Keep jeers to yourself

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, September 1, 2018

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During the first high school football game I covered, a kid muffed a punt in a critical situation. It wasn’t an easy play to make, and realistically, he should have just let the ball roll into the end zone.

But in the heat of the moment, he tried to make a play. It backfired, and the other team wound up with stellar field position and won the game.

Reece Waddell

Before he even made it off the field, parents and fans from his school were jeering. Some at the referees, claiming there was kick-catch interference. And some at the kid, telling him from the comfort of the stands what he should have done differently.

I immediately felt for him.

In one of the last baseball games I played in, I balked home a run that won the other team the game. As I walked off the field, I heard all the comments being hurled from the bleachers – some at the umpire, and some at me.

Internally, I was already beating myself up over the play, going over 10 things I could have done differently. The tasteless comments like “Why is he even on the field?” and “This kid had no business pitching” made the play, which lasted a few seconds, feel like an eternity.

As I grew up and made my way into journalism, I hoped these incidents would be isolated.

They weren’t.

Booing, jeering and shaming student-athletes is a problem at both the high school and college level. It’s hard being a young person playing a sport, much less playing in front of hundreds or even thousands of people.

With high school football returning this week, it is vitally important to remember the kids on the field.

I’m not one of those guys that believes everyone deserves a participation trophy, but I do believe every player on the field, court, etc. wants to win and do their best. There are going to be mistakes. There are going to be mistakes that cost teams games.

That’s life.

Take it from me. If you see a player commit a costly error, they will feel exponentially worse about it than you ever will. Players and coaches put in hundreds of hours perfecting their craft, hoping to be the last team standing at the end of the season.

It’s a tireless process that requires an immense work ethic. It also requires patience.

I, as well as players and coaches, know there will be taunts and criticism this year. Much to their credit, they rarely acknowledge some of the things said in the crowd during games.

Still, that doesn’t mean they should have to put up with it.

No matter what team you are rooting for this season, and no matter if your child, friend or family member is playing, do everyone a favor. Keep the negative comments to yourself – at least until you get in the car.

Reece Waddell is the Messenger sports editor.

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