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The Positives and Negatives of Twitter: Exploring How Student-Athletes Use Twitter and Respond to Critical Tweets

Blair Browning and Jimmy Sanderson

Twitter has become a popular topic in sport communication research. Little research to date, however, has examined Twitter from the perspective of student-athletes. This research explored how student-athletes at an NCAA Division I university used Twitter and reacted to critical tweets from fans. Semistructured interviews with 20 student-athletes were conducted. Analysis revealed that student-athletes used Twitter in 3 primary ways: keeping in contact, communicating with followers, and accessing information. With respect to critical tweets, student-athletes reported various perceptions about them and diverse strategies for responding to them. The results suggest that Twitter is a beneficial communicative tool for student-athletes but also presents challenges, given the ease with which fans attack them via this social-media platform. Accordingly, athletic departments must be proactive in helping student-athletes use Twitter strategically, particularly in responding to detractors.

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From the Physical to the Social: Twitter as a Pedagogical Innovation in the Sport Communication and Sport Management Classroom

Jimmy Sanderson and Blair Browning

This essay discusses how Twitter can be used as a pedagogical tool for sport communication and sport management courses. Given the prevalence with which Twitter has penetrated the sport industry and the frequency with which college students use social media, Twitter is a complementary and viable classroom component. The essay provides ways in which Twitter can be used for formal assignments in the sport communication and sport management classroom. The essay concludes by discussing some challenges to using Twitter in the classroom, describing strategies for overcoming these barriers, and encouraging sport communication and sport management educators to embrace the culture of convergence that Twitter affords. The appendix offers detailed guidelines for the assignments discussed in the essay.

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“We Aren’t Looking at This as an Audition”: Exploring Interim Leadership in College Athletics

Blair W. Browning and Jeffrey W. Kassing

Interim coaches have become commonplace in college athletics. With much at stake, they must act as leaders despite the constraints that accompany interim status. This case study provides an initial examination of interim leadership in the domain of college athletics by focusing on a specific high-profile interim coach’s initial press conference. The authors specifically consider the content of The Ohio State University football coach Luke Fickell’s first press conference after being named interim head coach. Their analysis reveals that Fickell strategically managed the interim label and the temporal nature of the interim role, balanced service goals and career-aspirant ones, and performed collective identity through a variety of means. The implications of these practices for interim coaches in college athletics are discussed.

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Education on the Digital Terrain: A Case Study Exploring College Athletes’ Perceptions of Social-Media Training

Jimmy Sanderson, Blair Browning, and Annelie Schmittel

College athletes are active on a variety of social-media platforms. As a result, most athletic departments require them to participate in social-media education. Although this practice is becoming more prominent, little research has explored how college athletes perceive such training. This case study explored college athletes’ social-media use and their perceptions about social-media education. Semi structured interviews of 20 college athletes at a Division I university were conducted. Using social-cognitive theory as a framework, analysis revealed that while participants expressed a desire for social-media education, they indicated that most of the messages they receive about social media tend to be forgettable. Consequently, athletic departments need to take a more refexive approach to social-media education that incorporates college athletes’ feedback to optimize this instruction.

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Swag, Social Media, and the Rhetoric of Style in College Athletic-Recruitment Discourse

Luke Winslow, Blair Browning, and Andrew W. Ishak

Style—or the aesthetic dimensions of public presentation—is a dominant mode of symbolic expression. However, no one has explored how style functions as a coherent and generalizable symbol system influencing public conversations about athletic recruitment. The purpose of this essay is to fill this gap by developing a critical framework for theorizing the rhetoric of style in athletic recruitment discourse and significantly, how this is done through social media. We analyze sports journalism, recruiting websites, and the public messaging of athletic departments and athletes on social media according to five structural components: stylistic homologies, aesthetic rationales, primacy of text, imaginary communities, and market contexts. Our analysis offers practical lessons for athletes, journalists, and college athletic departments, but we also highlight several conceptual, methodological, and theoretical implications for scholars of communication and sport and social media interested in better understanding social influence in a dynamic and hyper-competitive context.

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Sport Knowledge: The Effects of Division I Coach Communication on Student-Athlete Learning Indicators

Rikishi T. Rey, Gregory A. Cranmer, Blair Browning, and Jimmy Sanderson

Sporting environments are informal contexts of learning that are dependent upon coaches’ use of effective instructional communication strategies. Coaches’ use of power while communicating instruction to athletes is especially germane, as coaches must appropriately use relational influence to inspire optimal athletic performance. Using French and Raven’s power bases (i.e., expert, referent, reward, legitimate, and coercive power), this study considers Division I student-athletes’ reports of affective learning for their sport and coaches, cognitive learning, state motivation, and team winning percentages as a function of their coaches’ use of power. Data collected from 170 student-athletes participating in team sports at Power 5 institutions revealed two significant canonical correlation roots. The first demonstrated that the increased use of prosocial power and avoidance of antisocial power were associated with greater amounts of affective learning for coaches, cognitive learning, and state motivation. The second revealed that expert power was associated with increases in cognitive learning and winning. This research has heuristic implications for expanding the assessment of athlete experience, as well as practical implications regarding the identification of effective modes of relational influence in coaching.