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Banning Twitter Sends Wrong Message To College Athletes

New Mexico Head Coach Steve Alford chose to ban his players from Twitter. Alford's decision limits his players' freedom and represents a lack of trust he has for his team. What's the alternative? Good old fashion mentoring and off the court coaching.

The Sporting News reported on Wednesday that New Mexico Head Basketball Coach Steve Alford banned his players from using Twitter.

All current players already have had to delete their Twitter sites, and incoming freshmen must do the same before arriving on campus. There are no exceptions, not even for Alford's son, Kory, a walk-on freshman. (Via: Sporting News)

The report adds that disciplinary action will be taken if the policy is violated, including the result of a lost scholarship if a third violation is committed.

While players are still allowed to have a Facebook, the New Mexico coaching staff will monitor all of their posts.

Don't these coaches have more important tasks at hand? Like, winning basketball games?

It might not be fair for me to criticize Alford. Since he took over the New Mexico program in 2007, the Lobos have compiled a 98-39 record and have won at least 22 games in each of Alford's five seasons.

Still, what's the point in limiting a player's freedom by censoring their social media use?

From a coach's point of view, Twitter is a distraction to players and is a vehicle in which sensitive information can get out. Though banning it seems like a low-risk and simple action to take as a coach, why not tell players how to use it and set some guidelines and see if they can follow them?

All of this is a chance for a player to mature and hopefully learn not to share sensitive or offensive information in the future.

Coaches are teachers too, and as teachers they need to educate their players and also set some rules and parameters regarding social media.

Though Twitter has caused problems for athletes and more than a few headaches for all coaches both collegiate and professional, banning it is not the answer.

I do not believe it's fair for players to have to stay in an isolated bubble because their head coach "hates" twitter. Why not have a three strike policy, and still let players tweet? If they screw up three times, then their scholarship is gone.

Sure it's another thing coaches have to worry about, but if they put in the necessary amount of effort in helping guide their players in what to share and what not to share, then in the long-term it will benefit the player.

As long as players aren't tweeting during games or practices, I see no problem with using it. It helps players connect with fans, it reveals a more personal side of the players and Twitter also provides and outlet for players when they feel they have no one else to talk to.

A coach who does not want these benefits for his players is not doing his job correctly.

One of the key aspects in building any type of relationship is maintaining and growing trust between the two parties. This is especially important in the relationship between a coach and his team.

Social media is a tricky tool to manage effectively, but straight up ignoring it and preventing your players from using it manifests a basic lack of trust.  

Telling a player what to do and what not to do off the court isn't wrong, but there is a point where coaches need to let players be normal college students.

College athletes are adults; therefore they should be treated like adults and not middle school kids. A coach should set parameters, educate his players on what is okay and what is not okay to share and then permit his players to participate in social media.

Case in point: after three straight losses in conference play during this last college basketball season, Washington's Isaiah Thomas, one of the most popular tweeters in college basketball at the time, decided to quit Twitter until after the Pac-10 tournament championship game.

Thomas' decision signaled his maturity and his realization that he felt Twitter might have been affecting his play on the court.

From a recent Seattle Times Live Chat with Isaiah Thomas:

Reader: What's the one thing you did that made Coach Romar the maddest?"

Thomas: My twitter account. Every week we had a meeting about it. When we had a talk, it wasn't about nothing but Twitter. (Via: Seattle Times)

Washington Huskies Head Coach Lorenzo Romar treated Thomas like an adult and acted as a mentor. He sat down with him one on one and discussed his problems with what Thomas was posting. Keep in mind that Thomas' Twitter account was one of the most popular in all of college basketball at the time. He wasn't able to hold back and always let his fans know what was on his mind.

Considering that talking to Thomas was only a minor inconvenience for Romar, Alford might be overreacting by banning his players from Twitter. Whatever Romar did, it worked, because Thomas' decision to shut down his twitter was his own decision.

Alford's choice to ban Twitter not only restricts his player's social lives, but it clearly shows a lack of trust he has for his team. This draconian policy prevents him from doing his job: coaching and mentoring his players on and off the court.