September 19, 2013
Petke: social media has made man management more crucial to coaching in the 21st century
By Michael Lewis
|Mike Petke (left), discussing things with assistant coach Robin Fraser: "Players are under a microscope. They're getting critiqued at all angles. I think it makes players a little more touchy in certain situations. 'Why am I not starting?' Because it
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Mike Petke has been a part off Major League Soccer for 15 years, mostly as a player, most recently as a head coach.
Since joining the league as a wide-eyed rookie with the MetroStars in 1998, he has seen MLS go through growth spurts, ups and downs and many changes. But probably the biggest change for Petke from a coaching perspective is man management.
Back in his playing days, that wasn't a big priority with coaches. Now it is.
"I have learned a lot more player managing-wise whereas when I started in the league, it wasn't that big of an issue, player management," Petke said in his weekly conference call with the Red Bulls media earlier this week. "I don't think I spoke to many of my coaches throughout the season. It's a different day and age. Now you have to know have to go up to and put your arm around and who to keep your distance from, that its working by themselves."
While it doesn't seem like a long time ago, 1998 can be viewed as ancient history, with all of the advances in technology, resulting in the emergence of social media.
"The league has changed; the personalities, there's more teams, more players," Petke said. "Listen, I also throw in the Facebook, twitter, all that social media stuff. Players are under a microscope. They're getting critiqued at all angles. I think it makes players a little more touchy in certain situations. 'Why am I not starting?' Because it's going to be all over Facebook or it's going on MLSSoccer.com or what have you. Or that twitter is going to be blowing up.
"I think that's a big thing. I noticed it. I'm not talking about many of my players, to be honest with you. But I called it last year the LeBron syndrome where a guy like LeBron James, who has earned everything he's got -- he's the best basketball player in the world -- but he's a guy who came out of high school and was given that huge contract before they knew he could play in the league. I look at a lot of players now around the league, perhaps would rather that than to earn it. When things don't fall that way, it's a touchy situation. It's a different day and age completely."
Trying to keep up with everything is a fulltime job. Petke is 37 and nnot that far removed as a player. He is on twitter, but he really isn't tuned in as some of the players, particularly the younger ones, on the team.
"The only social media that I'm on is twitter and that's because Red Bull a couple of years ago approached me when I was still playing to have an account to stay in touch with the fans," he said. "I loved doing it. It's been a long time since I posted something but with the way the social media is and the new smart phones and everything.
"It beeps every time I'm mentioned. just like ... you get a beeping thing every time on twitter. I think there's a lot of good for it. I'm not against it. The bulk of our supporters are on it. But as far as reading it religiously and taking it to heart and what things are said, not at all."
Asked how often his cell phone beeps, Petke replied, "It fluctuates. It's a heck of a lot more after we lose than after we win."
New York Times writer Jack Bell mentioned that Petke needed someone to adjust his phone settings.
"Listen, I'm from the old school," Petke said. "I don't know how to work half this stuff. Maybe I'll have Brian Tsao do that."
Tsao is the Red Bulls director of communications.
Given his coaching responsibilities, Petke doesn't have time to read the traditional news media, whether it be newspapers or websites.
But Petke does have eyes out there.
"Listen, I have a very hands on, very interested family, extended family," he said. "My close-knit friends, when I met them, didn't know a thing about soccer. Now they are die-hearted Red Bull fans. I get calls from friends or texted. 'Hey, did you say what they said on BigSoccer, MetroFanatic or MLSSoccer.com?'
"Occasionally of course, I go on there I look ... A -- I want to make sure my players are saying the right things and B -- I've been misquoted -- not from I believe anyone on this phone call right now -- but I've been misquoted a couple of times earlier this year and it did not leave me very happy. Yeah, occasionally I'll check it out."