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Social media: The quiet factor in a rivalry

Xavier Smith • Updated Sep 23, 2016 at 11:00 AM

Friday’s winner between cross-county rivals Wilson Central and Mt. Juliet will be determined during 48 minutes, but what’s said in 140 characters could add extra fuel to the fire for players, coaches, students and fans.

 

Since social media gained prominence it has changed the way coaches interact with fans, players interact with one another and the way fans voice their opinions – good or bad.

Mt. Juliet football head coach Trey Perry said he embraces social media’s place in his program, but understands the negative impact it could have at the same time.

“Our program would fall on both sides of the coin. On the positive side, we feel like it’s a great outlet for information,” said Perry, who said he embraced social media after he discovered more players had Twitter than an email address.

Perry said although it’s the easiest and most instantaneous way to send out information, it could also serve as a way to provide bulletin material for opponents. He said he feels his players don’t feed into the temptations, however.

“I think they do an excellent job of staying away from that. I think if you’d quiz them they have to spend so much time during the week on film, homework and other things they’re juggling, luckily they don’t have a lot of time for it,” he said.

Wilson Central senior linebacker Hunter Vaught said his team also doesn’t get too involved in social media during the season.

“We stay away from it because our job is to win and not to get into all that trash talk on Twitter. But as players, we can't help but look at it and laugh,” Vaught said.

 

 

Perry said he feels each player reacts differently to what’s posted on social media and agreed with Vaught that it could serve as a little extra motivation under the lights.

“They each react differently. If it was something was directed more on a personal level at one of them, I could see that motivating them. I know when I played I could use that as motivation, but I don’t know if that’s sustainable for 48 minutes. It’s probably good for a couple of minutes,” Perry said.

“Although we try to ignore the talk as players, it does get us amped up and ready to play so we can prove them wrong,” Vaught said.

Social media brought a direct interaction with players and spectators, but also between rival spectators, which is highlighted this week with #MJHateWeek and #CentralHateWeek on Twitter.

“This is where all the trash talk happens. It's pretty much all just joking around. I think it's just a fun way to come together as a school. We are the closest during MJ week because we are all after one goal and that is to win,” Vaught said.

“It builds up competition and makes the game a bigger deal for bragging rights. It also involves students more in the game than just the players,” said Chelsey Hall, Wilson Central senior class president. “Social media gets the students interacting all week before the game and builds suspense for us as student section.”

Hall said as the Wilson Central senior class Twitter administrator, she does her part in keeping the trash talk clean and friendly.

“I can't control what specific students tweet and stop them, but I can influence them by only retweeting and favoriting tweets I stand by and would want the parents of Wilson Central see represented on our senior account,” she said.

Perry said like players, he keeps his focus away from the various opinions on social media sites.

“I’ve always taught that you surround yourself with positive people and you also surround yourself with people that will hold you accountable. In this profession, you can’t take pats on the back all the time. There’s always things to improve on,” said Perry, who said he focuses on his relationship with Christ, his players and the community.

The help of social media also helped propel votes to designate the matchup as the Tennessee Titan’s High School Game of the Week. The game received 59 percent of more than 84,000 votes cast for the week. The winning coach will receive distinction as the Titan’s Coach of the Week and win $1,000 for the program.

“That adds a little more emphasis to this game. It shows how much this game means to not just us, but to our fans. They really showed some love with all their voting. It just shows how much our teams means to them as it does to us,” Vaught said.

 

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