COMMENTARY | High school senior Briana Leonard lost a set-of-three New Hampshire girls tennis singles final, not because of her talent, but rather because she says the crowd bullied her.
The Nashua (N.H.) Bishop Guertin senior was facing off against Bow (N.H.) High senior Sunday Swett when the constant heckling from the crowd led her to exit the court.
In professional sports we hear heckling all the time. In this particular case, though, officials from the New Hampshire Interscholastic Activities Association seem to this it got out of case.
The girls were preparing to shift their game to a different court after Swett won the first set 6-4. Instead of moving courts, Leonard headed to her car and left the event.
The girl’s father says she was being attacked by the crowd because she lives in Massachusetts but attends school in New Hampshire.
Karen Leonard tells The Telegraph:
“They were bullying her. This has been going on for two years. They’ve wanted her out for two years because she’s not a New Hampshire girl. Because we live in Massachusetts.”
Leonard’s own coach admits that Briana Leonard should learn to deal with hostile crowds, which have always been a part of sports.
Bishop Guertin coach Barry Ndynia says of the crowd:
“Bri was heavily not the crowd favorite today. But in sports that’s something you have to deal with. Some people will not cheer for you. They’ll cheer for your opponent. That’s why I was trying to keep her focused.”
After the match, opponent Sunday Swett said she was just happy to have the win. Swett tells The Monitor
“I thought it was a bathroom break and when everyone started cheering I thought it was more like, ‘First Set! Keep it going!’ And I was kind of like, thank you, but I’ve got to stay focused here. But she just picked up her stuff and left. I’ve played her before [including a 6-0, 6-1 loss to Leonard in the 2012 quarterfinals], and, not to be mean, but I know she has an attitude, and I was ready to put up with it. But this brought it to a whole new level.”
For her part, Sunday Swett has been named her local news stations “hometown hero” in the past:
So was bullying to blame? Any sports fan who has watched a hometown crowd back their hometown player will say absolutely not. The fans didn’t throw anything at Leonard. They didn’t threaten her. They just booed and heckled.
When I played baseball, I literally heard parents heckle 5-year-old t-ball players. Unlike Briana Leonard, those kids ignored the heckles and continued to play.
Professional sports and even high school level sports come with their fair share of distractions; some people just aren’t cut out to deal with those distractions.
Do you think this was a case of bullying or just a simple crowd heckling situation?