Talking smack

Social media puts high school sports in the spotlight

Talking smack

Photo courtesy of Smack High

Madison Castle

SmackHighhand231% Decatur students follow Smack High on Twitter

SmackHighhand225% students know of Smack’s partnership with High 5 Sports

6% students have visited Smack’s website

 

As students file into Decatur’s gym and camera crews set up on the court, the tension builds. An eager crowd waits for the game to start. Aware of a special guest, the fans wave signs high above their heads to show their support.

In mid-January, FOX’s High 5 Sports channel featured Decatur after the boys’ basketball team won Smack High’s Game of the Week Twitter competition.

Smack High, or just “Smack,” is a group of Twitter accounts focusing on high school sports. Founded in Massachusetts in late 2013 by Giuseppe Stuto and Franco Iudiciani, Smack High now covers 24 states, and has more than 800,000 followers and 4,000 student “representatives” who post smack talk about other schools.

Sophomore Terrill Hall, a player on the boys’ basketball team, sees a connection between social media publicity and how many fans show up to watch a game. Winning the Game of the Week contest gave the January game against South Atlanta more publicity, both online and in the local community.

“[The fan turnout] was a lot of pressure,” Hall said, “and especially on my part because I’m an important factor to the team.”

Concerns about singling students out have to the founders’ attention. Smack High has a “no individual targeting” policy and moderates all inappropriate submissions.

Once Chip Zeller, executive sports producer of FOX 5 news station, felt that Smack High had all its filters in place, he approached Stuto and Iudiciani about collaborating with High 5 sports.

“[Smack High] knows who you are. We don’t know who you are when you are voting on our website,”  Zeller said. “I’m actually connecting with you, and I know that you’re real. You know that I am real, and High 5 Sports is real.”

Zeller says that having an open conversation with their audience lets them directly relate with students.

“We are not high school students, so I don’t speak the language,” Zeller said. “I really wanted Smack to be involved with us so that we could speak the language better, almost like having a translator.”

Looking to bring opportunities to high school students interested in journalism, Stuto and Iudiciani opened a program where potential journalists intern as blog columnists and sports contributors.

“We are doing that to make sure we have enough content offering our students a way to see what is relevant to them,” Stuto said.

While this is currently limited to Georgia and Massachusetts, Smack High is open to all high-school related events, and Stuto and Iudiciani hope the volunteer internship program will help that progress.

The two have ambitious plans for Smack.

“Speaking generally, high school sports is going to be a very vulnerable proposition; it’s going to be subject to a lot of influence because it’s never gotten the spotlight it deserves,” Stuto said, “I just hope that whether it’s Smack High or not the first outlet to really put down their influence that they do it in a really responsible manner.”

Smack Causes

Smack Causes are posts on the Twitter account that help promote organized campaigns for students dealing with a tragedy. Using customized hashtags and social media, they reach high schoolers across the nation.SmackHighhand2