What are words for?
Words can motivate. And, they can also teach.
West Virginia’s Daxter Miles Jr learned that the hard way after his “36-1″ prediction about the Kentucky Wildcats. Miles Jr’s prediction provided a little extra incentive for the undefeated Wildcats. Kentucky thumped West Virginia 78-39 in a NCAA Regional Semi-Final game in Cleveland, Ohio last night.
Wildcat players took to Twitter to address the win emphatically
36 and won
— Devin Booker (@DevinBook) March 27, 2015
It wasn’t just Kentucky players either. West Virginia’s horrendous shooting night and Miles Jr’s comments were a hot topic on Twitter during the game with media and fans yesterday. But, there was another group that was paying attention too.
Coaches jobs have had to evolve over these last several years. Social media (monitoring and teaching) is very much a part of the job. Even if a coach is not on social media themselves, most of their players probably are. As such, it’s important for a coach to know what their players are doing.
Teachable social media moment
The Miles Jr quote is a teachable moment for coaches here at the Spokane Regional for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. I asked coaches about discussing social media with their players during the tournament.
Maryland Terrapins, Coach Brenda Frese: I think our players are really well-trained and know, kind of, the approach in terms of talking. They all were talking about it (Miles Jr’s prediction) yesterday before that (WVU-UK) game, which I was glad to hear, just in terms of fueling Kentucky and getting them even angrier going into that game. So, I’m quite confident in our young ladies that they will be media savvy.
Duke Blue Devils, Coach Joanne McCallie: I think for everything, people have to be clear thinking. We hope — at this point, I would like my team to be as clear thinking as they could possibly be. But, we talk to our team throughout the season and we would expect by now the leadership would come from our senior captains, reminding people not to spout such predictions. It’s not about predictions. It’s about what we do on the court.
I do Facebook because it’s nice, you get to like everything. Facebook is positive, you just press like on everything, for the most part. I was on Twitter and found myself disillusioned by it tremendously. I got off of that. I said, no, that can’t be a part of what I’m doing.
NOTE: Coach McCallie does have a Twitter account with recent activity. I am trying to clarify with Duke WBB to find out who actually runs her account.
Tennessee Volunteers, Coach Holly Warlick: Well, they better not do it (make any predictions, especially on social media). You don’t want to give anybody ammunition. I just prefer them not to say it. It’s tough to back up. I mean you’re giving people ammunition to get up just that much more.
I think we always — and we have always done this — I don’t care who you’re playing, you’ve got to respect your opponent, especially at this time of year. They got here the same way we did. They’re here for a reason, because they’re playing great basketball right now. So, I don’t think that anyone can step up and say, we’re ready for you and we want you. I tell them be careful what you wish for, because it can definitely turn on you just as easy as it can help you.
Gonzaga Bulldogs Coach Lisa Fortier: We mentioned it again. And during the season, we remind them often that they’re representing themselves, their family, our team — they’re representing a lot of people.
You want to make sure that you’re always humble, which I think we are by nature. But, that you’re humble and that you make sure that you’re being smart and not giving anybody else any fodder for the bulletin board. And hopefully, we managed to do that. They are only 18 to 22 and they make mistakes and social media is a whole different animal now days, so it’s probably more common than it used to be.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I don’t envy coaches, especially college coaches, these days. Social media has become so intertwined in every aspect of sports that it is impossible to avoid. It’s not enough to monitor what their own athletes are saying. Nor is it enough to tell them “think before you tweet”. Everyone thinks. But, not everyone evaluates and analyzes the repercussions of what we share on social media.
There are teachable moments nearly every week on sports Twitter. Every single thing we say, whether verbally or on social media receives sound-bite scrutinization. Some athlete (pro, college, high school), media member, celebrity or fan gets in trouble for what they tweeted. Or, in the case of Daxter Miles, Jr, gets in “trouble” for what they said.