The score is tied. Jimmy comes up to the free throw line with two seconds left on the clock. If he makes the two shots, his team wins, and if he misses, it’s either overtime or game over. The whole game, Jimmy has been fighting for points against the other team. They’ve been in his face every time he’s shot and he’ll probably wake up with bruises from some of the fouls he’s taken. So I ask you, what is going through Jimmy’s head?
The student section.
Tournament time is in full swing for both boys and girls basketball teams throughout Highland County. Some teams are just starting their tournament runs and some have already had to start getting ready for next year. This year I have seen last-second three-pointers, dunks, and officiating blunders. What I have also seen are some great student sections. I’ve seen the classic newspaper skit while the other team is being announced, players actually getting mad at and talking to student sections, and a crayon standing beside a crayon box. I’ve seen a student section turned into a human roller coaster. I’ve seen and heard things that have made me turn my head, watch the student section and just chuckle to myself.
Now, I don’t want to take away from the players themselves, although most of the student section is comprised of athletes from other sports. Obviously, the game’s outcome rests on the players’ and coaches’ shoulders, but I have to believe that a good student section may sway the outcome of a down-to-the-wire game. I’ve seen it. If your student section can get a player to acknowledge you (without the use of obscene language), then you’ve won. Any player that can’t keep his or her mind on the game and out of the crowd, especially the student section, is destined to lose. To point out an example, recently in a tournament game, a student section was heckling the other team during warmups. Nothing harmful. Just yelling out a count of the total of shots the other team was missing. One of the players, obviously short on temper management, decided to throw a laser pass into the student section, hitting a student, then tried to pretend it was an accident. Problem being, there was no one near where the ball was being thrown. Anyone who saw this knew it was on purpose. This was a bad idea for the player. Every time he got the ball the rest of the game, the student section would yell ‘pass it to me, I’m open.’ They were clearly in this player’s head from the beginning of the game.
Another thing that has been brought to my attention are student sections that get told by parents from the other team that what they are doing is rude.
This is a competition and you are the opponent. Do you really expect the student section from the team that is trying to beat you to be nice? Each school has a principal and an athletic director. Both are usually at games. If the student section is doing something that should not be tolerated, one of these two people will usually take care of it. I’ve seen it happen.
A certain student section was yelling a phrase that could have been interpreted as something else, and they were told to stop. What are you going to do when your kid goes off to college and decides to play a sport, and one night at a game the frat boys from the other school show up three sheets to the wind and start heckling your kid? Turn them in? No. ‘Cause that is the student section’s right. To tell your kid how horrible they think he is. It’s the athlete’s job to tune all that out and beat the other team.
Back to the topic. I know the local athletes deserve some recognition for their accomplishments for this season. Some of them have done very well and some have a way to go in their tournament run. But I also think we should give a shout out to the students who have gone to most, if not all, of their school’s games, sat right there beside the court and clapped, cheered and heckled for their home team. I hope to see some of you in the tournament.