Social media impact growing in colleges and university athletics

By Letre Sweeting

Feb. 1, 2016

Social media is “absolutely huge” in universities today, says a Canadian sports manager.

Geordie Carragher works at the University of British Columbia and is a graduate of the Holland College Journalism program. He spoke to journalism students about his experiences as a student on Jan. 25 via Skype.

Carragher began his career in sports journalism at The Guardian in P.E.I., during an internship, in 2011 where he made a strong Connection with journalist Bill McGuire.

Later he searched for a unique job that would allow him to utilize his sports writing skills. He found it at the University of British Columbia last fall.

Carragher said the two years at Holland College set the path for what he is doing now, but he emphasized the need for more studies on social media in school programs today.

“Twitter is the big one right now because people want information as quickly as possible, they want quick summaries. Sure you can write more on Facebook but how long will you keep that audience?”

Social media if it’s not used properly, can be a career killer in some cases, said Carragher.

“You have to be just as careful with social media as you would with any other story you’re putting together.”

Crystal-Lee McCreath, a Jamaican student at Holland College, plays women’s soccer. She said social media is the best way to get information circulated and everyone utilizes it.

“Every organization down to politics uses social media. If it can’t pop up on my screen I’m not reading it.”

Albert Roche, athletics and recreation director at Holland College, agrees. He said social media is the main way to get information circulated today.

“It used to be 10 years ago that you would be so thrilled to get something up and put it on your website, now we kind of forget about it sometimes.”

A typical week in Holland College’s athletic department, where social media is concerned, is very busy, said Roche.

Twitter and Facebook are updated first, said Roche.

“You got to be linking up, live streaming, you got to be putting out press releases and releasing posts each day per team (athletic).”

Social media offers instantaneous feedback, said Roche.

“If a bad story is posted, you get nothing. But if you hit the nail on the head, every now and then things take off. “

Roche said he utilizes new examples of social media used all around the world.

“There is no copyright on this stuff. I would love for everybody to look at great examples, bring them back and say, ‘Let’s do this.’ It could be from major junior hockey, the NBA or the team down the street.”

In his job it is extremely important for an employee to be efficient in social media, said Roche.

“We recognize the importance of any employee whether it’s coach or otherwise, that comes with an understanding and an ability and linkage to social media certainly is something that we would expect of them.”

He said the college pushes people to create an identity, whether it’s a group identity with the team or not.

Roche said he uses social media to create a culture where you know you can win.

“We’d like to be humble, but we win so damn much. Student athletes at Holland College work hard and train hard. Even when we were losing we still found a way to say we love our student athletes. Now it’s much easier because social media is so prevalent.”

Although social media is a tool that can be used for good, it can also do harm said Roche.

He said he has suspended student athletes for bad behaviour on social media.

“No one would know, the coaches, the player and other players may know, but I don’t care. The fact is you are sitting.”

Roche said when athletes move forward in their careers and use Holland College as an identifier, it a rewarding experience.

“It’s enjoyable, I love it!”