A Case for Heckling

Is it all bad?

Alex Elias

“Who’s your daddy?” The fans scream after the opposing team’s player who just had their ankles absolutely snatched. At this point in the game, the crowd is high energy and excited to “heckle”.
Some may be opposed to the negative nature of heckling, but it provides a great way for the fans to get involved in the game. Nobody likes a boring, silent student section who comes up with weak, quiet cheers every couple of minutes. Not the players, and definitely not the fans. Heckling is key to an enjoyable experience for everyone at sports games.
“The fans can get crazy at our games,” said BCC varsity soccer player Theo Yonly. “You just gotta ignore them or they’ll get in your head. Sometimes I kind of like it though. Fans screaming at you really is a push to make me work harder.” In big games with large crowds, it’s almost impossible for the players to ignore what’s going on in the stands. Oftentimes, heckling can give a slight mental advantage – if done right. After a player makes a mistake, or gives up a big play, following it up with heckling from the fans gets in their head for the rest of the game. With the right call outs, fans will have a player reliving a negative moment in their head for the rest of the game, hurting their performance.
However, heckling can sometimes have the opposite effect. Although it is rare amongst high school athletes, some players have a strong mental game, where nothing the fans say phase them. Instead of hurting their game, heckling amplifies it. Players live for moments where they can silence the opposing fans through a stellar performance or a stunning goal. Heckling gives them a golden opportunity to prove themselves and show fans their strength and determination.
As an athlete, the best thing to do when experiencing heckling, especially if it’s getting to you, is to just smile, ignore everything coming from the fans, and continue playing your game. After all, you are the one on the field, and they are paying to watch you play, so you must have done something right to get to where you are.
However, not all heckling is towards the players. Student sections often turn their attention to the referees when a call does not go their way. However, unlike with players, heckling game officials is completely counterproductive. In a high stakes environment where their focus must be on the field, heckling a referee can only distract them from the game at hand. Furthermore, with the referee shortage across Montgomery County, heckling simply has no benefit. Players may be fair game, but game officials should be left alone.
When it comes down to it, fans love to heckle, and it is a key component to bringing fans back game after game. Students love to cheer, scream, and get hyped for their peer athletes. Without heckling, high school sports lose their magic and their excitement.