Tennis teams send ‘tweets’ to connect with parents, fans
By Alix Peabody
Published on Friday, February 20, 2009
Recently, the men's and women's tennis teams began providing match progress and results online to parents, fans and team alumni with the online tool "Twitter."
Twitter is a social-networking website that consists of user's micro-blogs, similar to a Facebook status. Users are able to update make short posts of 140 characters or less, known as "tweets."
Bonnie Barber, volunteer assistant coach for the women's tennis team and wife of head coach Bob Dallis, is responsible for initializing the use of Twitter and writes most of the team's Twitter updates.
"In the past, a few people would email or text me during matches to find out what the scores were," Barber said. "It was a really inefficient way to get the scores out."
The coaches initially e-mailed fans of Dartmouth tennis to inform them about the new system. Victoria Junge, mother of women's tennis team member Jessica Adler '10, said that she is delighted to see the team communicating so intensively with its fans.
"When Bonnie Barber got an iPhone and told me she was going to start sending out her own tweets, I was thrilled," Junge said. "I love reading the updates, especially since they are not just scores, but great descriptions of what is going on in the match."
Friends and fans immediately took to the new form of communication, Barber said. Jim Mitchell, father of women's tennis player Ashley Mitchell '11, explained that the updates have helped him and his family connect to the team.
"We would be at every match if we could," he said. "But with the travel distance and expense, it is a great way for us to let the entire family tune in to the matches when we can't be there in person."
The "tweets," can be accessed via the pages on Twitter.com established for both the men's and women's teams, or the messages can be forwarded to a user's cell phone as text messages.Applications are also available for iPhones and BlackBerrys that connect to Twitter and allow a user to make and recieve "tweets."
Barber updates Twitter during matches approximately every three minutes, she said. Twitter followers are truly able to get a play-by-play experience.
"I try to give updates whenever there's a significant score change or whenever someone wins a game," Barber said.
Twitter also allows Barber to take photographs on her iPhone and update them to the site. Barber said that she highlights performances of the students whose parents are unable to attend the matches.
"A lot of the parents come to the matches, but for the ones who aren't present, I try to focus more on their daughters," she said.
Twitter has allowed the team to become more connected to its followers and alumni. People are more easily able to monitor the competition, following the team's progress throughout its season, Barber said. Using Twitter has helped to expand the Dartmouth tennis' fan base, she said.
"There are several fans of Jesse [Adler] who are now also following matches on Twitter, and have gotten completely immersed in Dartmouth Tennis," Junge said.
Originally, Barber used her own Twitter account to inform fans about score changes and important plays.
Prior to implementing Twitter, the Dartmouth tennis teams established an online video stream, or webcast, that usually covered at least two courts during a match. The webcast, though, could only show a limited number of matches at a time. Twitter has become an important addition for updating fans on all the matches.
"We really like Twitter," Mitchell said. "It is a good supplement to watching the games on the live streaming video."
Using this social networking tool to communicate scores and important team information in real-time has also carried over to the men's tennis team.
Following the women's team's example, Sukie Punjasthitkul, a researcher at the Interactive Media Laboratory at Dartmouth Medical School, set up the Twitter account for the men's team. Punjasthitkul is also responsible for setting up the webcasts during meets.
"I think Dartmouth tennis has got to be one of the more high-tech teams out there, between showing the matches on a webcast, and using Twitter to cover all the matches," Barber said.
While players were initially worried that having the Twitter would limit their fan attendance, several parents believe it will have the opposite effect. Because the Twitter updates are so easy to follow and fun to read, people have become stronger fans, according to Junge.
"I think that if anything, this will keep people more involved with Dartmouth women's tennis," she said. "More fans will want to come in person."