Taunting is a part of any sport. It is a fan’s tool to use and to abuse and is only as effective as any athlete allows it to be. While it is a person’s initial instinct to respond and to want to fight back with actions or with words, you will learn through advice from others and your experience, that the best thing you can do right as it happens is absolutely nothing. Let it roll off of you and let it frustrate them. Use it constructively and use it to your advantage.
If you find that someone specifically is antagonizing you, just tune them out. If they keep trying to hike it up another notch and try to get under your skin, you have one big tool at your disposal. Hit them where it hurts and play well. Score points, make some great defensive plays, and get the crowd in general behind you. Get the crowd to drown out the heckler and get the crowd behind you and your team. Use the negativity to fuel your competitive spirit and use it to take it to that next level.
If you find that someone on your team is the target of some aggressive heckling, let the coach know, but to help turn it around to the team’s benefit, get your teammate the ball, get him involved if possible, and get your team on the winning side of the ball. The worst thing you can do to the hecklers, and to the other team’s fans, is to win.
Playing the game with a sportsmanlike attitude is another good way to deflect undue criticism. Don’t fuel the fire by doing unnecessary, wild things that fuel the people just waiting to jump on you. Rivalries happen in every sport, and at every level. While rivalries are a healthy component of every sport and fuel interest, they can also spur some bad feelings.
Sometimes players and fans forget that everyone is a person. After the game ends if you’ve verbally or physically attacked someone, they will be affected by it. Everyone is there to simply play the game. Play the game, and leave the emotion on the court afterwards. Don’t ever let the emotions get the best of you, and never let someone else get the best of you and goad you into doing something that you might regret later on.
If you ever find yourself becoming overwhelmed to the point that you might respond by saying or doing something that you know you will regret, talk to the coach, or a fellow player, and take a break. Sit on the bench, grab a drink of water, and take a deep breath. While this may sound lame to some people, it will allow you to slow down, replenish your body, and concentrate elsewhere. Even spending just a few minutes in a cool-down will go a long way in restoring your composure.
As long as you pay attention to what is important to you and stick to your ways and your morals, you will go a long way in becoming the player, and teammate that will make people proud.