I understand the impulse to tell a bunch of 18 year olds that they can't use social media. 18 year olds, myself included at that age, say stupid things. They let their emotions get the best of them. If you're a high profile athlete at a top football school each tweet is going to be dissected and analyzed. Are you talking about the coach? Is there a rift in the locker room? Wait, what's that? Those are rap lyrics to his favorite song? Oh...never mind. Journalists have column inches to fill and with the limits some coaches place on their players access to journalists it's understandable that they would take a look at the one unfiltered place where players can speak their minds. Twitter of course can cause problems with no problem more talked about than Cardale Jones' "Ain't come here to play school" tweet from a few years ago. When coaches talk about why they limit social media access they will point this out, but is this really a good thing for these young men?
In our society we talk all the time about allowing people to fail, to make their own mistakes, to chart their own course and see what works for them. In college athletics every part of your day is regimented; you eat at this time, you practice at this time, you study at this time. It's no surprise that you see a lot of college athletes go a bit crazy with partying when they have the chance. I'm sure the regimented lifestyle can take its toll. That's part of growing up though isn't it? I know that during my college days there were some nights, and one breakfast club, where things got a bit out of hand. Maybe someone bought me a shot that I stupidly took, maybe I just had one too many cactus cups on a Thursday night, but whatever it was that pushed me over the edge it certainly taught me a lesson. College athletes often don't get to make those mistakes. If a college athlete has a bit too much to drink almost all of us will know it by the next day. That's just the nature of the beast.
I'm in no way equating allowing the use of twitter to a decrease in the drinking of college athletes. What I am saying is that these coaches allow their athletes to go to bars, to go to parties, to live the much more dangerous part of their lives that will result in them getting into trouble but when it comes to putting their day into 140 characters on social media it's strictly off limits in season. Can you think of anything else that a college coach limits to such an extent? I don't even think the nutritionists at Purdue are that harsh during season. Everything in moderation after all. Except twitter. If you use twitter in season you will get chlamydia, and die. Or something like that.
We put so much pressure on these 18-22 year old
athletes student-athletes to perform on the court or field and also expect them to be paragons of virtue off. Oh, and they also are expected to be better academically than the general student population. They can't use twitter though because that's a distraction. The argument I see each and every season about this is best explained by a nice young man in the video below:
But is that really a good enough reason to ban your players from learning how to manage their online presence? Is that enough of a reason to prevent them from making mistakes that they can learn from? I don't have the answer to that. I don't think it is but then again I don't get paid $1-$5 million dollars to make sure a football team goes out and
makes enough money represents the university with pride and respect. From their perspective I sort of understand wanting to take away one less product that could cause issues for yourself and your team. Why not treat this as an opportunity though? You could give college athletes a leg up on the competition by having someone come in and speak to them about the perils of social media, as well as the virtues. Like any new technology you have to take the good with the bad but shutting someone off from it entirely isn't the answer to making them understand and appreciate the weight of it. We stress in all walks of life how mistakes lead to growth, but for college athletes, mistakes aren't allowed.