Standard-Examiner, Ogden, Utah, Jim Burton column [Standard-Examiner, Ogden, Utah :: ]
(Standard-Examiner (Ogden, UT) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 22--The Internet isn't going away anytime soon, which certainly shouldn't come as a shock to those of us who use it nonstop, day after day.
We might as well get used to the fact is has changed our lives and will continue to do so.
It connects us. It disconnects us.
It affects us.
Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops emphasized that very point last week when he spoke to the players attending the annual All Poly Camp. As he paced in front of the stage at Clearfield High School's auditorium, microphone in hand, the highly energetic, highly successful coach tried to give something useful to the young athletes sitting in front of him.
He mentioned hard work and dedication.
He mentioned the importance of being dependable.
He mentioned going to school and getting good grades.
He mentioned the widespread use of social media and how one bad choice can send ripples through a person's life.
I don't know if his warning hit its intended mark or not; I hope it did.
What I do know, however, is that I heard it and it caught my attention, mainly because when I was in high school the only social networking I knew about took place in the cafeteria during lunch period (I didn't have many followers and I was always getting unfriended).
"It's not going away," Stoops said of social media. "(Young people) need to be aware at a young age that people are aware of what they're putting out there and it can come back to haunt you."
Stoops explained to the players that he keeps an eye on the Twitter feeds and the Facebook pages of OU's current football players and also the ones he is recruiting. He told them he isn't alone either. In the high stakes world of recruiting, coaches use social media to communicate with players and they also use it to evaluate their character.
When asked if he keeps tabs on his recruits' social media pages, USC head coach Steve Sarkisian didn't even wait for the end of the question.
"Without a doubt, without a doubt," he interrupted. "Every guy that we're recruiting, I follow because it's probably the best indicator of their character. But sometimes kids don't really understand the impact that it has, so you have to educate them as well. But it's a great way to get connected to them."
Sarkisian said he constantly reminds young people they are judged by what they put on their social media pages. It may not be fair, but it's a fact.
"When they commit to us, they're starting to represent us," he said. "What they're putting out there, sometimes they think just reciting a lyric from a song, that's OK. Well, those lyrics are not OK. Sometime they think, 'Oh, I'm just retweeting somebody else's tweet. Well, that still not OK. That's still on you."
Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen admitted he doesn't have much need for social media accounts. He doesn't have Facebook and isn't on Twitter. But he has his assistant coaches monitor the social media feeds of recruits.
And he said that whenever he gets a chance to speak with young people, he, like Stoops, speaks candidly about being smart about what they put on the Internet.
"My quote to them is quite simple -- and I tell our team the same thing -- 'If you're not willing to push send and have that go to mom or dad or grandpa, grandma or a mentor, then don't push send because it's out there forever,'" he explained. "We talk about it extensively. We look at it."
Being smart about putting stuff on the Internet seems like such a simple thing, but it's obviously not. It's good advice for everyone, not just young high school athletes hoping to earn college scholarships.
Be smart. That's a warning we all should heed. After all, we all do dumb things from time to time.
Don't believe me? Have you seen the Internet lately?
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner's sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo
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