On Facebook - the “Coach Profile”

I recently had the opportunity to speak at the amazing Ontario Coaches Conference 2011 in London, Ontario.  I spoke about communication in the coach-athlete relationship and highlighted the areas of law that could affect these interactions.  We also discussed one of the most troubling questions among prudent coaches – can/should athletes and coaches be friends on Facebook?

One of the attendees at my presentation explained that she has two Facebook profiles – one for friends and family and the other for her athletes.  Essentially, she has a “coach profile”.

Further, one of my articles from our website was cited on the website gymnasticscoaching.com.  The editor of the website agreed with my position that coaches should have a social media strategy for interacting with their athletes.  The editor suggested that coaches can actively use Facebook – but in order to avoid Facebook problems the coach should create a persona specific to the coach’s role as coach.  For example – “Coach Rick”.

I like that coaches are considering solutions.  However, it is certainly questionable whether ‘Facebook problems’ would be mitigated by the coach creating an alternate account.  Let’s look at some benefits and drawbacks of creating a ‘coach profile’.

Benefits:

  • The coach does not reveal any of his or her own personal information
  • The coach still has access to viewing the athletes’ profiles and learning more about the athletes in this medium
  • The coach’s profile could double as a Facebook ‘group’ that could be used as a site for team information, pictures, and resources.
  • The coach’s profile would be more professional – encouraging positive and appropriate discourse.
  • The coach could use his or her status to post team updates that would appear in the players’ news feeds
  • If the coach appears online then the athletes could instant message the coach and know that the coach is prepared to talk about the athlete or the team.

Drawbacks:

  • If the coach acts as a role model or mentor to players, having the players not be exposed to the coach’s positive personal life in this medium could be a missed opportunity
  • The athletes may be uncomfortable that the coach has access to their personal lives yet they do not have access to the coach’s personal life
  • The athletes may not understand why the coach wants to keep some personal material private from them which may create an atmosphere of mistrust
  • Interacting with the coach profile could be seen as lame or unpopular
  • Athletes may not feel they can ‘be themselves’ when interacting with the coach profile – so they choose not to interact with the coach in this medium
  • The coach may neglect the coach profile if a) the athletes do not begin to immediately interact with it, or b) the time commitment to upkeep two Facebook profiles (coach profile and personal profile) becomes too great
  • Athletes may feel pressure to add the coach profile as a friend – thereby opening up their personal information to the coach

Is the “Coach Profile” the answer to the question of whether athletes and coaches can/should be friends on Facebook?   It could be the solution that works for you and your athletes.  But other coaches may still prefer alternate methods to engage with athletes in this medium.  The “Coach Profile” is but one consideration for coaches who are determining their own social media strategy.

Originally published: Sport Law & Strategy Group website (March 2011)

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