It doesn’t matter what sport you played, at what level or for how long; at one point or another, your coach told you that the sport is all in your head. “Be mentally tough.” The point they’re trying to make is that once you lose it up here *points to head*, you don’t play as well out there *points to playing field*.
Just like Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Winning and losing all starts by believing and dreaming that you can. In essence, winning is being mentally tough. However, it appears that some find women’s soccer players to not be as mentally tough as other athletes.
If you believe any of the stories out there, the women’s soccer team used to have hecklers show up at their games just like the men’s team does today. A few seasons ago, however, the comments made by the hecklers resulted in one girl from the opposing team crying. A written complaint to Northwestern was later sent by the opposing team. Ever since that game, hecklers are no longer allowed at women’s soccer matches. It’s ridiculous!
The heckling here at NW is not even invasive and mean anymore. After the event, rules were put in place to corral the hecklers. Now, they are much more subdued in their comments. These new rules of heckling are quite simple:
1. You are not allowed to heckle the coaches, referees or goalkeepers.
2. You are not allowed to insult the player’s family, girlfriend/boyfriend, or anyone else related to the player.
Basically, you can only make fun of the players themselves. For example, acceptable phrases of heckling include: “Hey #7, what’s your favorite hamstring stretch?”, “Apples or oranges, which one’s better?”, “#10, you forgot the ball!” Nothing offensive is heckled at you; it’s solely a way to make a player lose focus for half a second.
Plus, comments like these are already made at other women’s sporting events. When NW played Dordt in volleyball a few weeks back, the crowd created a more mentally stressful atmosphere than anything the hecklers currently dish out. The gym was so loud you could barely hear the person next to you. But the players were mentally tough enough to handle it. For them, it’s part of the game; they deal with it.
As collegiate athletes, players have to be able to handle those comments without losing focus. Simple smack talk, like the phrases I listed above, shouldn’t get to you. If anything, being heckled at should make you better as an athlete by forcing you to be more mentally tough. But heckling is not only for the players, it’s for the fans as well.
Inviting hecklers back to women’s soccer matches would encourage higher attendance. Looking at the stands at a women’s soccer match this season is similar to going to a desert in Arizona—there’s not a whole lot out there. That’s not to say we don’t love our committed fan base (looking at you mom), we really do appreciate them. Our loyal fans have become like family, but that’s all who show up.
Now, I’m not trying to bash you all for not attending games; I understand it’s cold out and that soccer isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I can live with that. What I am saying is that making soccer more interactive for the student body will encourage game attendance and community between students. Heckling is one way to have the student body “lean in,” if I may use a chapel term and interact with the women’s soccer program.
So, let’s bring heckling back into women’s soccer. It’ll be a fun experience for everyone involved.