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For Better or Worse One Click or Push of a Button Can Change Everything

With the click of a mouse, the push of a few buttons, or the press of a thumb against a screen a person’s entire world can change for the better or worse in this new world in which we live.

Social Media dominates the scene, and in this new landscape players, coaches, and parents navigate their way through the world with caution and warnings as the smallest post can damage somebody for years to come.

The balance between mixing and interacting on Social Media, and keeping players protected from its harmful side is a delicate balancing act coaches at all levels have to be aware of now.

“It’s definitely something we talk about all the time,” Montoursville head football coach JC Keefer said. “We talk about the way they need to carry themselves in school and in the community. On Social Media, it’s so easy to do what your friends are doing who really have nothing to lose and comment on something you may regret down the road. It is difficult.”

It’s not all bad on Social Media. Coaches like Loyalsock’s Justin Van Fleet have used it to their advantage. He has helped set up a media day for area football teams along with countless other functions for District 4. He has also used it to keep current and former players aware of college visits, practice times, and achievements by former teammates.

Van Fleet keeps area fans updated on Twitter throughout the year, but seems to take a little break once football starts. The goal is not to overload the players, while still keeping everybody aware of what the program is doing throughout the year.
It can give outsiders a very good view, and understanding of teams and players on a level never thought of before. At the professional level, it’s become a platform for players and coaches and even to a lesser extent it has helped grow the local sports scene by bringing people closer to the teams and coaches they follow.

Preseason speeches to the team now must include something about the dangers and advantages of being on Social Media.

Williamsport’s J. Scott McNeill, who coaches the girls’ soccer program, tends to wait until the player is no longer on the team to become active on Social Media with them. It’s a problem current coaches, unlike coaches of the past, have to deal with constantly.

Social Media is a powerful tool that can be used to help teams, but it can also quickly tear down a group built to compete at the highest levels of high school sports.

“I usually won’t become Facebook friends with them until after they graduate,” McNeill said. “Kids are braggers and anything like that the principals will get a hold of and have them brought in.”

During McNeill’s first season with the team, there was an incident with a threat being posted on the internet. The situation was immediately taken care of as both parties involved were contacted.

Those problems, which might have at one time been handled internally by the team, now become public, adding an entirely different dynamic for the current coaches.

“I talk to them on the first day of the season,” McNeill said. “I tell them whatever you put on there is on there for good. I tell them you don’t put anything out there about a teammate.”

For teams like Williamsport and coach McNeill, the season has been smooth as the current group of players get along well.
“This group has been very good, and there hasn’t been any drama,” McNeill said. “The captains said by the second week of practice everybody likes everybody.”

For first-year coaches, the give and take relationship with Social Media can be a difficult one.

“We have a remind app that we use to contact and send out announcements to parents and kids,” Warrior Run girls soccer coach Rob Ryder said. “We have a policy on Social Media. They are definitely more adept at using those things than I am. We go by some principals, and they actually are writing their own core values, and one of them is doing the right thing.”

It isn’t always easy to stay grounded on Social Media. It’s easy to become caught in a game of one-upping somebody or getting to post that small bite before the next person does.

Coaches working and building teams in this era are forced to become familiar with Social Media. Sometimes it can help teams. Sometimes it can hurt teams. It takes a smart coach to balance everything along with getting his or her team ready for the season. Luckily the area is filled with plenty of people who know just how to keep it all balanced.

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