Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series that examines how technology plays a role in high school athletics.
Not so long ago, the recruiting process of sending players’ highlight reels to college coaches involved clunky videotapes or not-always-reliable burned DVDs and snail mail.
Now, in places like Waseca, that same process has evolved into several strokes of a keyboard, a few clicks of a mouse and an email. What’s more, players have become their own video editors, splicing and editing their own highlight packages.
“It’s night and day,” Waseca football coach Brad Wendland said of how a web-based video program called Hudl has changed college recruiting.
Hudl, recently offered for all sports teams at Waseca High School, is one example of how technology has added another dimension to the landscape of college recruiting. In the digital age, the more traditional recruiting methods of communication – mail, land line phone calls – have been joined with direct messages through social media and online video transfer.
“It always works, it’s instant and you can do so much more with it,” Wendland said of sending players’ highlight reels through email. “It’s so much easier to create a highlight situation on a computer than if you’re putting (it) on a videotape, which seems so archaic, but we were doing that five years ago.”
To create a highlight package on Hudl, Waseca players can grab their best plays, splice them together and add cutting-edge spot shadows, slow-motion effects and music. They also can maintain profiles that include their grade point average, class rank and educational interests.
With the efficiency of programs like Hudl, college scouts have reams of data at their fingertips.
“When I was playing football in the mid-90s, I was watching game tape on VHS, and I don’t think I’ve ever once seen my own highlight VHS or anything else like that,” Waseca assistant football coach Joe Hedervare said. “Now, these kids can have their own highlight reel the next day. And they do. They go out there and do it.”
Smaller schools, such as New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva, are finding that more access means more exposure for lesser-known athletes. The Panthers didn’t need any help getting the word out about standout basketball player Carlie Wagner, a junior who committed to the University of Minnesota earlier this year. But for every Carlie Wagner there are hundreds — even thousands — of more unfamiliar athletes at small schools who seek the same opportunities.
“When you have players of that caliber, I don’t know that technology comes into play as much,” NRHEG Activities Director Dan Stork said of Wagner. “But I think it’s that player that sometimes gets passed up because they’re from that smaller school that people maybe haven’t heard of, and that really makes a difference for those players.”
The constantly-flowing, ever-changing world of social media also has changed the way college coaches and players keep in touch. Waseca junior Jake Busse, a 6-foot-3-inch, 235-pound tackle and defensive end who has garnered interest from several Division I schools, keeps his Facebook mainly for staying in contact with coaches, he said.
“I basically only go on my Facebook now because coaches add you and they can message you on there,” Busse said. “... So I haven’t posted anything for like a year (on Facebook), but I just keep it to keep in touch with coaches. And Twitter’s the same, too. Coaches have Twitters now and they want you to follow them. They tell you to.”
Social media in high school athletics
With the rise of social media such as Twitter, everyone has the opportunity to become a commentator. Every person has a voice.
Formal policies and rules for students using social media is uncharted waters for schools and teams in the Waseca area, but it’s an issue not lost on them. While none of the area schools have formal policies or guidelines in place for social media use, some ADs and coaches have encouraged students to be responsible and cautious when it comes to tweeting and posting.
“It’s scary,” Stork said. “With all the social media out there, things can be misconstrued. You might type something that you don’t really mean, or it comes across differently, and that’s something that we warn our athletes and all of our students of, is just be careful.”
For some, social media also can be another beneficial tool. JWP’s boys basketball team maintains a Facebook page, which is linked to coach Paul Ciochetto’s professional Twitter account for the team, in an effort to promote the team and the school.
“As a school and as a basketball program, it’s a brand that we have, and we’re trying to market that brand to our towns and to the student body in general, to get them excited about the program, where it’s headed, get people in the stands, that sort of thing,” Ciochetto said.
Ciochetto also understands social media can be abused. “What I tell to my kids and my players is: ‘If you’re not going to say it to someone’s face, don’t put it on social media,’” he said.
At Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, Activities Director Jeff Boran said his next step in looking at social media policies would be to talk with other ADs to find out what other area schools are doing. Regions and conferences often will follow suit with the Minnesota State High School League, he said.
“As we come toward the end of the year, a lot of times we’re looking at, in the region or the conferences, what’s coming up for next year, and I think just getting the discussion going and seeing if anybody else has anything, and I guess wait and see what those kind of from above are doing,” Boran said.
With the rise of social media, players aren’t the only ones who exercise caution. Coaches with personal social media accounts do, too.
“As with anything in that realm, you’ve gotta be careful what you put out there,” said Waseca girls basketball coach Joan Conway, who maintains a personal Twitter account. “But it is a source of communication as a teacher and a coach that way. And it can be a valuable one.”
Sports Editor Jordan Osterman contributed to this report. Reach Sports Editor Miles Trump at 837-5447, or follow him on Twitter.com @WCNSports.