How many people are active on social media every day, hour, or even minute? Social media has drastically affected how much a person spends on their phone each day, and this includes athletes and coaches. Social media, technology to aid in skill development, and livestreaming games has had such an impact on the world of sports. This has made the recruiting process for coaches and players easier, but also more difficult in a sense. It has been made easier because it allows players to reach out to the colleges that they would like to attend and present them with their important information and the same for coaches. However, this also means that it is just as easy for everyone to get their name out there, so there will be much more competition on the field. Because of the advancements in technology, the world of softball has become more readily available to players and coaches.
Within technology, social media is the lead contributing factor in allowing people to connect with colleges and universities. Social media has made the recruiting process simpler for coaches and players. In an article written by Jeff Faraudo, the Cal Bears football coach says, “I’m on there all day, from the moment I get in, to the moment I go to bed. It’s part of the job. It’s a necessity,” Gallagher said. “What makes social media so valuable (is) it relates to the way recruiting is right now” (Faraudo). In this statement, he is referring to being on social media all day. He works endlessly on social media communicating with recruits. Social media makes recruits much more accessible and by making the range for recruiting much more widespread. Not only is social media used by most, if not all recruits and coaches, there are endless websites that list players and their statistics and personal information such as sources of contact. More specifically, Faraudo says that coaches like to use certain social media applications more than others when he stated, “While Twitter is primarily a monitoring tool for recruiting, coaches are allowed to contact prospects through direct messaging on Facebook during certain times of the year” (Faraudo). While these quotes are more generalized for college sports, softball has also seen the great effects of social media on the recruiting process. The head Wilkes Softball coach, Jacqueline Klahold, stated in a personal interview that, “Personally, for us here at Wilkes, social media has made it especially easy for the recruiting process after the hit of COVID-19. We turned to software such as Gamechanger and Facebook Live to stream our games and to watch players we were trying to recruit. It was made so easy that we could actually attend one game while also watching another recruit’s game on our phone, almost like being in two places at the same time” (Klahold). Coach Klahold believes that these services have made some aspects of coaching much easier. Other online applications such as Youtube or Instagram also provide support for coaching staff in a different way. Although they can help in the recruiting process as well, these applications can be useful in finding different coaching styles and drills to help athletes excel in different skills. Coaches are able to take note of specific skills and drills to make their teams better as a whole while also making themselves better by adapting to their team specific needs. Specifically for Division III athletics, coaches are allowed to talk to athletes at any time during the year. This means that for these coaches, social media is being used at all times to look for incoming students to benefit their roster. Athletes often times will make social media accounts for the sole purpose of getting recruited. These accounts will feature such information as height, weight, grades and school involvement, and their softball statistics. These pages are usually made up of highlight videos or photos to promote themselves to prospective coaches where they will tag them in the post to make sure that they are getting recognized for their achievements.
While technology and social media already benefited both athletes and coaches, the pandemic forced the softball world to rely a great deal on technology to stay in touch. Journalist Jay Davis talks about the impact of the virus in terms of fans attending sports events in his article when he said, “When sports resumed in early 2021 following the COVID-19 outbreak, a big part of the games were left riding the bench. Little to no fans were permitted at games to limit the spread of the coronavirus” (Davis). COVID-19, although a terrible outbreak, helped advance softball in a way where coaches can work on multiple tasks at once. “To ensure those spectators will always have an outlet to cheer on their favorite teams, longtime play-by-play broadcaster Chad Bush in February 2021 established The PreP — a Royal Oak-based video production company specializing in live and on-demand high school, college and professional sports broadcasts” (Davis). With being able to stream live games online and keep track of a live score, it has made softball readily available to parents or coaches who could not make a game, or for players who want to check back at something they did wrong and are able to access the video broadcast of the game. During such a hard time, it was a slight burst of enthusiasm when people realized that life could continue on. While not being able to actually be at the game during the pandemic, they were still able to watch, even if it was through a screen. This provided a sense of normality in such an abnormal time period. Even after the bulk of the pandemic, these streaming services remain useful to players, coaches, and family. “I think, too, in realizing that COVID is not 100 percent done, we want to provide people who may not feel comfortable being at a game, or even out-of-state family, with a chance to watch the game” (Davis).
Not only has technology made it easier to watch softball, but it has also helped in the physical aspect of the sport. Journalist Evan Fallow introduces a new type of technology that helps in the improvement in skill level of athletes. “SmartKage, a quantitative technology system, or simply a “smart” batting cage from Massachusetts-based sports tech company SmartSports, measures specific athlete performance for amateur baseball and softball players through the use of video cameras, radar and other invisible sensors” (Fallor). This system helps athletes and coaches understand where the athlete lies compared to other players. They are able to see their skill level after testing to know what they will need to improve on to become a better player. Technology is not a means of replacing players or coaches, but a way to improve the way in which athletes play and coaches teach and scout. “Rob Crews, a player development consultant who works with Yacco at 4D three times per week, said he does not believe the technology will replace scouts, adding it cannot measure intangibles like baseball IQ and decision-making. Rather, he believes it will get rid of human error – things like beginning a stopwatch too early or too late – and could be useful as a rehabilitation tool” (Fallor). Although the statistics listed on paper of athletes matter, it does not fully define the athlete. Any softball player can be a perfect fit for any team when simply looking at their basic performance, but this machinery will not display how the athlete will handle new circumstances or respond to on the spot situations. It also does not account for how the athlete will interact with teammates, opponents, and coaches. This includes how they work with them on each play and how they will respond when things do not go as planned such as errors or losses.
With the many tools available to coaches and players, it has made playing the game and getting recruited to continue to play simpler. Live streaming services are an easily accessible resource for everyone to utilize, especially in times of need such as the pandemic. New machinery to keep track of athletes performances have helped athletes and coaches to see more clearly where athletes lie when compared to others without the chance of human error in keeping track of such statistics. There are endless possibilities for coaches and players to make themselves and others better each day.
Davis, Jay. “Streaming high school sports: Company tunes into market created by COVID-19 pandemic.” Crain’s Detroit Business, vol. 38, no. 32, 2022, pp. 3. ProQuest, https://wilkes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/trade-journals/streaming-high-school-sports/docview/2706248884/se-2.
Fallor, E. (2015). New baseball and softball technology comes to Mahopac. Westchester County Business Journal, 51(38), 2. https://wilkes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/trade-journals/new-baseball-softball-technology-comes-mahopac/docview/1728674539/se-2
Faraudo, Jeff. “Cal Bears football coach Jeff Tedford catches on to importance of social media: RECRUITING MISHAPS LEAD CAL FOOTBALL TO EMBRACE SOCIAL MEDIA.” San Jose Mercury News, Aug 21, 2012. ProQuest, https://wilkes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/newspapers/cal-bears-football-coach-jeff-tedford-catches-on/docview/1034536297/se-2.
Klahold, Jacqueline. Personal interview. 19 October 2022.