The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

‘Fighting for clicks’: W&L teams use social media to improve programs

Men’s basketball and lacrosse are leveraging their content on various social media platforms to attract attention from recruits, alumni and parents
Stef Chiguluri
A look at the men’s lacrosse Instagram profile page.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article misstated the names of Oregon’s head football coach and a student.

Oregon Football’s head coach Dan Lanning recently went viral for accusing Colorado University’s football team to be “fighting for clicks” rather than wins. But as social media usage increases among younger generations, coaches across the country and at Washington and Lee University are looking for new ways to tell the story of their programs.

“When you see something about the program’s culture honored and celebrated on social media, how would you not like that,” Washington and Lee head men’s lacrosse coach Gene McCabe said. “I think it’s a place where you can have an impact on how someone feels about being part of something special.”

The men’s lacrosse team began to put more time and effort into social media about eight years ago, McCabe said. But it was not until August 2021, when assistant coach Taylor Mendoza arrived, that the social pages received the consistency and engagement they’re seeing today.

“When I got here, I thought there was okay presence, but it was scattered,” Mendoza said. “First thing was to uniform the brand… then I just started creating content based on stuff I had already done.”

Mendoza is a self-taught video and graphics editor who gained social media experience with previous coaching jobs at Skidmore College and Penn State. He has put hours into shooting and editing multimedia content for the team from short highlight videos to graphics emphasizing impressive statistics. McCabe believes he is seeing the benefit.

“I’ll have recruits sitting in my office, and they’ll often refer to something they saw on social media,” McCabe said. “It means we’re reaching our audience.”

Other teams are trying to better engage their audience too with help from students outside of their programs. Last year, Washington and Lee men’s basketball brought in Ned Newton, ’24, and Teddy Jacobsen, ’24, to film their practices along with games and run their social media accounts.

“When I took over the job about six or seven years ago, I don’t think there even was a men’s basketball account,” men’s basketball coach Chris McHugh said. “We started very, very small.”

Newton and Jacobsen helped the program take a step forward. Both used school-borrowed cameras and Adobe licenses to create graphics and highlight videos. They also helped document the team’s trip to Costa Rica this past summer.

“Our goal was to elevate the platforms that they were on,” Jacobsen said. “The intention of it was for recruiting by showcasing games and practices.”

The videos have done very well and produced lots of engagement, McHugh said. He said his team is grateful to have Newton and Jacobsen’s help, but McHugh said he is also thinking about next year when the pair graduate.

“We’re going to need to get a minor league system going or something,” McHugh said.

Mendoza echoed that sentiment.

“[We’re] definitely looking for people,” Mendoza said. “We’re looking for anyone who can aid what we are doing and can bring their own creative ideas.”

Mendoza’s goal for the year is to create more highlight-style videos because of how well they did on the pages last year. But it is difficult for him to film because coaching the team is his first priority.

“I think even with my background having done this a little bit more than some other coaches, it could be mutually beneficial [for a student] as well,” Mendoza said. “I think it could help someone’s portfolio or just build their skills.”

McCabe has posted these content-creation roles as paid work-study positions in the past, he said, but not much has come of it. But the hope remains to be able to pay students who are willing to take on these roles with athletic teams.

In the meantime, both teams said they are trying to continue to increase their content in any way they can because like McCabe said, “we’re reaching our audience.”

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