Tuesday Tips: Livetweeting At A Tournament

On any given weekend, the majority of ultimate news going out to fans at home gets passed along by the little blue bird.

Photo: Daniel Thai — UltiPhotos.com

Tuesday Tips are presented by Spin Ultimate; all opinions are those of the author. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at Spin Ultimate!

Compared to most of the rest of ultimate’s fiftyish-year history, we live in a golden era of organized game coverage: livestreams with pro-level camerawork and commentary, contracts with Fanseat and ESPN, Ultiworld’s own live and taped video content as well as recaps from dedicated reporters — options that would spin the head of a dark-ages-of-disc-internet RSD subscriber whose only way of knowing anything from a tournament they weren’t personally at was waiting for someone else on the list to write up whatever they remembered.

But as hard as outlets like this one work to expand our reporting, the fact remains: on any given weekend, the majority of ultimate news going out to fans at home gets passed along by the little blue bird.

Within the last decade, live tweeting — of scores, plays, and placement updates, as well as peripheral vignettes and shenanigans — has become an integral part of how teams broadcast their performance, from early-season jaunts to critical postseason matchups. It can memorialize flashes of greatness or weirdness that might get lost in the experience overload of a tournament weekend. Most of all, it lets family, friends, and admirers at home in on the highs and lows of ultimate competition, sharing the moments that would otherwise go unwitnessed by the world outside the field complex.

Live tweeting is a valuable service to the team and anyone who cares about someone on it, and if you’re doing it with complete attention, it can easily be a full-time sideline job. And that job usually ends up in the hands of… whoever’s around and has data left on their monthly plan. But whether you’ve chosen to be team media or had the responsibility thrust upon you, don’t fear: there are ways to optimize this.

1. Know why you’re tweeting.

There are many genres of livetweet: straight-up score update, detailed play-by-play, observations on conditions or sideline events, miscellaneous. Your tweets from a day of play can encompass all of these, but they take different kinds of time and attention to write, as well as different amounts of airspace on the timeline. Keeping up a constant live score requires as little time finessing jokes and as much time watching the action as possible; focusing on vivid storytelling — while arguably more fun to revisit later — can mean trading off some of that up-to-the-minute point-tracking.

So, what’s more important to this game, right now? Start by asking yourself a few questions.

  • What kind of event is this? Serious late-spring college tentpole? Alumni game? The fever dream phase of an overnight tournament?
  • What are the stakes? Are you in pool play? Bracket? Consolation? Do you have a history with the other team?
  • What do your followers want to know about how the weekend is going?
  • What will your team remember when this round is done?

If it’s the game-to-go at Sectionals, you might prioritize score updates. If it’s a game that’s being streamed or tweeted elsewhere (you rock stars), you might concentrate on color commentary from your sideline’s perspective. If it’s a game at a less serious tournament, you might update the score here and there, but focus less on live stats and more on memorable scenes, on or off the field.

2. Don’t tweet and play.

If you’re in the game, your time on the sideline is a precious resource: you need to refuel, rehydrate, attend to injuries, refill bottles, scout opposing players, cheer or heckle teammates, notice when your coaches are saying something, on and on. The time it takes to look at a screen and type takes away from that time, even if you’re keeping it brief.

The same really goes for coaches — whose attention is divided enough already between watching the game, managing lines, talking things through with players and co-coaches, and higher-level decision-making — but being further up on the chain of command, it’s up to you if you want to spin this as a “management style” instead of “slacking off on what your team actually needs you to do.”

Whenever possible, delegate tweeting duties to someone who’s not directly involved in this round. If you’re injured, this is your time to shine. If you’re an alum or other random has-been who came to the tournament to feel something, make yourself useful. If a designated tweeter can’t be found, it’s usually best to limit updates to halftimes, delays, and other longer breaks in play.

3. Use the app, just this once.

If you’re either not a Twitter user normally (good for you!) or such a Twitter user that you have to delete it from your phone periodically to function (right there with you!), go ahead and install the app, available in every app store known to phones.1 The mobile version of twitter.com is pretty usable, but it’s not quite as fast and not quite as good for creating threads, posting media, or a few other things that come in handy on a tournament weekend. You can delete it when you’re done and it won’t ever bother you again.

If you do use the app regularly and won’t be posting from a personal account, this is a good time to log out of anything but the livetweeting account for a while. Stories abound of respected people accidentally posting strange subcultural content to the wrong social media profile. Yours might not be so bad, but avert it now.

4. Charge before you go.

Tournament life is hard on a phone battery, and it only gets harder the more you put it to work sending tweets. Mornings can be cold. Afternoons can be hot. It can be cold or hot the whole time. Rarely can you get away with anything but max screen brightness.

If you’re traveling, pack a working charger and charge your phone before you leave for the fields, as close to 100% as you can. Even if you get into the hotel at 3 a.m. Saturday and want only to collapse on a sleeping bag, do not neglect this step. If outlets are limited and you’re set to be the social media arm the next day, you have negotiating power. You came all this way to support the team.

5. Charge after you go.

Seriously, no matter how reliable your battery on a normal day, if you spend most of a tournament on your phone, it’ll be done sooner than you think. If you happen to have access to an outlet somewhere at the tournament site, an extra A/C charger can be good to have in your bag, but better yet, bring a dedicated external power pack. If you’re on MKBHD’s level, there are premium options available, but something in the $15-20 range is helpful for most people, and a step up from the keychain-size power packs you can sometimes get as swag from conferences or your roommate’s mysterious startup job.

6. Be ready for the weather.

A hardy ultimate player isn’t afraid of a little precipitation. Many phones are, and even if the hardware is water-resistant, a dewy touchscreen is a pain to type on. You can get specialized pouches for this, but there’s nothing I like more than a good, sturdy, zippable plastic bag — freezer-grade if you have it. Grab a few and keep them in your field bag.

7. Follow other teams in advance (and make sure it’s really them).

If teams you’re playing also have a Twitter presence, look them up and follow them before games start so you’ll have their handles handy and their updates on your timeline to read between games. Tagging specific accounts in your tweets is good for organization and clarity, and helps the other nerds spending the tournament running their own teams’ social media feel important.

While you’re taking the time, make sure you’ve got both the right team (is it Phoenix, Phoenix, or Phoenix?) and the current account for that team. Ultimate team passwords get shuffled around and, sometimes, lost for good. Ask my old college B team, whose first account announces them proudly as “Ohio State Utimate,” forever.

8. Organize your threads.

Threads are the soul of narrative on Twitter, and invaluable for organizing continuous small updates on a single event. One thread per game is standard. If you’re not a power user, don’t worry about the little plus-sign icon for posting multiple tweets in a thread at the same time; for these purposes, you’ll want to make threads the old-fashioned way by replying to your own tweets.

At the start of each game, send a single tweet with some basic information about the matchup and the stakes (e.g. “Starting on D vs @PGHCrucible in quarters! No one’s seen Mark in an hour.”). If the tournament has a hashtag, official or otherwise, consider using it here. When something notable happens, reply to that tweet, then reply to that reply as the story of the game unfolds. Be sure to always reply to the last of your own tweets in the thread — that’s how threads break if you’re not careful. New game, new thread. Repeat as necessary.

9. Shout out individual players whenever possible.

Look. Ultimate is a majestic sport, and you’re all incredible athletes. But most people following most teams — ultimate fans themselves or otherwise — do so because they know somebody on them. Tweeting about the players brings the kind of specificity and character to your tournament reporting that makes that content more fun to read anyway, but for the people sifting through all your frisbee nonsense to see if their daughter or boyfriend did something cool or funny or benignly embarrassing, it’s gold.

If someone makes a heroic or at least impressively courageous play, mention them by name. If you’re taking pictures on the sidelines, circulate. If you don’t know everyone on the team equally well, this is a time to get to know them a little (and make sure you’re spelling their names right). If you’re on the fence about whether someone would want you to hit send on something, you can always ask first. But this is how you get likes from moms, and a like from a mom is worth ten likes from any other person.

10. But actually, don’t overthink it.

As I write this, social media is just about the only place ultimate has existed outside Disc Space or New Zealand for nearly a full year. The ultimate Twitter network has its drawbacks and limitations. It can also be a fun and useful tool, and a worthwhile thing to care about doing well, during live play and otherwise.

But it’s possible to take it too seriously. It’s not the most important part of the game or the experience, and it’s not the most important thing you can do with your time and attention at a tournament, even if you’re not playing. If trying to keep a steady stream of updates going is taking more than it’s giving — for you or the team — dial it back or set the phone away entirely for a while. If you’d rather decide for yourself what the really vital updates from your tournament are, go for it. Above all, a team’s social media presence should reflect what the team is about. Maybe that’s a well-oiled livetweeting machine and maybe it’s something all its own.

And should the opportunity present itself, handing the phone to someone’s parent can yield incredible results:

  1. If you have some kind of media table setup where you’re tweeting events from a laptop, you’re way beyond this guide. 

  1. Mags Colvett
    Mags Colvett

    Mags Colvett is a former Associate Editor at Ultiworld, the holder of a creative writing MFA from Ohio State University and a literature MA from the University of Georgia, and a proud career B-teamer. They live in Queens and tweet at @magscolv.

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