Trials participants learn about the importance of choices

By Chris Hummer

Facebook and Twitter have stormed onto the scene during the last few years.

Social media affects the way we get news, display our personal lives and interact with celebrities and athletes.

It puts sports figures closer to their fans than ever before, and anything a player tweets or posts is on full display to everyone.

Exercising caution with social media was part of the focus during the Player Development Session on Friday for athletes taking part in the U.S. Under-19 National Team trials.

Former NFL linebacker Chris Draft and Tierra Barber, an assistant athletics director at Baylor, engaged with about 150 players and their parents about the importance of responsible social media and the correct way to use these tools.

Draft made it simple when it comes to what’s appropriate to post:

“If you have something on your Facebook page that your mama wouldn’t approve of, don’t have it on there,” he said.

Social media is a platform that allows anyone to send a message to the world. There are dozens of stories of players losing scholarships or getting kicked off of teams because of an insensitive Tweet or Facebook post.

Poor word choices can stay with players for the rest of their lives. And as it turns out, so do the tweets, because the Library of Congress catalogs every Twitter post.

But it’s not all bad. Social media can be used as a positive outlet, according to Draft and Barber. It’s a way to send out positive messages about your work ethic and interesting tidbits of your day-to-day life.

Social media can be a great tool –  as long as it’s used correctly, which is a message that sank into the players.

“A lot of us probably need to clean our act up a little bit,” said senior D.J. Dean, a defensive back from Newton, Texas. “It’s definitely going to make me take a second look at what I post on social media.”

IF YOU’RE NOT EARLY YOUR LATE  The session was scheduled to start at 2 p.m. sharp, and it didn’t end up starting until 2:07. Despite the minor delay, Draft began the session by apologizing for the wait.

In order to make it to the next level and improve as a person, Draft said, punctuality is paramount.

“In college and the NFL, if you’re not early your late,” Draft said.

GET YOUR DEGREE  Many high school and college athletes think their college experience is a fast track to the pros and often ignore their education.

According to Draft, the only way to get the full value of the college athletic experience is to finish out and get a degree.

“Playing college football is a job, and if you don’t stay and get your degree they just stole from you,” he said. “You don’t get anything.”

2 A.M. SAYS A LOT  There is an old adage that goes: “Nothing good happens after midnight.”

For prospective college athletes, this is especially true.

The decisions players make on their own without coaches or parental supervision separate one from another.

“Socially there won’t be anyone there to tell you what and what not to do (in college),” Barber said. “The biggest downfalls happen because a player couldn’t make the right decision at 2 a.m.”

A DOSE OF REALITY  Stressing the importance of earning a degree was a major topic at the seminar. That idea was never more evident than when the statistic for the length of an NFL career was displayed.

An average player’s career is only 6.8 years. However, the most telling statistic was that the majority of players are out of the game by age 25.

When many players leave, they don’t have a degree to fall back on and struggle to find a life after football. This is why Barber and Draft stressed earning a degree.

“Finish while you can, because it is a rare opportunity to get a free education,” Barber said.