking them to attend. Then, check the participation list to see if they joined. This not only offers a great workout at a set time, but it also gives them structure while allowing them to see you participating in the workout as well. Make is interactive, have students submit questions.
- Engage in sharing professional athletes’ and coaches’ workouts, posts and articles. Provide kids with resources to help them stay motivated—even when they’re not able to hit the gym—like inspirational quotes, “tips of the week” and articles. Post professional athletes working out themselves; your student-athletes may be more inclined to participate if the workout comes from someone they look up to or know has excelled in their sport. For even greater engagement, showcase athletes that are generationally relevant. You can post- “Looking for a rebounder and player for 1 hour, 3 days a week.”
- Provide professional resources to increase awareness of mental health. The middle school, high school and college years can all be tough on student-athletes. On top of all the normal changes they undergo during this transitional time, they’re also facing the challenges that come with COVID. These include a decrease in social interactions, changes to school-life overall and disrupted sports seasons, with game schedules, practices and training all being affected. It’s no wonder kids feel overwhelmed. It’s our job to educate our students and provide the resources necessary to help them not just survive but thrive during these difficult times. Make it fun and enjoyable. If you are helping others it takes the focus off your problems.
- Connect with your student-athletes on social platforms. Highlight athletes, provide spotlights and engage in anything sports-related they might share. Celebrate them with “Player of the Week” and “Workout Athlete of the Week” Awards that let them know you’re their biggest supporter, you believe in them and that you’re here for them, no matter what. If you can do this, your student-athlete will think you are cool empathizing with them and it will make you different in their eyes. Trust Bonding.
- Check-In. Always make yourself available. Reach out and make sure your athletes know you care about them as people, not just players. Whether in-person or from a distance, checking in can help your players feel cared for and understood. Checking in can also help hold them accountable—to exercising, completing their workouts or simply staying on track for the season. Ask questions – how’s mom/dad, what are you currently watching on Hulu or Netflix?
If the countless challenges and changes we’ve faced in 2020 have taught us anything, it’s that we all need to be ready and willing to adapt. There’s no doubt social media and its role in our lives will continue to evolve. As coaches, it’s up to us to use it as a tool to help our players achieve their own personal growth in the year ahead. Make social media non-political. Keep your views to yourself.
About Nancy Lieberman and Nancy Lieberman Charities
Nancy “Lady Magic” Lieberman is a true pioneer in women’s sports. Nancy is a Basketball Hall of Famer, two-time Olympian, former Asst. Coach with the Sacramento Kings and the 1st Female Head Coach in a Men’s Professional League NBA G League TX Legends (Dallas Mavericks affiliate) BIG3 HC Team Power, 2018 Champions and Coach of the Year. In 2009 Nancy Lieberman Charities was established with the mission to provide a healthy physical, emotional and mental environment for young girls and boys to build their self-esteem and confidence so they will be able to make the right choices in the future. Nancy Lieberman is dedicated to expanding and ensuring that educational and mentorship opportunities exist for youth through Educational College Scholarships, Financial Literacy, Dream Court programs with STEM and Civic Engagement, backpack and laptop programs. Find out more online at www.nancyliebermancharities.org.