Hudl Champions: Michael Huffman on Monitoring Social Media

The Bellevue West coach used social media to help his team capture the Nebraska state football title.

Hudl Champions: Michael Huffman on Monitoring Social Media

The Bellevue West coach used social media to help his team capture the Nebraska state football title.

We like to highlight the best of the best – that’s our goal with the Hudl Champions series. We want to tap state champion coaches to gain insights that can help others gain an edge on Friday nights.

Coach: Michael Huffman, Bellevue West

State: Nebraska

Record: 13-0 (Class A)

Championship score: Bellevue West 43, Omaha North 6

Michael Huffman knew the effects from the conclusion of Bellevue West’s 2015 season – a one-point loss in overtime of the state semifinals – had the potential to damage the confidence of his players, so he didn’t bring it up much at all this season. He didn’t want the stinging memories affecting the psyche of this year’s squad.

But around mid-season, he started to see the hashtag “Unfinished Business” and 34-35 (the score of the final game in 2015) pop up more and more in his players’ tweets. Not only were the Thunderbirds not ignoring the pain of that defeat - they were using it as a rallying cry.

“I kept seeing the kids’ tweets, and they were ‘34-35’, tweeting about unfinished business and things like that,” Huffman said. “I didn’t realize how much that was driving them.”

It’s safe to say the motivation paid off. Bellevue West cruised to a 13-0 record and the school’s first state title this season, blistering its four playoff opponents by an average of 28.5 points per game. All but two of their wins came by more than 20 points.

Huffman never would have known of the Thunderbirds’ driving motivator had he not kept up his strict social media regimen. The fourth-year head coach spends the first half hour of each morning perusing his players’ Twitter accounts, a discipline he started two years ago.

His social media discovery paid off during the Nov. 21 regular season finale against Omaha Burke. Bellevue West had rolled to an 8-0 record and turned most second halves into snoozers. But the Bulldogs didn’t go down as easily, and Huffman found his team trailing 41-38 with 1:16 remaining.

“You tell the guys, ‘OK, we’re going to go down and score,’ but honestly, in the previous three years we’d never done it,” Huffman said. “We’d won a lot of great games, but we’d never done it like this.”

But then Huffman reminded them of that sting, the bitter taste that followed the 2015 season. Did they want to experience that feeling again, or could they rise up and continue chasing perfection?

The Thunderbirds drove down and scored to secure a 45-41 win. Refocused, they rolled through the rest of their schedule. By reminding them of their 2015 pain, Huffman galvanized the squad and got them back on track.

While Twitter played a very positive role on the Thunderbirds’ season, Huffman knows the social media network can have the adverse effect as well. A poorly-worded or offensive tweet can submarine a player’s recruitment, and sometimes the offender doesn’t even know he’s doing something wrong.

“What these kids don’t understand is, they’ll put rap lyrics in there,” Huffman said. “An old fogie like me who’s doing the college recruiting doesn’t know rap music or a country lyric, and they think they’re saying that and it makes you look bad.

“The players understand. They get it. Most of them don’t want that to be a reason that they can’t play at the next level. You want that reason to be because you’re not good enough, not because you said something stupid on social media.”

Huffman’s close monitoring of social media helped him discover a major motivator for his team and keep players on recruiters’ good sides. The result was a coach who knew the heart of his locker room and directed that squad to a championship. Have any other creative ways you utilize social media? Leave your ideas in the comments below.

Other Hudl Champions

Jason Negro, St. John Bosco (Calif.)

Todd Peterman, DeSoto High (Texas)

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