Before hitting the court, all players in the volleyball program have to sign a social media contract prohibiting them from posting hurtful comments about the team, fellow players and opponents.
The contract is a replica of the contract the University of Michigan uses for its women’s volleyball team.
“At the old school I coached, people would write untrue things about their teammates to get them kicked off,” Days said. “I just don’t want to see that again. I wanted to put guidelines in place for the team to follow.”
Day is helping her athletes prepare for the future by teaching them to respect the permanency and prominence of social media. Volleyball player August Bishop recognizes the benefits.
“I actually like the idea behind the contract,” she said. “Our whole team supported it.”
Social media contracts such as these aren’t uncommon in high school sports due to the increasing prominence of social media in high school life.
Head varsity football coach Ken Koenig gave his team distinct rules to follow throughout the season. Positive or negative, every electronic comment toward the Dexter football program had to be posted only on the Dexter Football Touchdown Club Facebook page.
If a player violates this social media restriction, he is suspended for a game.
“If you’re going to say it, it should be something that can be read by everybody,” Koenig said.
He said he wants his team to make their decisions based on the acronym C.H.I.P.: Character, Honor, Integrity, and Pride.
“CHIP is the filter that our guys should run their ideas through,” he said.
But there are some sports teams that don’t feel social media poses a significant threat.
The women’s varsity basketball team doesn’t have a social media contract in effect. According to Assistant Coach Lauren Thompson, the coaching staff doesn’t think such a contract is necessary.
“We feel like our players respect our wishes on social media,” she said. “We think that they do a pretty good job of representing us in the right way. We have a good relationship with our players, and we trust them. They understand the expectations we have for them.”
However, even with its positive attitude, the basketball team isn’t immune to social networking scandals.
“We’ve had to not start players before,” Thompson said. “We don’t have any tolerance for any kind of negative social media stuff about our team or our opponents. Part of being a part of our program is to have high standards for ourselves, and they understand that we carry ourselves a certain way.”
Despite not having a concrete social media contract in place, basketball players still face consequences for any inappropriate social networking. Thompson encourages her girls to act respectably.
“We try to keep things as positive as we can,” she said. “Obviously we can’t control what our girls tweet and facebook about, but we want them to be as positive about us and our opponents as we can. If we see something that’s negative that they’re Tweeting or Facebooking, there are definite team consequences.”
Social media didn’t used to exist. Now its role in sports is rapidly increasing, with athletes constantly having to keep emotions under control in their social lives.
Dexter High School Athletic Director, Mike Bavineau, fears that students use social media without considering the repracautions of their posts. Bavineau believes putting guidelines in place is a smart way to get athletes in the habit of thinking before posting.
“My biggest priority is to educate kids on what they need to know and how social media will impact them eventually. As for contracts, I think the coach has to lay the expectations down for each of their individual teams and how they want their programs to run, so if they decide that they want their teams to have a contract, I support that,” Bavineau said.