Jason Smith, Brewster Academy

Brewster Academy head basketball coach, Jason Smith, took time out of his busy end-of-year schedule to answer a series of questions related to how he incorporates social media into his highly competitive boarding school basketball program.


The interview, conducted via email, touches on a number of popular themes on edSocialMedia – from how social media keeps alumni connected, to lessons learned on how to use the tools the ‘right way,’ to teaching his students and players about being good digital citizens. You can follow Jason on twitter via @BrewsterHoops.


Peter Baron (PB): You’ve used social media tools to document the successes of Brewster’s team and individual players for a few years now. At what point did you look at tools like youtube, twitter, etc. and realize that they could transform the way you share what’s happening on the court? Was there a particular experience where it all clicked?


Jason Smith (JS): We’ve been posting highlights on YouTube for a few years now. Over the past couple of years, we have had a student manager who was responsible for recording game video and editing it ASAP to post on YouTube. Last year, our manager had over 185,000 views on his YouTube account.




PB: What are the biggest advantages that using social media gives you as BA’s coach? Recruiting new players? Does it make it easier for you to show the value of individual team members to college recruiters?


JS: The biggest advantage is connecting Brewster alumni to the current team, as well as for recruiting purposes. A lot of alumni will keep in touch and say that in most cases they enjoyed watching Brewster Basketball more than their current college team. In regard to college coaches, we use social media to notify those coaches following us of information, such as upcoming official visits, as well as interest from other college coaches. At different times during the year, I can have over 80 incoming calls a day on my cell phone. Of course, it’s impossible to communicate with that many people daily, so we update interest certain kids are receiving (such as scholarship offers, interest, etc).


PB: Social media success is generally tied to producing compelling content on a consistent basis. You’ve cultivated a following on youtube. Do you have a background in video? How did you get started and what tools (camera, video editing software) do use? What sort of responses do you receive on Youtube?


JS: BrewsterBasketball is an account my assistant set up, but we do not use that any longer. Instead, I think you will see we have 3 times as many views of our videos under our student manager’s (different each year) YouTube account. We make sure whoever our manager is that year has a background in video and various editing programs.


PB: With any new set of tools comes the challenge of learning to use them the ‘right way’. What have been your biggest hurdles? Are there particular lessons learned that you can share?


JS: We always make sure videos posted by our managers and people associated with the Brewster program use tasteful music (no explicit or vulgar language). However, this spring one of our current players in the class of ’12 experienced a meteoric rise in the national rankings. Videos were showing up all over YouTube of his highlights at Brewster this year. These videos were not put together by anyone in our program or at Brewster. Instead, they edited highlights of this particular student by using all our Brewster generated highlights throughout the past year. However, they added music with very explicit lyrics. Obviously, it’s not type of message we would like to send for any of our student-athletes.


PB: How did you handle this situation?


JS: We asked the person who posted the video to please change the music associated with the video, but it hasn’t been done yet.


PB: From a school administrator/teacher standpoint, how do you balance being their coach and having your players ‘follow’ you on twitter?


JS: For any of our kids to have a Twitter Account, they must follow myself, as well as one of my assistant coaches. We want to monitor what they tweet and post on their Facebook accounts. If not, they will not be allowed to have an account, as it’s one of our team rules.


PB: Have you found an opportunity to teach your players the importance of their digital footprint by weaving lessons into being good digital citizens into your coaching & mentoring?


JS: Yes, we often talk about what is expected in regard to their tweets, etc. When one of our student-athletes makes a college decision, they hear the same message from their future college coach. It’s very important for our students to be great citizens and send a positive message about their character, as well as the Brewster community.


PB: Finally, given your successes, has your work influenced the way Brewster shapes its overall social media outreach?


JS: think a lot of people on campus now use Twitter and Facebook as a way to keep in touch with prospective students, as well as past alumni. I believe our Head of School, Dr Michael Cooper will be blogging and using Twitter in the very near future. Currently, a lot of Department Chairs, as well as other coaches are using social media too.

Peter Baron

Peter Baron is the Chief Evangelist at WhippleHill Communications, the founder of AdmissionsQuest, and a partner at edSocialMedia. Peter regularly blogs about school communication for WhippleHill and edSocialMedia. You can find him on Google+ and Twitter.