Hey guys! Happy March, one of my favorite times of year! Seattle is always beautiful but when springtime arrives, the Emerald City is just simply breathtaking. The cherry blossoms start to turn pink, the sunsets turn bright orange and it's impossible to think of anywhere else I'd rather be. Enough rambling about Seattle, it's time to get to the real juicy stuff! Being a Division I athlete requires a lot of travel. Whether it's preseason, regular season or postseason, being on the road is a part of life. I love being on the road and one of the best things about traveling is experiencing opposing crowds. And there's one thing I know for sure, once you've been on the opposite side of a hostile crowd, you will never be the same.
You've seen them on TV and maybe you have even witnessed them in person. They're rowdy, they're loud and they're vicious. They hold up signs, they chant rude comments and yell specific lines at individual players. They dig up dirt on players and find any opportunity they can to harass that player with their new information. The main goal of the crowd is to throw the visiting team and players off their game by any means necessary. It can be intimidating, or it can be something to thrive off of. It can bring out the best in players or the worst in players. But, no matter how a player chooses to respond, it always makes for a crazy atmosphere.
I've been in my fair share of hostile crowds. My first ever experience was in high school when I was playing in the state tournament. I was only a sophomore and playing in state was the biggest environment I had ever been a part of. I got on a bit of a roll to start the second half in our first game and the opposing crowd started singing the "Barbie girl" song whenever I touched the ball. I was a 15-year-old twig with long blonde hair and to be honest, I did look somewhat like a Barbie. It must have only been a couple hundred opposing students yelling this at me but it seemed like thousands.
Yes, I was embarrassed, but this stupid little song rattled me. I don't know if I even ended up scoring for the rest of the game.
Another experience with a hostile crowd while I was in high school happened the last game of my career. It was a loser-out game in the state tournament and I had been playing pretty well. I was hitting a lot of shots but that also meant I was taking a lot of shots. This prompted the crowd to yell "ball hog" every time I touched the ball. They would yell "she's a one-man team" frequently throughout the game and other chants about me shooting all the time. I ended up scoring 43 that game, and I think I was able to learn from the first time I was being yelled at (the Barbie incident).
Once I got to college it became almost normal to go up against hostile crowds. I've gone up against them enough to know that nothing they can come up with will really surprise me. Every once in a while a good sign will be made that can give me a good laugh. For example, my brother Brett is a senior in high school and just signed a letter of intent to play basketball for the Oregon Ducks next year. Before our last game against Oregon, a U of O fan had written, "We get the next Kingma" on a big sign. Was that supposed to throw me off my game? Or compliment me? Either way I know it made me and my teammates laugh.
Going into games knowing I will be facing these types of crowds, my nerves never change. I approach every game the same and try not to let things out of my control, like the referees and opposing crowds, affect me. However, like I said earlier, once you've faced one hostile crowd you will never be the same. The first crowd always disrupts you a little bit and kind of makes you feel uneasy. But once you go through it once, it always gets easier. You learn how to block stuff out and how to manage your emotions. Personally, every hostile crowd I go against excites me and gives me extra energy. I've learned how to channel this energy into positive energy and it all goes back to my "Barbie girl" experience.
Hostile crowds are a part of the game. When they start jumping up and down on the bleachers, screaming at the top of their lungs and flailing their arms in every direction, this is what I live for. If you can learn how to deal with these types of crowds and learn how to manage your emotions, these crowds can even benefit you as an opposing player. It's all about knowing yourself and understanding how you respond to situations best. When you can do this, nothing can faze you.
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Kristi Kingma is a junior guard for the University of Washington's Women's Basketball team. She is a Communications major at UW. She was an honorable mention for the Pac-10 All-Freshman team in 2009 and was honorable mention for the conference's All-Defensive team as a sophomore. She was ranked by ESPN HoopGurlz as the country's No. 44 prospect at Jackson High School in Mill Creek, Wash. Kingma twice was selected as the Athlete of Year by the Seattle Times.