High School Sports

Why Coast athletes, high schools are taking to Twitter — and why you should, too

Gulfport athletic director Bryan Caldwell tweets a score during last week’s Gulfport Holiday Classic at the Bert Jenkins Gymnasium. The Admirals were one of the first athletic departments to have an official account on Twitter, but many other programs have since joined the social media platform.
Gulfport athletic director Bryan Caldwell tweets a score during last week’s Gulfport Holiday Classic at the Bert Jenkins Gymnasium. The Admirals were one of the first athletic departments to have an official account on Twitter, but many other programs have since joined the social media platform. ttisbell@sunherald.com

High school athletes have long taken to Twitter to announce important decisions.

Whether they committed, de-committed, picked up a new offer or celebrated a big performance (or had a great sweet tea for lunch ...), some of the Coast’s best are Twitter regulars.

More and more high school athletic departments and teams have recently joined their athletes — like St. Stanislaus quarterback Myles Brennan, who is one of the rare Mississippi athletes who is verified by Twitter — on the social media platform.

According to Statista.com, Twitter averaged more than 317 million monthly unique visitors in the third quarter of 2016, up from 307 million 12 months prior.

South Mississippi reflects the global upward trend with more and more high school athletic departments and programs joining the social media age and going digital.

Gulfport (@GHS_Athletics), for example, was one of the earlier adapters on the Coast, joining in March 2011.

GHS athletic director Bryan Caldwell said he got the Admirals signed up after noticing how his own kids consume news — like many of us, on their smart phones.

“I noticed they like to get their information from Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and that sort of thing,” Caldwell said last week. “In an effort to keep up with the times we’ve become very active on Twitter and Facebook.”

The Admirals have surpassed 1,700 followers on their main account, which Caldwell said is because of the professional and timely manner in which they can disseminate information on Twitter. Like Tuesday morning, when they announced the girls soccer game would move from Gulfport to Bay High.

“It’s scores, it’s schedules, it’s results, shout outs. Anything we can do to promote our program, that’s the route we take,” Caldwell said. “... I think social media is the best and easiest way to promote our program. We’re in competition for peoples’ entertainment dollars. This is not the 1970s anymore. You can’t just turn on the lights, open the doors and hope people show up to watch your ball game.

“You have to promote your program and we think social media is the most cost effective — and effective in general — way to do that.”

While the Admirals keep their account “strictly professional” without any commentary, other schools try to spice up their social media presences.

Staying interested

Harrison Central’s football account (@RedRebelFTBL), for instance, often posts comical GIFs — or short videos — in addition to highlight reels and other updates.

“I’d say it’s 80 percent for the kids and 20 percent for the community,” Harrison Central offensive line coach Adam Robertson said. “If we’re doing a camp or selling something, we’re trying to boost the team as well, but the majority is for promoting the kids and keeping them engaged and interested (in the team).”

Many coaches, like Long Beach’s Forrest Williams, view Twitter as a great way to get extra eyeballs on their players from college coaches all across the country.

“It’s not hard if you’re a (Clinton standout and five-star recruit) Cam Akers or a program that’s always won to get that kind of publicity, bit it’s great for our kids and a great way to get info out to traditional media like the Sun Herald about scores and results,” he said.

Williams (@CoachFWilliams) is one of the more active posters on the Coast. In addition to managing Long Beach’s athletics page (@LBAthletics) he also runs his own.

While Williams’ wife typically tweets out scores on Friday nights, the long-time Coast coach did a bit of multi-tasking this season and tweeted scoring plays during his game against Stone High.

“It’s not something I would normally do. My wife usually sits in the stands and updates it — and she does a great job with it — but she wasn’t there that night and it was just an easy way to keep the scores going online,” Williams said. “If you’re a fast typer and have good coaches around you then it’s not a big deal.”

Dangers of social media

Yes, Twitter can be fun and used “for good,” but there’s also plenty of less honorable uses which many schools are well aware of nowadays.

Hancock AD Jamie Sisco (@HancockSport) used the phrase “power of the keyboard” to describe how some fans may tweet at athletes — though it’s most often at professional and college athletes, not prep.

“There are definitely positives and negatives with social media,” he said. “From my standpoint, we just focus on the positives and what we can control.”

Many of the schools have also taken the extra steps to educate their student athletes as the dangers of social media aren’t limited to “keyboard warriors.”

Robertson often refers to college coaches, who readily admit they have dropped players they were previously recruiting because of content posted to social media.

Many of the Coast’s schools have even added social media components to their student handbooks and policies.

“I know it seems innocent just by clicking a button, but it can reflect negatively on not only them, but their team and their families,” Robertson said. “It’s like a bullet; once it’s out there, it’s out there and you can’t take it back.”

Follow us on Twitter

There’s a long list of follows for any sports fan who is just starting out on Twitter. For instance, the entire Sun Herald (@SunHerald) sports staff is on Twitter:

There are a lot of reasons to follow along. Here’s the elevator pitch: With news constantly breaking, the next best way to keep up with what’s going on with your favorite high school team — outside of being a SunHerald subscriber, of course — is to join Twitter.

Just ask Caldwell, whose teams always plug Gulfport’s social media accounts.

Before, during and after home games, the Admirals’ public address systems promote the schools’ accounts.

One might argue Caldwell takes the promotion to an extreme.

When his wife, Kellee, texts to ask how the game went, she already knows the inevitable reply.

“Follow me on Twitter.”

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs

Twitter accounts

Follow the Sun Herald (@SunHerald) sports staff at:

James Jones: @_JKJones

Scott Hawkins: @ScottHawkins4

Patrick Magee: @CoastCoverage/@Patrick_Magee

Patrick Ochs: @PatrickOchs