The vast development of social media over the past decade has changed the way people interact and communicate with others.
It’s been true for just about everyone, but especially so for young people, many who’ve now grown up exclusively in the era of smartphones and instant contact.
With that in mind, the NJSIAA helped promote a workshop on Oct. 24 at Montclair State University. The event was titled “The Post Game: How Social Media Helps or Hurts Young Athletes.”
Held in conjunction with Montclair State’s School of Communication and Media as well as Investors Bank, the program was open to all student athletes, parents, coaches and athletic directors and explored how athletes, no matter what their age, use social media to beneficial or detrimental effect.
The panel leading the discussion consisted of the following individuals:
Rick Wolff - Nationally recognized expert in sports parenting, author, coach, and host of WFAN's Sunday morning program, "The Sports Edge.”
Roman Oben - Former 12-year NFL offensive lineman and currently NFL's Director of Youth and High School Football, and parent of a high school athlete.
Courtney Cunningham - Associate Head Coach of the Montclair State women's basketball team and Director of Academic Advising in the College of Humanities and Social Science at MSU.
Rich Porfido - Athletic Director at Livingston High School.
Doug Abrams - Professor at University of Missouri and nationally renowned expert on youth sports, who appeared from his office in Missouri via Skype.
In his opening remarks, Wolff made clear that social media serves a useful purpose in many ways. But he pointed out the purpose of the discussion would be addressing the responsibilities that go with using various forms of expression on platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and more, as well as text messaging and even email.
Student athletes were reminded of one local athlete from several years back who was expelled from school and lost scholarship offers when controversial posts came to light. Among other things, they were also told how colleges will look at social media profiles when recruiting an athlete. More directly, they were reminded through the discussion how posts can also adversely affect friends, teammates and others who may at the receiving end, and that when you post, you are often representing things beyond yourself, such as your team or your school.
In the end, the overwhelming theme of the lively dialogue between the panel and audience was that responsibility goes hand-in-hand with the ever-developing technology.
Colby Sellitto was one of a group of students from Passaic Valley who attended the event.
“This is a pretty severe issue,” he said. “A lot of kids are starting to realize now that the choices they make can affect them. It’s very important to teach this. Almost every kid nowadays has a phone and they are pretty much glued to it, and everyone in their surroundings has one, too. A night like this can definitely be a help.”
That was the intent of Dave Kaplan from Montclair State, who helped organize the program.
“It’s an important issue in high school athletics, and Rick hears about it all the time on his show,” Kaplan said. “So we decided to have a public forum. I was pleased with the mix of people here. It was a really good conversation on something that affects our everyday life.”