Is There Anything UCONN Can’t Do? Tweet, For One
“Bye bye Twitter,” the junior guard Moriah Jefferson (@_BonnBonn) wrote. “See Ya after season.”
“Bye Twitter!” the redshirt sophomore forward Morgan Tuck (@M_Tuck3) wrote.
“Last day of tweeting,” the freshman guard Gabby Williams (@Gabby15Williams) wrote. “Time to get focused. See y’all in April.”
The top-seeded Huskies (34-1) hope they will not be back on Twitter until next month. That would mean they had advanced to the Final Four of the N.C.A.A. tournament for the eighth consecutive season. They will face No. 5-seeded Texas (24-10) in the round of 16 on Saturday in Albany.
For the past four years, UConn’s coaches have not allowed their players to use Twitter from the first day of practice until the last day of the season. “I put it to them this way: I’m saving them from themselves because there are adults and actors and athletes who at an emotional moment tweet something, and you can never get that back,” the associate head coach Chris Dailey said. “It’s one less distraction they have to worry about.”
Dailey and Coach Geno Auriemma first thought about limiting players’ social media activities when the Huskies visited Europe in August 2011. They did not have access to their cellphones or the Internet while spending more than a week in Italy, practicing, seeing attractions and playing games.
“And they survived,” Dailey said, laughing. “Can you imagine? Ten days without anything.”
Dailey said there were no incidents that prompted the Twitter ban starting with the 2011-12 season. The coaches just thought the players were high-profile athletes and local celebrities who could cause unwanted headlines with an off-color remark or inappropriate message.
The coaches also promote an atmosphere in which players talk among themselves. During team meals, they cannot use their cellphones to send text messages or surf the Internet. Dailey said UConn sometimes even had technology-free days in which players did not use their phones at all.
“You’re so used to texting people, you forget to communicate,” Dailey said. “You’re so busy talking to people away from you that you don’t deal with the people in front of you.”
She added: “The people that really care about you are your family and the people in this room. Other than that, it’s for fun. You can enjoy that as entertainment, but don’t mistake it as reality.”
The coaches allow the players to use Facebook and Instagram during the season because those sites offer a little more privacy. Dailey said that UConn officials sometimes monitored Instagram but that the team had not run into any problems.
Breanna Stewart, a junior forward and the Final Four’s most outstanding player the past two seasons, said she was accustomed to the Twitter ban. She is active on Twitter in the off-season, but she understands why the coaches tell them to abstain from sharing their thoughts during the season.
It’s something we don’t need,” Stewart (@bre_stewart30) said. “Twitter is just another form of social media. It’s not going to make or break you. Yeah, I guess it’s fun to tweet, but we can do that after the season’s over, after we’re done focusing on winning a national championship.”
Connecticut after winning the championship game at the N.C.A.A. tournament in 2014. The team's four-year Twitter ban has coincided with a successful run for the Huskies.CreditJohn Bazemore/Associated PressStewart, who has nearly 12,000 Twitter followers, is used to the attention. She was the only college player on the United States team in the FIBA World Championship for Women last summer and fall. People were even interested when she tweeted about the game schedules for that tournament.
“It’s weird, if you think about it, the fact that you can put something out there that everyone can see,” Stewart said. “That’s just another thing for me is, Why would you put some things out there that you know the whole world’s going to see?”
Other players also seem to be fine with the ban.
“I like social media, but I don’t need it in my life,” said Jefferson, the starting point guard, who has nearly 4,500 followers. “I think it keeps players out of trouble. I’m not saying that anybody’s going to make a bad comment, but if you can’t use it, then you won’t be able to make a mistake.”
The four-year Twitter ban has coincided with a remarkable run for the Huskies. They advanced to the Final Four in 2012 and won the national title the past two years. This season, they are winning by an average of more than 42 points per game and are on track to win their 10th N.C.A.A. championship since 1995.
After UConn defeated St. Francis of Brooklyn, 89-33, in the first round on Saturday night, Terriers Coach John Thurston compared the Huskies to the U.C.L.A. men’s basketball teams that won seven consecutive national titles in the 1960s and ’70s.
“I don’t know if it could ever be duplicated,” Thurston said. “It’s astonishing when you’re sitting where I was and your kids are playing hard and they’re making it look as easy as they make it look. It just reminds me so much of those U.C.L.A. teams.”
Last April, shortly after UConn completed a 40-0 season by beating previously undefeated Notre Dame, a few Huskies players shared their excitement on Twitter.
It was an emotional and common reaction that was retweeted 148 times and favorited 196 times. For more than five months, though, Jefferson has not tweeted. She is not complaining about it, either.
“Honestly, now I don’t even know what to tweet when I get Twitter back,” Jefferson said.
By Tim Casey, posted on nytimes.com