Social Media: Or Why @KButter5 Shows Why Coaches Should Let Athletes Use TwitterPosted by mpatton on December 14th, 2011
Mark Turgeon doesn’t love Twitter. It’s clear he’s skeptical of the social media giant. It’s something he “lets” players have, but like any privilege, tweeting can be taken away. Just last week, Roy Williams forced PJ Hairston to run sprints after Hairston tweeted that he wouldn’t play in the Kentucky game because of a
twisted ankle [sprained wrist] (he played). In the world of college athletics, coaches strive for complete control. That desire for total control is part of the reason some great college coaches don’t make it at the next level. Twitter has no filter. Only the tired excuse “my account was hacked” can make tweets go away. While you or I might be able to delete a tweet, athletes get retweeted dozens of times for fairly bland comments, much less something actually controversial.
That said, barring a huge gaffe, coaches should let players use Twitter for a variety of reasons.
First off, Twitter is one of the few places athletes can be themselves with fans. Sure, indirectly, they’re still representing North Carolina or Maryland, but those tweets come from the players and the players alone. They can interact directly with fans in ways message boards have never allowed. Athletes can also provide interesting commentary on issues outside of the horrifically monotonous questions posed by sportswriters fishing for quotes after a game.
Basically, Twitter is the best place for an athlete to build a unique, personal brand. Seriously, could you even quantify how much Kendall Marshall‘s tweets have increased his presence. Without Twitter he might be just a very good point guard with pass-first tendencies. With Twitter he’s a genuinely funny guy, a sneaker addict and a point guard. Though those avenues aren’t available now (because of NCAA rules), don’t be surprised to see Marshall in the spotlight regardless of how his basketball career progresses. He’d be a great spokesman for a shoe company or a very good analyst.
This isn’t to say most athletes are using Twitter like this. Like the average user, they mostly use it to tweet friends or about their days. Some go even further, falling to anonymous critics’ levels and fighting back at fans. For someone as visible as an athlete, Twitter is a responsibility. Some are ready for it; some aren’t. But as Marshall and others have proven, at least give them a chance.