#Trending the Game

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POSTED: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 - 10:20pm

UPDATED: Friday, May 2, 2014 - 7:24am

On a Friday night in East Texas, if you buy a ticket at the front gate of any high school stadium or gym, you can get a first hand look at area sports talent, or, you can just go online.

"Back in my time you had to know somebody who went through it, now you can go to YouTube, you can go to Twitter, you can go to Instagram, you can go to the internet and can pull up anything on anybody," said John Tyler head football coach Ricklan Holmes.

Holmes was recruited by the Oklahoma State Cowboys and was a redshirt freshman in 1998, he says the exposure his kids get today dwarf anything he experienced in high school.

"The only thing we had was the Dave Campbell magazine and if you made the Dave Campbell magazine that was like being a five-star recruit on rivals right now," said Holmes.

"You used to hear stories all the time of players who were unheard of in high school, you don't hear near as many of those stories," said Scott Stricklin, the Mississippi State University athletic director.

"Probably not a player out there that we can't go pull up something on the internet and access their abilities," said SFA head basketball coach Brad Underwood.

"Throw it on YouTube, you can even put a little video clip on your Twitter and everybody can see it," said Whitehouse head coach Adam Cook.

Star quarterback and pitcher for the Whitehouse Wildcats, Patrick Mahomes, can testify to the power of online interaction, he will be heading to Texas Tech this summer.

"It's a huge part, especially Twitter and social media. You say one thing about a college and all their fans are talking or trying to get you to go to there school. I mean it does play a huge part in the recruiting process and how much hype and stuff that social media gets you," said Mahomes.

The practice of putting a highlight reel on tape or DVD for colleges to see is nearly obsolete. Now it's mostly all digital, and the reaction is immediate.

"They take a look at it, they evaluate you, they didn't have it back in the day like that and now as the internet has kind of blasted, it's a huge hype part, it's helped people getting recruited," said Mahomes.

"It's impacted recruiting dramatically and will continue as it's ever evolving and ever changing. There seems like there's a new form of communication constantly," said Underwood.

The exposure for high school athletes in today's digital climate is unparalleled, allowing recruiters to take notice of players in smaller, and at one time, forgotten programs.

"You went to a place that historically had Earl Campbell, and places like that, and that's where you went to recruit and now it's opened up to where now some of your smaller school athletes are probably getting a little more exposure than they would have before," said Cook.

With competition so high, and access readily available for all schools, many colleges are pressed more and more to sign "there guy" before anyone else, adding to a rise in early commitments, a practice which many coaches say is hurting the high school game.

"We're looking at kids that have 30 offers before the season starts, they're going through the whole season basically knowing that I have what I need to go where I want to go so, I'm basically on cruise control, and that's not helping any high school team in the state of Texas that I know of any means, cause nobody is scared of a five star recruit when you're not playing like a five star recruit," said Holmes.

It can also highlight a potential recruit's character as well, making social media a double edged sword.

"Twitter's like money, it's neither good nor bad, it's how you use it," said Holmes.

In many cases, what these athletes post online can negate their greatness on the field.

"Our coaches, they look at what young people, potential recruits, put on their social media pages and sometimes you see things that are great, sometimes you see things that are concerning, and you may make a decision based on the way you see a young person handling themselves in social media," said Stricklan.

A message that is being harped on in the field house, and at home.

"My dad has told me since I started having social media accounts, don't say anything that can hurt you in the future and it's a true thing, people will take stuff in your past and use it against you, so you have to be smart about what you say. That's a huge part of what I tweet and what I put out there on social media accounts," said Mahomes.

"I tell them to watch what they do, monitor what they say and the things they put on there, because you really don't know who's following the person that's following you, and if they retweet what you posted, then guess what, your name is attached to that now, and they know what kind of person you are," said Holmes.

Instant online information has altered the recruiting game forever.

"Nothing that you can do back then compares to now as far as exposing your kids," said Holmes.

But there are some aspects which will never change.

"As important as all the technology stuff, as easily accessible as it is, there's no question you've still got to get out and get in front of them and do that multiple times. You have to get face to face and you have to be in the stands in there home in the school," said Underwood.

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the plethora of other online resources are just that, resources, which can be used for and against a potential recruit.

"As a young person, are you using it in a way to really represent yourself in the best way possible?"

And make sure, what you truly stand for, and why you play the game you say you love, is clear and evident.

"I knew I had a future in playing football but I wanted to win for my friends and teammates," said Mahomes.

In response to the increasingly competitive market, many parents are putting their own money into having outside sources create and promote highlight reels for their kids.

It's best to sit down with your child's coach to find out the right course of action for your family, and not be suckered into people who charge a large amount of money, but have little to no impact on your child making it to the next level.

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