“Absolutely mental scoreline in the Ladies under 16 Championship” read a tweet that popped up on my timeline last night. I knew what was going to be revealed when I clicked into the site – I had seen the result earlier myself – but I was still hugely disappointed to be proved right.
Hand on heart I really don’t see the value in this sort of thing being broadcast across social media. I understand that sites need clicks to drive advertising, yadda yadda, but really, do they need to humiliate people along the way? And that is what this is, a humiliation. The team that was hammered tonight did not go out to be lose heavily and they certainly then did not expect (or need) the result to be shared by a website with over 55,000 followers on Twitter.
I have an issue with any of these types of freak results in any sport being shared on social media even if they are for adult sides, but I think we really have to draw the line when it comes to underage sides. When I was a kid I played on teams that suffered ferocious beatings. I remember coming off pitches blue with the cold as a corner forward not having seen, nevermind touched the ball, asking my brother, our goalkeeper, how many goals the opposition had scored. I lost a game once 4-16 to 0-0, and others by unknown tallies. The thing was, these results were never broadcast to the country. I managed a team where we shipped seven goals in a game and a couple of months later we beat the same team in a league final. Thankfully these results weren’t broadcast for the internet’s amusement, but the thing is freak results happen all the time. The problem is we just see the gory details and there is no context given.
Last weekend the headlines were all about Donegal annihilating Down in Ladies SFC. Where’s the context though? We just see the scoreline and what use is that? People read it, laugh or shake their heads, the notion that Ladies sports are rubbish is further embedded in many people’s minds, and they move on. There is no chance for the team on the end of the tanking to say – hang on, we were missing so many players for a variety of reasons, we are not that scoreline. No, they are not given the right of reply and there is no context given, and suddenly they are “that team.”
As bad as that is for adults to have to deal with, imagine how bad it must be for kids? Their peers read these sites, they go on twitter, they see these stories and do you think they will all act sympathetically? Of course not. There will be jibes thrown, sly digs given, and events like these can deeply affect young people. It’s hard enough to keep boys and girls at that age involved in any sport without extra pressures being heaped upon them as well. We need to encourage girls to play sport, not to give it up but who knows how players will react to something like this? Who knows how tough it will be for a manager or parent to cajole and convince a young girl who has been on a team beaten by a huge margin not to pack it in because suddenly she feels it’s not worth the hassle and it’s not worth the humiliation?
Sadly it’s a real possibility that players will drop off for these reasons and to lose even one player, especially at underage level, because of thoughtless cheap stories such as those we have seen recently, isn’t worth all the clicks in the world.