A real rib tickler

One of the greatest obstacles to reporting local sport is embarrassment.

Many young local sportspeople are deeply embarrassed by talking to the media about their endeavours, it sets them up for criticism by their peers. Just the other day one young bloke ran away crying rather than undergo the horror of an interview.

I empathise completely. As a kid, getting your mug in the paper is the modern equivalent of sticking your head above the edge of the first world war trench: it gets blown off.

Its a sad truth about our culture but the levels of jealousy and resentment in the schoolyard are off the register. In Australia, tall poppies are socially executed.

I recall my school mates and sporting opponents taking every opportunity to belittle my efforts. On one occasion the harassment became so severe I snapped and wrapped a cricket bat around the chest one of my assailants. I cracked a few ribs and that brought a sudden halt to the ribbing. I know I should be sorry about what was assault but Im not; Im embarrassed that I was so under-developed socially but Im not sorry. I was a very quiet kid, a perfect victim, but, once they realised I was capable of going psycho, they thought twice about badgering me. Although I never gained their respect, at least they feared me.

Our kids maintain a brutal pecking order. I coached an Under 14 cricket team a couple of years ago and the outsiders copped a regular verbal beating from the in-crowd. It boiled my blood on more than one occasion but my interference in their harassment only forced it underground. The badgering and belittling still continued, just not as obviously.

Young sportspeople who want to make it as professionals need to develop a particularly thick skin. Withstanding the onslaught of what Steve Waugh referred to as the tactics of psychological disintegration is part and parcel of professional sport. Appearing in the media in both a good and bad light is also par for the course.

Their is no room for the embarrassment of youth if you want to follow the path to professionalism; the media will become like a live-in friend. You will need to embrace your new life on the pedestal, because theres is no avoiding it.

Some sportspeople revel in the opportunity to entertain the media and join in the verbal sparring during and after matches. These are valuable skills and young guns who are contemplating making a living in sport should join a theatre club and learn how to match wits with all and sundry. Its a hell of lot better than violently assaulting someone because theyve kicked the legs out from under your pedestal.

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