Shouts From The Stands: Boosting Digital Footprint Can Give Recruits the Winning Edge

SwimSwam welcomes reader submissions about all topics aquatic, and if it’s well-written and well-thought, we might just post it under our “Shouts from the Stands” series. We don’t necessarily endorse the content of the Shouts from the Stands posts, and the opinions remain those of their authors. If you have thoughts to share, please send them [email protected]

The following opinion piece comes to us courtesy of Carolynn Crabtree, who is the founder of Cornerstone Reputation, which conducted the study in question:

In a competitive sport like swimming, high school students who are looking to be recruited into a college program can set themselves apart by building an impactful and easy to find online track record of not only their swimming accomplishments, but their non-athletic interests as well – and anything that provides a picture of overall good character, drive and ambition.  These were the findings of a recent survey conducted by Cornerstone Reputation, which polled almost 700 college athletic coaches to explore, when, how, and why they do online searches of potential recruits and what types of information has the greatest effect on them. Our advice below is drawn from the findings of our survey.

With 83% of college coaches saying they (or someone on their coaching staff) conducted online research of at least one of their athletic recruits during the 2013-2014 recruiting season, social media and online content can be an excellent way to get noticed.  In fact, 79% of coaches believe that a strong and positive online presence can give one recruit an advantage over another recruit and 97% of coaches believe that negative content could harm a recruit’s prospects in some way.

Our advice stands contrary to what high school seniors may have been told, but it’s important that they don’t hide themselves online during the college admissions process.  Make yourselves easy to find online so future gatekeepers such as college coaches and admissions officers can get a sense of how great you are in your everyday life rather than just on paper, during an interview, or via your stats. It’s important for your online self to be authentic to who you really are, especially during the admissions process when admissions officers and coaches might turn to online searches to clarify awards mentioned in your applications or to research other personal accomplishments. These tips will help you stand out from the crowd:

  • The most popular social media platforms on which student-athletes are searched are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 88% of coaches said they used Facebook, 82% said they used Twitter, and 54% said they used Instagram to perform research. Make sure you are on each of these sites and actively posting your accomplishments on them
  • Change all of your social media settings so that every post you make appears only to you. After you’ve posted, think about if you want to make that post available to a greater audience then chose ‘friends’ or ‘public’
  • Limit your social media settings so that you have to approve any comments made by peers before they will appear publicly on your profiles
  • Start and cultivate a LinkedIn page where you can routinely add new personal records, experiences, and skills you develop
  • Ensure your public-facing social media and LinkedIn profile photographs look like you. You want to make it easy for admissions officers and coaches to identify you online so they can start appreciating the important stuff: all of your achievements, accomplishments, and your character that a vast majority of coaches stated they felt could be perceived via your online presence and actions

When asked about their motivation for researching recruits, the most common answer, shared by 86% of coaches, was to look up highlight videos, statistics, and athletic accomplishments.  Yet, 70% of coaches reported researching recruits to find more about their personalities.  So how can you use this knowledge to your advantage?

  • Build a personal website where you can showcase your swimming accomplishments and developments and link it to every social media site you have a presence on
  • Start a blog where you can talk about what you care about and what interests you in one place so coaches don’t have to look far to find out what drives you and what has shaped your personality. Link your blog to all of the sites where you have a presence.

So get out there, set some records and make sure someone is recording them (literally! with a camera) so that you can dry off, head home, and post them online until all of your social media sites are doing the hard work of getting you noticed.   It just might provide that winning edge.


About the Author

Carolynn Crabtree is co-founder of Cornerstone Reputation, an educational company committed to helping students manage their digital footprints.  She hails from a diverse career background beginning with marketing at Christie’s Auction House and six years at the Central Intelligence Agency. She brings a strong sense of the power of perception and how individuals such as employers use online information to form conclusions about individuals. She is a graduate of Princeton University.

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