If you asked me what I wanted to be at age four, I would've told you straight up that I wanted to be a basketball player (and a lawyer, and a doctor, and a singer, quite ambitious). Why? Because it seemed that athletes got all of the glory.
Think about it. Countless television networks such as ESPN and Fox Sports are dedicated to updating the world on the accomplishments and failures of athletes and coaches. Steph Curry is helping Under Armour give Nike a run for their money with basketball shoe sales. Michael Jordan has one of the most recognizable names and brands in the world. Tiger Woods reportedly made $214,000 a day in 2013. Not too shabby if you ask me.
In this day and age, social media has allowed us more access than ever to the glamorous lives of athletes. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. You name, they're on it. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony drank what I imagine to be fine wine on some beach somewhere recently.
How do I know this? I follow Dwyane Wade on Instagram. Looks awesome. Keep in mind that James, Wade, Paul, and Anthony have dedicated their lives to the game, and have made sacrifices that have led to their success (and ability to take Instagram-worthy vacations).
There are pros and cons to every situation. The dialogue regarding athletes and social media is no different. New forms of communication that have developed over the years have allowed us access to the each other's lives like never before.
However, has this done more harm than good? Has it created a sense of entitlement and self-importance amongst our generation? I think yes, and it's beginning to take its toll on athletics.
It starts at a young age. Overeager parents begin pushing their children in a certain direction athletically. Maybe their kid isn't the best basketball player on the team. Maybe their child isn't the best player because he/she spends more time enthralled in other activities as oppose to the sport.
But that child receives a participation trophy at the end of the season (a season full of mom and dad and grandpa and grandma telling them how great they are). Trophies have a positive connotation in our society: they exude success and status.
Then you have mom and dad posting to Facebook or Twitter about how proud they are of their child for their participation hardware. However, in reality, what has this child actually accomplished? They've gained attention by really not having to work that hard.
Move on to high school. As a society, we glorify high school football. Towns in Texas literally shut down because everyone is at the game. Movies and television shows, such as Friday Night Lights, show that football players get the pretty girls and become the pride and glory of towns. And look what that has done to Johnny Manziel.
A first round 2014 NFL draft pick, with the skill and talent, that most 20-year-olds can only dream of. There was a time during his career at Texas A&M that you couldn't watch ESPN without someone mentioning Johnny. The media even nicknamed him "Money Manziel." The quarterback has 1.35 million followers on Twitter. If you have 1.35 million people taking an interest in you and telling you how great you are, then you just might start to believe it.
Nowadays, Johnny finds himself on SportsCenter due to his off the field issues, as oppose to scoring touchdowns. He recently spent some time in rehab. Videos have leaked of him partying again. The same form of social media that has glorified him has also gotten him in trouble. But at what point does an athlete like Johnny Manziel take responsibility for his actions? Will he ever? Or will he rest his laurels on the fact that 1.35 million people like him?
College basketball is just as guilty.
The overwhelming majority of college basketball players have some form of social media. Let's play out a scenario that happens all of the time. A scenario that I've seen first hand as a former college basketball player.
Freshmen come into summer school just before college starts, and it's an incredibly exciting time for them. They now have the opportunity to be the big man on campus. Only, there's one problem.
That 18 year old frame is nowhere near as strong or developed as the fifth year, 22 year old's frame that happens to play the same position. Spoiler alert: the fresh out of high school freshman will more than likely not start over the fifth year all-conference senior. However, a lot of freshmen think they should. Why?
They have a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter account with thousands of followers. They post videos, pictures, and statuses regarding their athletic ability to these accounts, then their followers like and comment and tell them how great they are. Then they start to believe that they're actually great. If your head coach is telling you how great you are on your own social media account, then maybe you have room to complain if you're not getting playing time.
Transferring appears to be the quickest fix for playing time issues. Granted, the NCAA allows transferring for a variety of reason - not the right fit between athlete and school, too far from home, too challenging or not challenging enough academically. Those seem to be legitimate reasons to transfer.
Jeff Goodman posted a complete transfer list on the men's side for the 2015 calendar year. The total was more than 600. I have a hard time believing that more 600 players from around the country transferred because the school wasn't the "right" fit.
In my experience, more times than not, transferring occurs because players aren't treated by their coaches the same way they're treated by their "fans" on social media. Their followers tell them how great they are, how they should be getting more playing time, how they need to be getting more shots.
However, those followers aren't in practice everyday witnessing the effort, or lack thereof, being put forth by some players. But do those followers really know more than the coach that has 800 career wins? My guess is no.
Start your relationship with future coaches/teammates off on a positive note. I can't tell you how many times recruits come in on visits and don't make eye contact when they shake hands. They don't engage in conversation because they're too busy playing on their phones.
Without intending to, that kind of behavior can come across as an entitled because they appear to assume everyone should put forth an effort to make their visit the best experience possible, while no effort should be put forth on their end. Coaches and players are putting in a ton of work to ensure you have the best experience on campus. The least you can do is put your phone down and interact with those around you.
It even trickles down to very basic situations. Make eye contact when shaking hands on recruiting visits. Say "please" and "thank you." Ask questions and engage in conversation. You represent yourself, and five years from now your basketball career will be over, and you won't have your athletic ability to lean on.
Keep in mind, not every high school and college athlete is entitled. But I will leave you with this: If you're not playing as many minutes as you think you should, have you ever taken a step back and looked at why the person in front of you is playing?
Maybe if you spent more time in the gym working on your game than on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter reading about how good people think your game is, then perhaps you would be good enough to earn your coach's respect and playing time. Make #ballislife more than just a hashtag you use when posting videos of that one shot you made.
Because at the end of the day you can't control how many social media followers you have. But you can control your attitude and your effort.