Social Media

How to Handle Social Media Ridicule as a Student-Athlete

athletes learn how to handle social media ridicule

(Flickr – Circuito fora do Eixo)

The “punt attempt heard around the world” happened in Ann Arbor this past Saturday. In case you missed it, Michigan State University beat interstate (and inter-conference) rival the University of Michigan in the final seconds of an incredible game.

As you can see in the footage below, what seems to be a low-snap led the Michigan punter to boggle the football, where MSU then swooped in and scored to win the game with no time left on the clock.

The play immediately sobered Michigan fans, and stunned MSU fans into a celebration like few we’ve seen this season.

And as you can imagine, comments and critiques of the game haven’t stopped since.

However, there’s been a growing trend in how these comments and critiques are shared, particularly on Twitter.

It’s the place most fans – and foes – have taken to share their views on any given play or any given game from any given game in sports. There are no real rules, only that you can use 140 characters to speak directly to anyone with a screen name (aka: a handle).

The trouble is, it can turn pretty nasty.

It’s becoming more and more common for naysayers to take to Twitter to ridicule student-athletes for their performances, especially when it comes to big games like this past weekend’s MSU vs. U of M match-up. No matter how strong a bond someone has with an institution — any institution — this is not ok. Let me repeat that: This is not okay. And for Michigan, the things people say on social media are getting bad.

Unfortunately, one lesson the Internet teaches us is that we can’t control what other people say or do — no matter how strongly we disapprove of it.

But we can teach student-athletes how to handle social media ridicule.

While we can encourage student-athletes to ignore the comments, the reality is that it still doesn’t take the sting away.

Growing up in a household of three sisters, all born just a few years apart, I often heard that sing-song phrase: “Sticks and stones may break my bones…”

But while that’s a reasonable theory on many fronts, social media has shown us that names really do hurt. To a much higher extent, we’re dealing with name calling and other forms of bullying – and it doesn’t stop at student-athletes.

While ultimately choosing to ignore these cowards hiding behind their computer screens really is the most promising option, words can cut deep. Words can cause scars, words can be scary, words can hurt. Especially when you find yourself trying your hardest day-in and day-out for your school, its fans, and the people you love. When you find yourself giving your all at the incredibly intense level that is collegiate athletics.

So let’s first recognize that while it would be nice to not pay the naysayers any mind, it’s not easy to do. And sometimes, even when we know it’s silly to let them, their remarks can have a real effect on us, our self-esteem, and the way we carry on.

Never respond to negativity from anyone, especially from strangers, over social media.

I know it’s hard to ignore bullying or ridiculing comments online.

But the most important thing to remember if you do find yourself receiving nasty tweets, comments, or messages? Never engage.

Never, ever engage with the losers – because yes, they are total and complete losers – trying to bring down athletes who are doing remarkable things with their life and their talent. Which is true of each and every one of you reading this, pursuing your dream of playing college athletics.

Seriously: Suiting up every day for your school, and preparing for your future through your hard work and determination on the field and in the classroom takes some serious guts.

You are brave to put yourself out there. Never forget that.

And the losers sitting on their cell phones or computers commenting on a 9th inning strike out or botched snap or punt? They have never been, and never will be, worth your time or breath. Ever. Doesn’t that alone feel great?

When in doubt, delete your account.

This isn’t running away.

While these empowering reminders may feel really great – and may help you hold your head high – if there is ever a time a social media storm becomes too much, or holding back becomes too hard to handle, there is something quick and simple to do that will immediately help you tighten the reigns on the situation: delete your account.

While this may be easier said than done – at least for the time being, or the season, or your high school or college career – deleting your twitter account may not only end up feeling very liberating, it will only help in keeping distractions minimal as you work on and off and field. And it will help ease any temptation when it comes to engaging with anyone not worthy of your energy.

Best yet, deleting your account will only aid in keeping yourself out of trouble.

The bottom line is that no student-athlete should have to handle social media ridicule. You’re too good for it. Surround yourself with your family, teammates and friends – people who are proud of you and the way you play – and continue being the all-star that you are.

Our scouts and digital platform can help you handle yourself as a student-athlete on social media, as well. Think of it like your athletic resume for college coaches. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile.

About the author
Laura Chmiel

Laura Chmiel is a marketing coordinator and a lead writer for NCSA Athletic Recruiting. As someone with a passion for athletics and education, she graduated from Indiana university with a B.S. in Elementary Education. After school, she gained first-hand experience helping student-athletes and their families get to college.