How Does Social Media Affect College Recruiting?

by Elizabeth Wickham

When I was growing up, we didn’t have social media, let alone the internet. I cherished the down time and privacy after a full school day. Do you remember our lives before hourly updates of what someone ate, vacations and political views bombarded at us? Of course, there are many great things about social media, like reconnecting with friends you haven’t heard from since high school or keeping up with news. Like it or not, social media is a big part of our children’s lives and we’ve all heard that what they post or tweet may affect college recruiting or future employment.

It’s a good idea to talk about social media with your kids earlier rather than later. More than once I’ve seen kids face problems because of posts—by upset parents, teachers and coaches.

Here are thoughts from three college coaches about recruiting and social media:

Jeanne Fleck, Head Coach, Fresno State University said, “I use social media to show how our team is doing and I can see how our recruits are doing as well. We find out commitment decisions quicker than before. I think social media can be positive and negative. I don’t look to see what recruits are posting, but my swimmers look at it. If our kids see something that doesn’t mesh, they’ll let me know. If someone’s posting pictures of going to parties half nude, our athletes will say we don’t want them. When you’re in college, it gets really strict. If there’s a picture of you drinking, you can get called on the code of conduct right then and there.”

One more important piece of advice: “Put the phone down!” According to Fleck, “One of the biggest things you need to tell student athletes is to put their phones away. I don’t let my athletes use their phones at dinner when we’re on trips. If we have a recruit who’s on their phone the whole time during dinner, we notice. It’s very hard to recruit a kid who isn’t talking with us.”

“Social media is playing a bigger and bigger role in the recruiting process,” said Gregg Parini, Head Swimming Coach, Denison University. “Not only are programs increasingly obligated to use social media outlets to sell their merits, but students are also using it more and more to sell themselves to programs. This hasn’t only increased the volume of contact between programs and students, it’s also increased the speed in which things are communicated and shared. That said, both sides (the program and the student) have to be vigilant about the content of what they’re posting. While a positive item carries a certain amount of gravitas, an errant word or image can devastate a program’s reputation or a student’s character.”

According to Seth Huston, Head Coach of Rice University, “I really think it is a fantastic tool. So many young people will follow teams and coaches. It gives programs a chance to communicate frequently with the public. We also will use social media as an evaluation tool with our prospects. Young people post a lot of events and experiences going on in their life and quite honestly, that tells a story about who they are and what they value.”

***Originally posted October of 2016. 

What do you tell your swimmers about social media and college recruiting?

Read more college recruiting tips from coaches in the Fall College Preview Issue of SwimSwam Magazine.

Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter Elizabeth Wickhameditor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.



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Rick Paine
5 years ago

Great information. We are currently surveying every college coach in the U.S. and Canada to determine if and how they use social media to track their recruits. So far we have heard back from about 25% of the coaches. We will have the results soon and will be posting them on SwimSwam.

5 years ago

It’s all about flexing and finnesing though

Jerimiah Knots
5 years ago

If a swimmer is having a beer its not a big deal at all. They are just having fun! I dont understand why a team would want a boring person rather that someone who wants to have fun in college?! I mean you only go to college once. And also other sports teams love if the recruits know how to have fun and a good time!

Aggie Swim Fan
Reply to  Jerimiah Knots
5 years ago

Shocked that the post above has a thumbs up!

College Swim Mom
Reply to  Jerimiah Knots
5 years ago

It’s not about having one beer, it’s about an underage person having a beer and choosing to post a picture of it on their social media account. What you choose to post creates your image, and it’s more about a person choosing to create an image of being a drinker that could make a coach think twice about a recruit. There are lots of ways to show you are a fun person, and if that’s the image you want to put out there, the smart recruit will choose pictures that do not show them doing anything illegal.

Reply to  College Swim Mom
5 years ago

Must agree with Mom on this one. If a college age SA is underage and posts a picture breaking the law it is uncalled for. If a college student is of legal age, they should remember they are a window to something much larger than “me”.

Rick Paine
Reply to  Jerimiah Knots
5 years ago

Would you have a beer during a job interview?

Reply to  Rick Paine
5 years ago

I’m sorry, but that comment has no correlation to the initial statement made by Jerimiah. Of course, swimmers aren’t going to show up to a meet or practice with a beer. I do not condone the substance use for under-age students, but you can’t make that comparison

6 years ago

Go lords