When will there be amnesty for social media blunders?

A few weeks ago, I was riding in a golf cart covering a Class 4 sectional competition when something from one of my podcasts I was listening to got me thinking.

The show in question was the Tony Kornheiser Show, some may know him as one of the guys that yells a lot on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption. He was having a discussion about the NFL Draft and how Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen fell lower than expected due to a tweet he made in high school.

The guest that day was Chuck Todd from NBC Meet the Press, or better known as ‘Sleep-eyed’ Chuck Todd on Twitter thanks to the tweeter-in-command. He made a point that really made me think: At what point do you get amnesty for your social media faux pas?

Allen used bad language in a tweet back in high school and half a decade later, when he is a young adult, it comes back to haunt him. Case in point, always watch what you say in social media outlets because it can get you banned from such events as covering the Kansas City Chiefs when you make fun of the owner’s haircut.  Not that I know what that is like.

The point Todd makes is a good one to ponder and the conversation between the two turned to the generation that grew up when marijuana became prevalent in the country. Eventually, the current day baby boomers weren’t punished for partaking. Will we reach a point where stupid choices on social media will be forgiven too?

With that in mind, I wonder what the social media aspect is from a coach’s view.

You hear stories that many recruits sometimes fall off radars based on things they say or retweet. I talked to an old friend of mine, Phil Pitts, who is the defensive coordinator at Lincoln in Jefferson City.

He was in town recently for a recruiting workshop at Rockhurst High School and we talked a bit about what role social media plays in the world of athletics and particularly for his Division II school.

“One of the big things is everybody has got to find the right fit and for us it is about finding the right fit,” said Pitts, who coached St. Joseph Central in 2016. “Does this young man’s way of thinking or does this young man’s thought process fit what we are trying to do. You can find that out by looking through Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat.”

The recruiting world has changed ten-fold since Pitts played at Missouri. A Jefferson City Helias product, he was a defensive lineman for Gary Pinkel between 2000-2005. He then later coached his alma mater before going back to Mizzou to work for Pinkel. After the stint in St. Joseph, he returned to the collegiate ranks.

“I’ll tell you what, being recruited was overwhelming then,” Pitts said of going to MU. “It is so much more now and it is definitely something as a former high school coach and a parent you have to keep an eye on. So much can be overwhelming. They are still trying to be high school kids and finishing up and playing other sports whether it be basketball or baseball or track. It would be a challenge. I think we have to keep looking, are we doing what is the best thing for these kids? Are we providing the best service? Are we giving too much in terms of contact with players?”

Pitts noted kids are used to instant gratifications these days and it is important for coaches at all levels to show interest in a possible recruit. Social media is also an aspect that smaller schools like Lincoln use to help sell the program.

Another way Pitts is helping to try to rebuild the Blue Tigers is good old fashioned pounding the pavement. Football is different than other sports because you don’t have football travel teams in the summer like baseball, soccer, basketball and volleyball, to name a few, do. Usually the only time to see a football player is the 10 weeks during the season and maybe a camp or two in the summer, but that is more drills and not the same full-speed contact like in a game.

“One of the things our staff does, we want to make the high school coaches a big deal so we put more emphasis on going to the school and talking to the coach,” Pitts said.  In a recent 10-day span, Pitts went to 50 different high schools across Missouri to help build relationships.

Locally, that is working. During the recent college football signing period, the Blue Tigers signed Platte County’s Michael Smith and Park Hill’s Jhalen Turner.

“We got a lot of kids from the KC area on the team and the great thing about Kansas City football players, these players go to top-notch programs and the coaches know how to run the program,” Pitts said. “The kids are driven and know what the expectations are. They are winners and the kids are winners.

“But it all comes down to relationships and having met a lot more people now. When someone knows somebody or worked with or competed with, it is easy to have a conversation starter. It is a good way to get the recruiting process started. You know what programs do it right and you know the kids will come and in and be successful and will be the right fit.”


Cody Thorn is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at editor@plattecountycitizen.com.Follow him on Twitter:  @Citizen_CodyT.