Social Media Smarts: Tips for Teen Athletes

How they can create a positive online presence that works to their advantage


Published:

North Carolina State University wide receiver N’Keal Harry makes a great catch against Arizona State University in the Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 29, 2017.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Schultes/Shutterstock.com

Brooke Hanshumaker remembers exactly when she discovered the power of social media.

During the summer before her junior year at Apex High School, she attended a university camp for volleyball recruits. During a break, she was hanging out with a group of friends and noticed another athlete taking a video of herself complaining about how the camp was tiring and a lot of work.

The girl posted the video on her “Finsta” account, a private Instagram account intended for close friends. Somehow, it went public.

“I was in the background of the video, laughing,” Hanshumaker says. “I wasn’t in the conversation at all. I wasn’t talking about what she was talking about, but if you were watching the video, it did kind of look like I was laughing at it or I was participating.”

A few days later, the university discovered the video and had the camper remove it from her account.

Photo courtesy of Warlick Photography

Brooke Hanshumaker, a graduate of Apex High School, is a freshman on UNC-Wilmington’s indoor and beach volleyball team. 

“I thought it was a really interesting learning experience,” says Hanshumaker, now a college freshman who plays for UNC-Wilmington’s indoor and beach volleyball teams. “I wasn’t even doing anything bad — I wasn’t really involved.”

Such are the potential pitfalls of social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. They can complicate the social lives of any teen, but for high school athletes pursuing an athletic career in college, the stakes are higher. A 2015 study by Cornerstone Reputation, a social media reputation management company for students, found that 97% of college coaches and recruiters believe a negative online presence could harm a recruit’s prospects. Not only do coaches want to avoid problematic players, but universities want to protect their reputations.

 

Own Your Successes and Failures Online

Paul Pogge, a UNC-Chapel Hill associate athletic director, helps Tar Heel football players present themselves on social media. He believes it’s smart for athletes to take a long-term view before posting something they may regret later.

“There are incidents every year of people posting comments on social media that may not be offensive or in really bad taste, but maybe not their best representation of themselves, by their own calculation, when they look at it in the future,” Pogge says.

While stories of posts mired in bad judgment serve as cautionary tales, savvy athletes and advisers have begun emphasizing the positive impact of social media. Used properly, the various platforms can help secure a scholarship, raise an athlete’s profile and even help them get a leg up on a future career.

“What you can control is the message you put in front of your coaches and teammates,” says Laura Tierney, a former aSll-American field hockey player at Duke University and founder of The Social Institute in Durham, which helps students manage their social media accounts. “You don’t only show what others expect to see; you have the confidence to share things that truly represent who you are,” she says. “It sounds cliche, but it’s the confidence of being yourself and owning your successes, and being proud of them.”

Photo courtesy of Jeff Schultes/Shutterstock.com

Duke Blue Devils forward Oderah Chidom and UNC Tar Heels forward Hillary Summers jump for the ball at Carmichael Arena during the 2016 season. 

While winning is often easy to handle, Tierney believes college coaches look favorably on high school athletes who take a mature approach to social media posts after a loss.

“It’s owning your failures and being able to share a lowlight, even if you didn’t win the championship game,” she says. “Instead, maybe it’s giving kudos to the whole team for making it to the championship game. Using it positively is not only sharing the positive things that happen in a student athlete’s life, it’s also showing that you’re OK with adversity.”

Pogge says he believes most UNC-Chapel Hill athletes embrace the positive outcomes social media can provide. 

“I think more and more young men and women are starting to understand the extraordinary potential that social media can have in a positive way,” he says. “By showcasing their character, by positioning themselves as role models and providing glimpses into their daily life, that can serve as inspirational examples for other kids or other people.”

At most universities, members of the coaching staff and athletic department carefully monitor enrolled athletes and recruits for posts that reveal bad character, intolerance and inappropriate comments. After all, the posts reflect on both the athlete and the school. When Hanshumaker steps onto the larger stage of college athletics, she will continue using common sense to guide her decisions. 

“I honestly just think before I post,” she says. “My coaches follow me, so they’re going to see this. If it’s something offensive, then I just won’t post it. I just err on the safe side. I would hate to put something out there and someone sees it and then [I] get in trouble for it. I mean, what’s the point?”

Read more tips for guiding your athlete to make wise social media posting decisions in this month's Tech Talk column and at thesocialinstitute.com.

 

Kurt Dusterberg of Apex is a father of two teen athletes and covers the Carolina Hurricanes for NHL.com. He’s also the author of “Journeymen: 24 Bittersweet Tales of Short Major League Sports Careers.”


Social Media Tips for Athletes

While sound judgment goes a long way, here are some important social media posting tips you can share with your student athlete from Laura Tierney, owner of The Social Institute in Durham; Paul Pogge, a UNC-Chapel Hill associate athletic director; and Brooke Hanshumaker, a college freshman who plays for UNC-Wilmington’s indoor and beach volleyball teams. 

1. Choose the right followers and friends. “Surround yourself with people who encourage you to be the best you can be,” Tierney says. “The question I pose to all students, but especially student athletes is, ‘Who are you following in your feed that encourages you to be the best version of yourself, who raises the bar for you each day?’ Induct some of those people into your feed if you don’t have them already.”

2. Be cautious with your whereabouts. College athletes are exposed to the public and gain followers, including rival fans. Pogge says he strives to help UNC-Chapel Hill athletes understand the risks they expose themselves to when they voluntarily put information about themselves out there in the public domain. “We urge them to exercise caution in what they’re willing to share about where they are and what they’re doing,” he says, and to “think through how the post might be used to their detriment by people who don’t have their best interests in mind.”

3. Consider the potential reactions to your posts. “If you share something, people look at the comments too,” Hanshumaker says. “People may comment on your picture. It’s not necessarily you saying something (inappropriate), but if it’s on your picture, it reflects badly on you.”

 

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Website »

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Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in February!   This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds...

Cost: Free

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Chip, chip, hooray! The first Zambrero in the Southeast is opening on January 24 with zingy, zesty activities! Bodacious Burritos and Bowls: $5 burritos and bowls all day Delicious Drawing: A...

Cost: Free

Where:
1 Glenwood Ave
#105
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: (919) 863-2561
Website »

More information

Just in time to keep up with those home improvement resolutions for 2020, the Downtown Raleigh Home Show returns to downtown’s Raleigh Convention Center January 24-26, 2020  with a jam-packed...

Cost: Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12. Advance $9 tickets

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Marketplace Events
Telephone: 904-608-3823
Contact Name: Liz Morgan

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Triangle Restaurant Week (January 20-26, 2020) is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area restaurants....

Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
, NC


Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
Website »

More information

Take a hike after dark and enjoy the sights and sounds of a quiet night along the American Tobacco Trail. We will walk to the Beaver Creek bridge and back (about one mile total). Free for ages 4...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

Rumpelstiltskin-A Tale of Gold Book by Ellie FaggionMusic and Lyrics written by Brian Shrager and Ellie FaggionProduced by special arrangement with the author.Directed by Beth Wilson...

Cost: varies

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Spiritual Twist Productions
Telephone: 919-977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

More information

David Burney, lead singer for the acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute band Johnny Folsom 4, brings his one-man show to The ArtsCenter for three shows, January 24-26, 2020.  In “Hello, I’m...

Cost: $15 to $20

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
300-G East Main Street.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
Website »

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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Join the Museum and the Raleigh Astronomy Club to help you see the big picture — of the Universe! From comet crafts to solar observing, lectures to rocket launches, space enthusiasts of all ages...

Cost: Free

Where:
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in February!   This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds...

Cost: Free

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in July! This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds at...

Cost: 0 – $10

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

RALEIGH (Jan. 16, 2020) – The North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools will host its first school fair during National School Choice Week on Saturday, Jan. 25. The fair will take...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: NC Association of Public Charter Schools
Telephone: 336-669-9996
Contact Name: Rhonda Dillingham
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Family Wildlife Series: Tricky Tracks Saturday, January 25 10-11 a.m. Come dressed for the weather so you can roam the park learning the fine art of “tracking”.   Make a cast of an animal...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Road
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Telephone: 919-870-4330
Website »

More information

Join the statewide kickoff to Black History Month at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. Named a Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society since 2015, the 19th...

Cost: 0

Where:
North Carolina Museum of History
5 East Edenton Street
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Just in time to keep up with those home improvement resolutions for 2020, the Downtown Raleigh Home Show returns to downtown’s Raleigh Convention Center January 24-26, 2020  with a jam-packed...

Cost: Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12. Advance $9 tickets

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Marketplace Events
Telephone: 904-608-3823
Contact Name: Liz Morgan

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Spanish Alive is providing Family Spanish classes starting in January! Join us to learn Spanish as an entire family in an immersive, fun environment. Our teachers are trained Spanish educators and...

Cost: $75-$216

Where:
Spanish Alive
156 E. Chatham St
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Winter days find many animals curled up in their dens. They sleep warmly, awakening in spring ready to enjoy the renewed Earth. Discover how animals deal with cold weather and which ones hibernate...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for all family members,& childre

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Rumpelstiltskin-A Tale of Gold Book by Ellie FaggionMusic and Lyrics written by Brian Shrager and Ellie FaggionProduced by special arrangement with the author.Directed by Beth Wilson...

Cost: varies

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Spiritual Twist Productions
Telephone: 919-977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

More information

Come support your NC State Gymnastics team as they open the 2020 home season against the Towson Tigers on January 25th at 4 PM. Tickets start at just $3!

Cost: $3-$7

Where:
Reynolds Coliseum
2411 Dunn Ave
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »

More information

Triangle Restaurant Week (January 20-26, 2020) is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area restaurants....

Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
, NC


Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
Website »

More information

Join us in Arendelle for Frozen-inspired STEAM activities for the whole family! Included in the ticket cost is dinner and dessert for the whole family, make your own sock Olaf and Frozen bouncy...

Cost: $35 per family

Where:
Kidzu Children's Museum
201 S. Estes Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Kidzu Children's Museum
Telephone: 919-933-1455
Website »

More information

AML Wrestling presents our 5th Anniversary Celebration! WHEN: Saturday, January 25th, 2020WHERE: Winston-Salem Fairgrounds in theHome & Garden Building 408 27th Street NW/Gate #9 Winston-Salem, NC...

Cost: $5

Where:
Winston-Salem Fairgrounds
408 27th Street NW/Gate #9
Winston-Salem, NC  27105
View map »


Sponsor: AML Wrestling
Telephone: 336-831-0646
Contact Name: Tracy Myers
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

David Burney, lead singer for the acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute band Johnny Folsom 4, brings his one-man show to The ArtsCenter for three shows, January 24-26, 2020.  In “Hello, I’m...

Cost: $15 to $20

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
300-G East Main Street.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
Website »

More information

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Education Guide

The 2019-20 Education Guide offers 718 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.