Good old social media. Why is it that even with app limits and turning off notifications, I randomly check my IG and Twitter accounts multiple times every day expecting to see…well, I’m not quite sure what I expect to see. Maybe that’s why I check, for the unexpected jolt of dopamine and perhaps a feeling of self-worth that someone I’ve never met “liked” or “retweeted” my post.
Hooray, my day is now complete!
That’s never enough, though. I want more; we all want more: more likes, more followers, more retweets and reposts, more words of affirmation, more entertainment!
I had initially planned to write an article on college recruitment and how strength and conditioning coaches can maximize their time with recruits and families to leave an impact. The main focus of the article was on authenticity; however, when I started to write about being authentic, I couldn’t help but think about the last two days in which I told myself to not go on any social media, as it was causing me some anxiety (which isn’t a feeling I usually experience).
There’s something to that, and my hope in writing this article is to share with you some recent feelings and experiences with social media and how, going forward, I intend to approach these apps on my phone that are a dopamine goldmine.How can I stop comparing myself to others and not feel pressured to post and share every aspect of my program? asks @SCoach_Aldo. Click To Tweet
How can we get back some control of our phones and our time on social media sites? How can we get the most out of these sites without spending hours on our phones each day? How can I stop comparing myself to others and not feel pressured to post and share every aspect of my program?
With honesty comes vulnerability. In sharing my thoughts, I know these will resonate with many of you. As always, I want to encourage us to realize that we can control what we see and how it makes us feel. I’ll look at three different topics around social media that I’m concerned about that, if managed appropriately, can turn into real positives. These are:
- Insecurities of not doing enough.
- Rabbit holes.
Like most professionals, strength and conditioning coaches look up to and try to learn from the people in the top programs with the most success. For me, in the U.S. collegiate system as a mid-major strength coach, that means looking at Power 5 Conference S&C coaches to see how they do things. If I’m watching a game on TV, I look out for the strength coaches and see how they act on the bench during games. I try and listen to any podcasts they’re on, and for the main premise of this article, I look at what they share on social media.While social media can certainly educate, it can also apply small pressures throughout the day, says @SCoach_Aldo. Click To Tweet
This can be quite intimidating, especially for a young coach in the industry—while social media can certainly educate, it can also apply small pressures throughout the day. I often ask myself questions such as:
- They’re always posting before and after pictures of their athletes. Do I need to do that more to show my value and role with the team?
- They share videos of athletes lifting every day on their stories. Do I need to share more of my guys training online to be like them?
- They do a lot of Olympic lifting. I hardly do any, but this person’s been in the industry a long time and is highly respected. Am I missing something?
- They use cryotherapy chambers a lot during the season. Am I missing something with recovery by not using these? Should I be looking into local cryotherapy places and seeing how much they cost?
- They post a lot of pictures of themselves training the team and at practice. Is that what I need to do to “be seen?”
- They post a lot of videos of themselves training. I train most days; should I film some workout highlights and share them online?
- They always have weight room videos being shared. Is that something I should ask for more of?
Don’t worry; these aren’t thoughts and questions that keep me awake at night. But they do constitute those small pressures I mentioned as I check in on Twitter and Instagram. Like most coaches, I strive to be my best, and every strength and conditioning coach seems to have a social media presence of some sort. Some are on it for what seems like hours a day posting content and replying to their followers, while others only have four pictures on their page.
Where’s the happy medium?Some S&C coaches are on social media for what seems like hours a day posting content and replying to their followers, while others only have four pictures on their page. Where’s the happy medium? Click To Tweet
This all came to a head for me recently when I was back home in England for a month. I went home for my twin brother’s wedding and wasn’t able to come back into the U.S. until my work visa was sorted out, a process that took a few weeks. Not being able to train my athletes was tough—I love my job, and I love the role I play as an S&C coach getting athletes ready for a competitive season.
What made it extra hard was going online and seeing a lot of fellow basketball strength and conditioning coaches sharing the training they were doing with their guys and how they were getting ready for the season. It really got me down: not just that I wasn’t physically there to train my guys, but that every time I went online, I was reminded of this fact!
My mood started to shift negatively, so I decided I needed to do something about it. I didn’t go on Instagram or Twitter for a week. I completely shut off that stimulus and got away from the comparison game, the small pressure cooker. I took a step back from it all. This may sound very simple and very easy to do—don’t look at Twitter or Instagram for seven days—but how many of us as S&C coaches have actually done this? I would imagine very few.
I realize both those platforms are a way to keep up with family and friends, but I think we would all be transparent here and admit we use our profiles primarily as a job/hobby profile where we post things that interest us that are work-related and training-based. It really surprised me how much social media affected how I felt and how I saw myself as a coach. I’d placed a HIGH value on it all.
Going off the grid for a week was the best thing I’ve done in a while. I immediately felt better about myself and my situation. I used the time to instead plan for when I was able to come back to the States and coach the guys again. Taking a step back, seeing social media for what it really is, and being able to come back online now with a renewed spirit and perspective on it has really helped me learn to not let it get me down. I aim to use it for good, certainly not just to argue with people and create animosity when, really, there are far more important things in life than squat depth.It really surprised me how much social media affected how I felt and how I saw myself as a coach, says @SCoach_Aldo. Click To Tweet
If you’ve ever felt some pressure/anxiety with social media, it’s okay. If there’s one thing social media is great at, it’s the comparison game and everyone showing off their best selves. Spending so much time on these apps, it’s no wonder it got to me!
So, how can we take back our control of social media and not let it get us down by pulling us into this comparison game? Below are some practical takeaways, all of which I’ve done when I felt like social media was affecting me negatively more often than positively. Try some of them out—I hope they give you a renewed feeling of control and a positive outlook when using social media:
- Consider taking a break from social media if you feel small pressures every time you check in. “Social media free” days in the week can be a great starting place here. I recently took the week off, and I’ve previously taken four months off from social media.
- Set time limits on your social media apps, for IG and Twitter combined. Mine is set at 75 minutes.
- Don’t go on social media first thing in the morning. Allow yourself some time to wake up and start your day the way you want to start it without being bombarded with other people’s business and the potentially negative effect this can have on you.
- If someone bothers you online and you get frustrated when you see their content, simply unfollow them. Try to control what you can, not what others do.
It seems like every day on Twitter, I can get lost in a new training method, a new recovery tool, a new thread, a new book released. One of the most challenging things for me online is not getting sucked into every new piece of information I see—and I see a lot!
As strength and conditioning coaches, we wear many hats and are a source of information to our athletes for a wide array of subjects that pertain not just to physical performance in the weight room but health and fitness in general. For example, it’s not uncommon for:
- Athletes to ask about a particular diet they want to try out.
- Assistant coaches to see something they liked online and ask about that on the spot in a staff meeting.
- A certain school to do a lot of “X,” and for coaches to wonder why we don’t also do “X.”
These can be tricky conversations to navigate. Having an eyes-wide-open approach to all the information available to us as coaches is useful here so that we can at least be aware of the latest fitness trends before we are called upon to have an answer for them.
My main struggle here is going online, and then 15 minutes have passed as I’ve gone down a new rabbit hole. I’ve started half-reading a newly released article because I’d feel left behind if I didn’t know this latest content. For someone who likes to be organized, likes to have a to-do list and a structured day, this is frustrating and quite frankly dumb of me—but it’s a trap I get caught in frequently.
If this hits home with you and your social media habits, I’d like to recommend a book. It’s been one of the more impactful reads I’ve enjoyed in the last few years: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. We did a book study on it as a basketball program to show the team what focused hard work really looks like and how that can benefit them on and off the court.
Newport’s book highlights how our current environments and work habits focus on shallow work—replying to emails as soon as we receive them, interrupting our work to check social media on our phones or reply to texts. Shallow work is defined as “non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted.” Trying to get work done while we scroll online a few times each hour with our attention getting pulled in many different directions is a recipe for average work.
Opposite to shallow work is deep work, which is defined as “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.” Some examples might be blocking off a morning to write your team’s next training phase, having phone-free time in the day to read a research article, or diving deep into a training course you’ve enrolled in but haven’t focused on in a few weeks. I know what type of work sounds more conducive to producing a great end product and being a top coach! If you choose to read this book, please reach out and let me know how it’s impacted your work habits. I’d love to hear about it.It’s better to really learn new information by taking the time to actually read an article than to skim read everything just to say you’ve looked at it, says @SCoach_Aldo. Click To Tweet
So, how can we avoid the rabbit holes of social media? Here is a list of practical thoughts designed to help you with this:
- Save interesting articles as bookmarks on your laptop or on a tab for you to read at a later point. Don’t let daily scrolling distract you from your actual day’s work and focused to-do list.
- It’s okay to scroll past people’s articles and blog posts. You can’t read everything about everything; be selective. It’s better to really learn new information by taking the time to actually read an article than to skim read everything just to say you’ve looked at it. Deep work versus shallow work.
- Designate a week (or two, the period is up to you) on a specific subject area—for example, sleep. Read up on everything you see posted that week on social media about sleep and nothing else. Focus solely on that specific subject area to truly learn about it and not just skim the surface of multiple subject areas.
This could be an article by itself, so I’ll keep it brief. As mentioned earlier, it seems that most S&C coaches have some form of social media presence, which is great because it gives us an insight into their methods and what they do in their jobs. With this open access, we can also tweet @them directly, give them a direct message, like their content, and comment on anything they post. So, the ability to “network” and contact peers we respect couldn’t be easier in 2022; this probably is the most accessible people have ever been to each other all over the world.
Networking, in my eyes, is building a genuine relationship with someone that includes some give and take of information, insight, and knowledge. You are reaching out to someone you respect and asking them informed questions to enhance your knowledge while respecting their time by having carefully considered discussion points already lined up. Yes, some networking is less formal; it could be a friend of a friend you are finally getting around to chatting with in the industry. However, for those people you don’t know or have any prior connection to, I think a formal message that notes down some questions you have for them is a good place to start when initially contacting them.Make sure your social media channels reflect what you want your diet of information to look like, says@SCoach_Aldo. Click To Tweet
I’ve loved connecting with lots of strength and conditioning coaches across a wide range of sports. I’ve DM’ed lots of them and have been able to have phone calls, exchange text messages, and share interactions since then. Just be genuine and humble with your interest and approach and drop the ego, and I have no doubt you can start to build relationships with some coaches you really respect and admire. Chances are if you choose your coaches correctly, they are as open and hungry for knowledge and insight as you are. They have a growth mindset, too, and would love to connect.
Some practical thoughts on using social media to genuinely network and improve yourself as a coach:
- Don’t force it! Give honest feedback to posts and like them if you truly want to share that you enjoyed it. Give thought to this. If you’re going to direct message them, make sure you really want to connect with this person and have talking points for them. It shows you will value their time if you’re able to get on a call with them.
- Turn your social media into a resource of great information, follow those you respect and admire in the field, and learn from them. Take the time to read their articles and study their work before reaching out. It shows care and that you’ve taken the time to study them—it’s a sign of respect.
- Make sure your social media channels reflect what you want your diet of information to look like. What we read, what we listen to, and who we follow and connect with all contribute to our diet of information. This is how you can improve your diet on social media so that you know it is a resource for positive growth and is helping, not hurting you. This will expose you to the best people to connect with.
The social media dilemma: should I/shouldn’t I use social media? Should I not share what I’m doing for fear of being questioned/mocked? Should I share what I’m doing to give people an insight into who I am as a coach and what I value?
It seems there are endless questions that surround everyone’s use of social media and how we can best stay connected to people without it taking hours of our day, especially when we are at work. I hope that by me showing some vulnerability here, you know that you aren’t alone in feeling some pressure with social media and trying to use it for the best purposes. I know that I’m better off and more productive when I take a short break every few weeks: I get out of the hamster wheel, realize that the world hasn’t stopped, enjoy the extra time to actually read some of those articles on my internet tabs, and also get more time outside and away from any screen!What you post and show of yourself on social media is your personal brand, and it’s out there for the whole world to see; just make sure that it’s truly YOU that people see, says @SCoach_Aldo. Click To Tweet
My final thoughts are these: share what you find interesting, be authentic with what you post, be yourself—there’s only one you, don’t be a copycat—and be sure to take some breaks along the way. What you post and show of yourself on Twitter and Instagram is your personal brand, and it’s out there for the whole world to see; just make sure that it’s truly you that people see! I hope you apply some of these practical suggestions and can use social media as a positive experience that enhances your knowledge, provides no stress, and connects you with some great people.
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