Amid LOLs and hashtags, local coaches try to connect

Above right, New London head coach Duane Maranda greets his players as they come off the field for a timeout Saturday against Plainfield in ECC football action at the Coast Guard Academy. The Whalers rolled to a 45-18 win over the visiting Panthers.
Buy Photo Sean D. Elliot/The Day Above right, New London head coach Duane Maranda greets his players as they come off the field for a timeout Saturday against Plainfield in ECC football action at the Coast Guard Academy. The Whalers rolled to a 45-18 win over the visiting Panthers.

Football coaching, infamous for producing paranoid, myopic personages, wouldn't be high on the list of vocations that reflect societal trends.

The evolution of the roaring 2000s, however, even has fussbudget football coaches awash in 21st century technology. Coaches are discovering this funky, streamlined way to communicate with their players and trumpet their messages: social media.

They're becoming paragons of tweeting, Facebooking, Snapchatting and Instagramming, long removed from the days of the archaic "phone tree."

"My sister (Sara) opened a Twitter account and a Facebook page so we can stay in contact with the players. That's what they're about now," new Fitch coach Jordan Panucci said. "I was a little behind the Twitter curve. I'd never used it before. She took care of it. It's a great tool so far (for) practice changes, other announcements and anything else I might have forgotten to say."

How did coaches get the word out before?

"Word of mouth, I guess," Panucci said. "I guess you actually had to call somebody and hope the phone tree worked, or you were out of luck."

Yet now, just as coaches adjust to Twitter and Facebook, some are learning that the technological curve bends sharper than they realized. What if, just as they're getting hip to hashtags and status updates, they're becoming so … 2010?

"Facebook is kind of dying off. Not a lot of kids use it anymore," New London coach Duane Maranda said. "(UConn football coach) Paul Pasqualoni tried to contact (New London junior) Hunter Roman through Facebook (recently) because the NCAA allows that at this time of year, and Hunter didn't have Facebook anymore. Kids are going to Instagram and Snapchat."

For the uninitiated, Instagram is an online site that allows its users to share photographs and videos with each other and on other social networking sites. Snapchat, meanwhile, is an application that can take photos or videos, known as "snaps," and send them to others before they're deleted in 10 seconds.

"It's really kind of amazing," Maranda said. "When I was coaching (football) at Bacon Academy, I shared an office with (veteran coach) Dave Shea. Dave had his phone tree just above his desk. I'm trying to update Facebook and all this other stuff and Dave's making one call to the first person on his tree and he's done. I guess it really might not be as easy as it used to be."

Maranda and his fellow coaches agreed that it wasn't long into workouts last month that they had The Talk with their team. Translation: Watch what you say and post on various social media sites. Coaches live in terror of what they call "bulletin board material" - motivation for the other team, based on a flippant comment.

Norwich Free Academy junior running back Khaleed Exum-Strong, born in New London, admits to having many friends on the New London team. He said technological trash talk is tempting, especially Thanksgiving week, when NFA and New London play.

"I have to shut Facebook off," Exum-Strong said.

And it's not always team vs. team.

"We actually had a social media talk the second day of practice," Waterford coach Mike Ellis said. "It wasn't so much what our kids were posting about other teams, but us among ourselves. We had some issues last year where kids were posting other things about teammates. All that does is tear the team apart."

Mostly, though, social media offers convenience and streamlined communication. That ultimately provides more time in a season when time is precious.

"We've expanded into the realm and set up Twitter," NFA coach Jemal Davis said. "We definitely use it."

m.dimauro@theday.com

GAME DAY

What: Stonington-Fitch high school football game

Where: Dorr Field, Robert E. Fitch High School

When: 6:30 p.m. Friday

Streaming live: www.theday.com, beginning at 6:15 p.m.

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Above, Robert E. Fitch High School head footbal coach Jordan Panucci watches his team run drills Friday before a scrimmage against Griswold at Montville High School.
Buy Photo Dana Jensen/The Day Above, Robert E. Fitch High School head footbal coach Jordan Panucci watches his team run drills Friday before a scrimmage against Griswold at Montville High School.
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