Are today’s college wrestlers behaving badly when they’re using social media or otherwise not on the mat?
The article, written by Mark Palmer, who, in addition to being College Wrestling Examiner, is also a senior writer for InterMat, focuses on alleged off-the-mat bad behavior on the part college wrestlers – from inappropriate posts on social media, to actual illegal activity. It does not delve into on-the-mat rulebreaking such as using dangerous or illegal holds, or unsportsmanlike conduct during a match.
“Matmen Behaving Badly?” opens with a list of some examples of inappropriate or illegal behavior on the part of college wrestlers last season. Then it puts things in perspective, presenting examples of bad behavior in other sports, as well as some historical examples from five to 50 years ago of college wrestlers who got into trouble… all with the idea of stating that these issues are not a recent phenomenon, nor are they unique to college wrestling.
Arguably more relevant to today’s wrestlers, coaches, administrators and fans, the article also explores the present situation. In addition to asking the NCAA about what rules are in place regarding off-the-mat behavior, Palmer also surveyed a number of sports information directors and wrestlers to see what kind of instruction college athletes receive for everything from attending classes, maintaining grades, and showing up for classes, to how to conduct interviews, to appropriate use of social networks.
It’s this last topic that Palmer provides significant emphasis. As he writes in his InterMat article, “Use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter may well be the final frontier in terms of student-athlete behavior. Most of these services are less than a decade old. While colleges, coaches and other authority figures try to set rules or guidelines on social media use, it’s ultimately up to individual wrestlers and other student-athletes to discover the best ways to use these technology tools without injuring their own image and reputation – and that of their school and wrestling program.”
To help wrestling programs and their athletes enjoy a positive experience online, Palmer shares “rules of the road” for using social media from a variety of sources, including the corporate world, and independent business consultants (two who have ties to amateur wrestling). School administrators, sports information directors, coaches and wrestlers may find the InterMat article’s presentation of one major university’s guidelines to protect its athletes to be especially helpful. In addition to commonsense guidance such as “remember what you post could last forever, even if you delete it”, this school’s rules also point to potential pitfalls that speak specifically to young athletes, including the possibility of connecting online with “fans” who intend to profit from or actually harm college sports stars.