The Digital Footprint of an NCAA Student-Athlete



I have always been an athlete. No matter which sport it is: you name it, I’ve played it. And I would be willing to bet I was one of the best on my team. But, I had no idea how much of an impact my social networking would have on my reputation as an athlete and as a person. As a 22 year old college graduate and former Division 1 athlete, this is the story of my digital footprint.

Before Arriving on Campus
Before I played on the big stage, my drive and intensity improved my athletic skills, and attracted college coaches from multiple sports. But, after the games and practices were over, and I gathered with my 16 year old peers, and we would buzz about what was posted on Facebook, and yes… Myspace. Instagram hadn’t even been invented yet! I loved coming home from a hard practice and just getting to be a “normal kid”. We would post things like “Excited to hang out with Lauren!” or “Wow practice today was rough!” We would take the silliest of pictures just to see what our friends would say about our scrunched up faces or wide smiles. But what I didn’t know is that I wasn’t a “normal kid”. My character was being studied by the universities that were interested in my athletic abilities. They needed to make sure I would represent the university well, and be sure I portrayed the qualities they wanted associated with the team. Although I never posted anything online that would ruin my reputation, I had no idea my digital footprint was being studied by my future coaches and teammates.

Becoming a Student-Athlete
I can remember finally arriving on campus and attending team practices. It was the most exciting time of my life. I made new friends, had all new classes, and joined the popular social media site, Twitter. It was within the first 48 hours on campus that I found out just how focused the university and my coach were about our posts on social media. A stern team meeting and a social media focused “reputation” talk given to all student-athletes was enough to have the seriousness sink in. As a part of this team I was no longer only representing myself, I was representing my school.

As the years flew by, I began to see the bigger picture of why my digital footprint was so important. I would see pieces of it everywhere! I was featured in a news article, and a tweet of mine was used in the story. I googled myself, and my picture on our team’s website popped up. Followers on different social media sites would follow me and comment on my pictures because I was associated with my university’s athletics. My name was almost always associated with the university wherever I went.

All of these things made me realize how my social media activity and my digital footprint affected my life, and the reputation of the things that are most important to me -- my family, my friends, my university. The positive reputation that I built throughout my time as a student-athlete makes me proud to share with others, and I know it shines a bright light on the people and places that made me who I am.

Post-Athlete Life
Now, I move on to the next stage of my life, getting a grown-up job. I view it as joining another team. It gives me peace of mind knowing that my digital footprint gives me something to be proud of. My reputation that is presented through my social media accounts represents everything that I am and that I stand for. I don’t have to worry about potential employers finding negative posts or images about myself on social media because I have always been safe with what I have posted on the internet.

I didn’t have everything figured out as a 16 years old, and I don’t have everything figured out at the ripe old age of 22. But what I wish I knew is this: always portray yourself as you want the world to see you -- because the world is watching.


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