Social Media connects fans with team

Illustration by Erin Jackel/The News

Sophie McDonald
Sports Editor

Despite being 23-1 and handling the pressures of being student-athletes as well as the only undefeated team in the nation, the Murray State men’s basketball team still makes time to tweet.

“We have fun with it,” junior guard Isaiah Canaan said with a smile. “It’s entertainment for us that keeps us busy and keep our minds free sometimes from being hammered down with basketball so much.”

The athletes aren’t the only ones who tweet, either.

“Coach Prohm, we’ve got him hooked on Twitter and now he’s enjoying it,” Canaan said. “It’s just for entertainment, we read up on things sometimes and follow people who is fun to listen to or have knowledge; it’s just fun.”

First year Head Coach Steve Prohm opened a Twitter account in March last year and uses the social media site to connect with players and fans.

“It’s fun and totally different,” said Prohm, who didn’t have a cell phone his second or third year in the business. “My followers have gotten a little more now with our success, but it gives me a way to interact and follow the guys and joke around with them a little bit in a different light. It also gives me a chance to interact with the students and community and keep them involved and let them feel a part of what’s going on here, because the biggest thing right now is how much the community is having fun and how much it’s impacting our school.”

The degree of involvement Prohm has on Twitter as a coach is new to Racer Nation.

“This is something you would never have seen out of Coach Kennedy, although he does have an account at Texas A&M and had one maybe here but it was extremely inactive, but Coach (Prohm) has really embraced it,” said Neal Bradley, the Voice of the Racers. “I think it’s two-fold I think it A) helps him to build a little camaraderie with his team, and B) helps him keep an eye on what they’re tweeting, but he has fun with it.”

Bradley said the use of Twitter and social media is where trust comes into play.

“I’ve seen some coaches come down hard on how negative it is and I think Coach Prohm, and I back him 100 percent on this, thinks it can be positive,” Bradley said. “We have a bunch of mature kids who are on there and they just have fun with it and to me that’s a lot of fun. I like it when (Prohm) gets into it with them, cutting into them on the teams they follow or something like that or the games, the Call of Duty or whatever it is they’re playing, but they have a lot of fun with that but they put it back on him, when his Redskins weren’t doing well he kind of went silent on them for a while, finally.”

In addition to the ability to engage in conversation with others, social media – Twitter especially – has become an efficient way to stay updated on games fans couldn’t see in person.

“In this day and age everything is so immediate now,” Dave Winder, sports information direction for Murray State athletics, said. “I guess the thing that the social media has done is that it’s allowed us all to communicate thousands of miles apart like we’re sitting right next to each other. I always felt it was a great way to communicate during games, that’s what I like about it.”

Fans keep up with Racer tweets during games in which they do and don’t attend, Josh Hill, freshman from Paducah, Ky., said.

Graphic by Erin Jackel/The News

“(Saturday) night I was able to catch that my favorite Racer, LaTreze Mushatt, had 11 points and I think five or six rebounds in the first half (of the UT-Martin game),” Hill, from Paducah, Ky., said. “While I knew he had been having a good game, I was able to catch that tweet and say, ‘Oh, hey, he might be up for a double-double tonight.’ There have also been a couple of calls by the refs that I was unsure of. Usually, someone will tweet about the call, like who it was against, what the call was and why. So while there were only a couple games I didn’t see in person, these tweets have been helpful even for the games I did see.”

The support of Racer Nation has become more tangible through social media and has served as a source of encouragement for the team.

“Before every game you get a lot of tweets telling you ‘good luck’ and ‘keep the train moving’ and all that stuff,” senior guard Jewuan Long said. “So you realize that you have a lot of people out there pulling for you, and it just gives you great pride to know that, and it gives us more motivation to see what they say.”

Brian Schooley, graduate student from Paducah, has followed the Racers since he was 8 years old and now follows them on Twitter.

“I follow several players and it shows how grounded they are and what a great group of guys they are when they respond to one of my tweets or retweet something I said,” said Schooley, whose father, Phil, serves on the University’s Board of Regents. “It also shows how close they are and what friends they are when they joke and kid with each other.”

Senior guard Donte Poole deleted his Facebook account and now solely uses Twitter.

“I’m on there a lot, I’m always tweeting and checking my things and I love it,” Poole said. “People always tweet things and after games you get so many tweets from people. A lot of people (might) look at them and ignore them but I actually take the time, whether it’s a road trip or even if it’s a day or two late, to go through and answer everybody or acknowledge it because it’s just a blessing. I feel so appreciated knowing that they’ll take the time to say or make a comment about me so I feel that the least I can do is respond and acknowledge them.”

One of the fans Poole and his teammates have acknowledged is Brendan Parker, freshman at Murray High School, who has followed Murray State basketball as long as he can remember.

“I do follow a lot of Racer-related things on Twitter (including) WPSD Sports, all the players, Coach Prohm, MSU News, Neal Bradley,” Parker said. “I follow these people because they help me stay connected with Racer Nation. I enjoy seeing the players and coaches’ tweets about the game and about their daily life. It sort of makes you feel like you know them, even though you really don’t.”

University President Randy Dunn said he stays up to date with what is going on with the team in the nation through his wife, Ronda.

“I feel like I keep up pretty well with what’s going on just on the basis of what gets forwarded and what people share with me,” Dunn said. “Ronda, on the other hand, does stay pretty closely attached to it. So a lot of times she’ll be the one who will catch things before I do and forward them to me. Even though I don’t stay on it all day I do feel like I’m pretty current about what’s going on with it.”

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