To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

Last year, coach Frank Martin banned his team from using Twitter. This year, Martin himself is a rather frequent user of the social media site, often posting motivational quotes or responding to queries from friends, colleagues, players and media members. On Saturday afternoon, Martin explained he joined Twitter for two reasons: to learn what it is about and to learn about his players by what they post and what their friends post.

In the days leading up to the recent home loss to Iowa State, Martin did not like what he saw. In the locker room after the team's fourth home loss of the season, the coach expressed his displeasure to the players.

"I just told them, ‘ I hope you guys get on Twitter and put all the nonsense that you put after the Missouri game,’ because we had guys who were putting stuff on Twitter before we were on the bus about, ‘These are for all the people who don’t believe in us, yada yada ...’

It’s just a bunch of nonsense, man. How’s that focusing in on your team and what’s important? So I just told them, 'I wonder if you guys will put anything on Twitter now. See if anyone out there is listening to any of your nonsense today.’"

Obviously, an excess of bravado on Twitter was not the sole reason for Martin's disappointment. On Thursday Martin had spoken favorably of the team's work ethic and unselfishness, but after the Iowa State game he and junior forward Jordan Henriquez said there had been a lack of focus and energy in recent practices.

Martin said that only Henriquez (who scored 19 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked 7 shots against the Cyclones) and walk-on Brian Rohleder broke a sweat in practice on Friday.

"It’s a shame," Martin said. "It’s a shame that this team refuses to embrace success. It’s a shame."

From what I could dig up, 11 of 16 players on the Kansas State roster have Twitter accounts. Interestingly, that number no longer includes Angel Rodriguez. The freshman point guard had used the Twitter handle "RealRodriguez13," but search for the moniker now, and Twitter will insist that, "This user does not exist." While I seem to remember a few recent comments by Rodriguez about "fake fans" or "doubters," a scan of the Twitter timelines of most of his teammates reveal mainly general observations or life updates of players. They reference basketball constantly, but much of the time that comes in conversations with teammates or fans, and much of the time the basketball talk revolves around the NBA.

What do you think? Is Twitter too much of a distraction for 18- to 22-year-olds who already have full class loads as well as the demands of a D-1 sports program? Are Facebook and texting better alternatives since athletes are less likely to be bombarded with/focus on/feel compelled to respond to more negative feedback?

As with anything else, I feel like there are pluses and minuses to athletes being on Twitter.

Positives include allowing the athletes to speak for themselves and giving them a way to formulate their own images by giving people access to their conversations, general observations about society, school or sports, and updates about their own lives.

Of course, there are detrimental aspects to this freedom as well. There is always the possibility that players - like people in general - will get too wrapped up in what people are saying about them. That can be the case whether feedback is positive or negative, but particularly when it is negative. Either one can be a distraction.

As Martin has mentioned an innumerable amount of times this season, maturity is the bottom line. If that is still a problem with two games to go in the regular season, maybe Martin should consider banning Twitter again. If nothing else, it will be one less obligation for players to worry about.

*I originally published this story on my blog,*

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