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To tweet or not to tweet? (Support)

Submitted by Greg Garcia on September 24, 2012 – 12:17 pmNo Comment

I realize I’m in the minority when I stand in support of coaches who ban their players from Twitter. I’ve taken some heat from friends and co-workers who claim coaches are violating the first amendment and that these athletes are smart enough to decide what they should and shouldn’t tweet.
Just stop right there.
First of all, college athletes are recruited to schools based on their talents and academics and not how many Twitter followers they have. Coaches bring players into their program with the intention of getting them a degree off the field, and helping the program get wins on it. Coaches invest countless hours into their program with the intent of producing perennial winning seasons.
That being said, if coaches think Twitter will pose as a distraction they have every right to ban their players from using it. A player’s focus should be on their education and respective sport. If a player is more worried about tweeting than performing on the field, you have a serious problem.
Am I endorsing an NCAA-wide ban of every Twitter account of every athlete? Of course not. However, if coaches see Twitter as an inevitable distraction, there is no reason why coaches cannot take matters into their own hands.
By banning Twitter, coaches are effectively able to control the pulse of their team. Not only that, but coaches also eliminate the threat of any unnecessary distractions right there on the spot.
College coaches are not oblivious to the potential harm of Twitter, which is why many of them are taking the situation into their own hands. Football coaches Steve Spurrier at South Carolina and Chris Petersen at Boise State, both renowned coaches at the Division I level, see Twitter as a detriment to their program.
Other schools are taking monitoring to another level. The University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville both require their student athletes to install monitoring software that flag certain words, specifically related to drugs, sex, and alcohol.
If universities and coaches are so concerned about what their players are tweeting about and are scared they won’t represent the university properly, why not just eradicate the threat all together?
Petersen seems to agree. According to AOLnews.com, Petersen said, “It’s just a distraction that we just don’t really need to have right now. There’s plenty of time in their lifetime for Twitter.”
Spurrier agrees. According to GamecockCentral.com, Spurrier said, “Well, we have some dumb, immature players that put crap on their Twitter, and we don’t need that. So the best thing to do is just ban it.”
These are not just two run-of-the-mill coaches. These coaches are highly respected and proven winners. Don’t you think they would know what’s best for a program?
Look, I get it. I am constantly on Twitter following my favorite athletes and sports insiders. I understand the world we live in is driven by status updates and followers. But if coaches want to protect their program from potential harm, they should be able to.
I was guilty of tweeting during my tenure as a baseball player here at UALR. If I were asked to stop tweeting, I would have easily obliged. I would like to think I didn’t embarrass the university or the baseball program, but there is a chance one of my tweets rubbed someone the wrong way. There is a difference though in UALR and say USC. Needless to say, I’m not going to have the following of a guy like USC quarterback Matt Barkley (135 followers compared to 71,970 for those of you counting at home.)
Upper echelon universities have to worry about what their student athletes are saying on these social media sites. Before Twitter, fan’s access to their favorite athletes was mostly limited to interviews and press conferences. That’s just not the case anymore.
High profile athletes are already under an intense microscope for what they do on the field or court. Now add 50,000 followers to that spotlight and it’s easy to see how it can be overwhelming.
The fact is, the majority of student athletes aren’t mature or smart enough to handle something as delicate and dangerous as Twitter. Hell, some professional athletes who are grown men act like complete morons when it comes to tweeting (see @ochoninco).
UALR student athletes are warned before every year about the dangers of social media. Like many other schools, athletes sign a waiver giving the university permission to monitor any social media site at the beginning of every year. Does that message really get across to student athletes around the country though? Odds are, as someone is lecturing about the dangers of Twitter, someone is tweeting about how bored they are sitting through it.
Twitter will likely continue to dominate the sporting world, with athletes becoming increasingly popular. It’s a delicate situation that should be left up to the coaches on how to handle it. If that means banning it, then so be it.
Is Twitter entertaining? You bet. Useful? No question. The right medium for an 18-year-old kid who thinks he has everything figured out? In the words of college football analyst Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend!”

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