SHERIDAN — One doesn’t have to look far to find social media. Accessibility to an abundance of social media options bombard us on a daily basis, and the majority of people nowadays take part in the fun.
According to Statista.com, 81 percent of Americans have a social media account, up from 24 percent in 2008.
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have simply been woven into the fabric of everyday life. Whether it’s being used for work or pleasure or anything in between, social media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Athletics at the collegiate and high school levels in Sheridan County have grown to utilize the various social media platforms to benefit their programs.
If nothing else, most every winter athletic program in Sheridan County uses Twitter for the sole fact of reviewing scores from around the state in an easily-accessible manner.
Sheridan College men’s basketball tweets out its final scores following every game, and this allows anyone with ties to the Generals, or anybody interested at all, to remain connected with the program.
“It’s a great way for people that aren’t close to Sheridan to be able to follow us and the program and see how we’re doing,” SC head men’s basketball coach Matt Hammer said.
Sheridan High School began doing something very similar when head coach Jeff Martini took over the reins.
Martini has also used Twitter, on occasion, to directly motivate his team.
“There have been some things out there in the past that can be used as locker-room material,” Martini said. “Other teams have said some things that we can use as fuel.”
Hammer has seen this firsthand but has yet to apply it. He implores his team to self motivate without all the outside noise.
One of Hammer’s primary goals at Sheridan College centers around coaching his players and helping them improve their basketball craft in a short amount of time to get them to the four-year level.
When Hammer finds success in doing so, he doesn’t immediately sever ties with those former players.
Hammer stays connected through various social media platforms.
Hammer most recently posted, on Sheridan College’s men’s basketball’s Instagram, a photo detailing that two former players competed on national television during the same night.
This, for one, informs fans that some of the athletes they watched for a year or two in the Columbia blue and gold go on to have successful careers at the next level. This can help with attendance and excitement around the program, proving Sheridan is worth the price of admission.
More importantly, the most recent Instagram post informs a targeted recruit that Sheridan College can help them achieve the highest level of collegiate basketball.
“It’s important at this level just because we recruit nationally and especially internationally,” Hammer said. “Our Instagram page, our Twitter page, our Facebook page are kind of the first things our recruits see, so we try to stay up to date with everything.”
The Broncs have begun looking into doing something very similar. Martini hopes that sometime in the future he can utilize Twitter to aid his student-athletes in gaining college recognition.
Social media, however, has its pitfalls. To help avoid some sticky situations, Hammer has a simple rule that he tells his players during their first team meeting of the season.
“If you don’t want your mom to read it, you better not post it,” Hammer said.
But that rule doesn’t apply to prospective Sheridan recruits. If Hammer discovers an immature post on social media during the recruiting process — something that’s happened about 15-20 times for Hammer — he’ll halt his recruiting efforts altogether.
Hammer trusts his players to act mature on social media platforms. At the high school level, the players self regulate. Punishment often ensues if a teammate posts something potentially harmful to the greater good of the team.
“One of the kids will tell the coaches that he needs to knock that off, and the coaches will definitely handle it in practice,” Big Horn’s Kade Eisele said. “The team will probably do some extra conditioning.”
Eisele belongs to the Wyoming High School Activities Association Student Advisory Council.
Sportsmanship, not just on the field, but now on social media, has come to the forefront of the council. The council urges student-athletes to act appropriately and with a certain amount of humbleness on the field. Recently, that has extended to off the playing surface when referring to social media.
Athletes and coaches can’t escape the growing popularity of social media. Nothing is perfect and traps within social media exist, but recently teams have learned to utilize it beneficially.
“It’s great because it’s very easy and it’s accessible,” Hammer said. “It’s also free, and as a JUCO coach, you always like that.”