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Local programs learn the hard way that hitting "send" has its consequences

In recent weeks, high school athletes from the region and their regrettable pregame forays with social media have resulted in the suspension of a player at one school, an increased police presence at another game and heightened angst for coaches and administrators.

Seems some our young people's preoccupation with Twitter and other social media platforms has produced disciplinary action and tentacles that adversely affected teammates, outcomes and team/school images.

So here is a modest proposal, completely stolen from Geno Auriemma and Chris Dailey at UConn who do not allow their players to post on social media during the season.

Why can't high school coaches here in our corner of the world enact the same rule?

Social media posts, especially from kids, are like being out at 3 a.m.: Nothing good ever comes from it.

"Here is what we tell them," Dailey said about this once. "We're saving them from themselves. There are adults and actors and athletes who at an emotional moment tweet something that you can never get back. It's one less distraction they have to worry about."

Auriemma is more blunt: "One of the problems with the Internet is every stupid person that we didn't realize was stupid we now know is stupid because the Internet has given them an opportunity to prove that," Geno said.

Hard to argue that.

Now this may run afoul of the "you can't tell my kid what to do" crowd. Fact is: We can. Playing on a team is a privilege, not a birthright. The coach makes the rules. It's time coaches, as Dailey said, protect kids from themselves and their programs from unnecessary distractions. It's the difference between educating our kids over enabling them.

"Geno and I have always been on the same page with this," Dailey said. "It's like parenting. Parents I hear all the time say you have to pick your battles. I believe you do. I feel like we established our standard. Once we established that, encouraged it and the kids understood it and bought in, then we were able to loosen the reins. My background is in teaching. I learned you start strict and let students understand and respond. Once they do, you can give them more responsibility. But you can't start out soft and think you can come back and be demanding."

Auriemma and Dailey do not let their team use cellphones during team meals. Dailey: "You're so used to texting people, you forget to communicate. You're so busy talking to people away from you that you don't deal with the people in front of you."

I'm not sure there's a more effective way of teaching kids self-discipline anymore than by limiting their phone usage. This applies to adults, too. I mean, my best panic attack in recent memory came a few weeks back when I left home without my phone. It was here I had a most uncomfortable thought:

I'm becoming the kind of person I make fun of all the time.

For today's purposes, though, it's time for coaches, athletic directors and school administrators to consider the in-season social media ban. Anything in furtherance of reducing headaches is therefore a great idea. Social media has become a car accident at the side of the road: You don't want to look, but you just can't help it.

So who will be the first? Who will be the first coach to ban Twitter from the first day of practice? We've seen two incidents in the past two weeks where kids have been in trouble and for no other reason than they hit the "send" button.

Leave them no choice now.

Get rid of it.

And if they balk, sing them a rousing version of "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor. They will survive, you know. And maybe become better communicators because of it.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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