By Adam Gibson | Sports Writer
Athletes are constantly surrounded by fans and hardly catch a break when they make a mistake in a game. For college athletes, this holds true as a lot of pressure is put on them to perform at a consistently high level. If they don’t, they have to deal with upset fans and alumni. Social media has made it easier for fans to interact with the players in both positive and negative ways.
On the professional level, fans expect the players to always be great because of how much they are getting paid, and because they are making a living by playing the sport. Sometimes players get tired of dealing with the hatred shown toward them and have to defend themselves.
One of the most recent instances of this was with Golden State Warrior and basketball superstar Kevin Durant, who was caught responding to fans from fake social media accounts. He was defending himself against fans who were saying he was a ring chaser — calling him soft because he left a team struggling to find a championship in the post season to one that had recently won the NBA Finals.
When it comes to the college sports realm, the story is the same. After big, embarrassing losses, fans tend to react more dramatically to what change should occur and what players should have done what. Baylor football head coach Matt Rhule has been coaching since 1998 and has seen huge changes due to social media.
After games, when college athletes go home, they are exposed to mentions from Twitter, Instagram and Facebook about how they performed that day. After losing 58-14 to West Virginia, Rhule said it takes mental toughness to deal with social media and the loss that week, and that’s something the coaches don’t have to worry about as much as the players.
“I don’t have to walk to campus,” Rhule said. “I can just like go from my house to work, you know, and just kind of lock myself in. Our players, you know, they are on social media. They have to have the toughness to say, ‘I’m going to overcome that.’ I thought West Virginia though, all credit, they taught us a lesson.”
These types of losses are going to happen to most teams at some point, but that doesn’t mean fans will be happy when it does. Instead, fans want answers and for the problems to be fixed. Junior linebacker Clay Johnston said the football team has a motto to help it ignore what social media has to say about the loss.
“Well, we kind of put that behind us,” Johnston said. “We correct it, we fix it and we have a saying called “What’s next?” and even with this game, we can celebrate. We can have fun, but what’s next?”
The world of social media has affected how players handle losses and instead of being able to get away from disapproval and an upset fan base, as players could before social media until the next game, they are now bombarded with it.
As a younger player, sophomore running back John Lovett is getting more into dealing with alumni and what he sees people saying about his performances on social media. Lovett said the best way to deal with it is for him to not pay attention to what people other than of his teammates say about him and instead focus on playing better and those players he plays with on a daily basis.
“You just block everything out and worry about your team,” Lovett said. “The people in that locker room and everyone who goes to battle with you every day.”
Social media can act as a great way for fans to get to know their favorite players better, but it also gives the fans the opportunity to speak their mind about what they see from them. For college athletes, it is about tuning them out and instead, focusing on what happens on the field.