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As forums spread, so do the issues

Coaches find positives, negatives from anonymous posts

Posted: August 4, 2009 10:30 p.m.
Updated: August 5, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Message boards give voices to anonymous fans that can be both uplifting and destructive to programs.

 
“This kid needs help. He is a cancer to any football team.”

This is a 16- or 17-year-old kid being talked about.

Where?

Where the restrictions are few.

Where freedom of speech is taken full advantage of.

Where else?

The Internet.

But more specifically, on a high school sports message board.

Message boards have gained more and more popularity over the last few years.

But what good do they do?

For that matter, what sort of bad do they do?

Many people use Internet message boards to gather information. Others do it to show school pride. Yet there are some that use the message boards to create confrontation.

Coaches, players and parents admit to using them.

Yet the amount of negativity spewed over the message boards has led to anger, and in some cases, banning.

Earlier this decade, under two different coaching staffs at Canyon High football, Cowboys supporters close to the program were told not to go on the message boards because of the back-and-forth war of words going on with them and other members of the local football community.

Many local coaches were asked about the subject of message boards, and though some said they don’t like them, especially the anonymity of the posting, most said they did serve a purpose.

Saugus High head football coach Jason Bornn said people outside of the Santa Clarita Valley might have never heard of Saugus High had it not been for the Internet and message boards.

Hart High head football coach Mike Herrington said he was speaking to his brother Dean, the head football coach at Alemany High, just last week after Dean jumped off a message board.

“Have you checked that Calpreps thing that shows how many wins they predict you’ll have?” Mike said Dean told him.
Herrington said he looks at the message boards occasionally, usually to get a laugh.

But people like Herrington in the coaching profession are usually the targets of negativity.

“These coaches just have no idea what they are doing or teaching.”
“hiphopfan” on Calpreps.com

This post was aimed at the new football coaching staff at Golden Valley High.

Andy Campbell hasn’t coached one game at the school, yet he’s already been targeted.

Campbell coached at Silver Valley High in Yermo prior to accepting the Grizzlies head coaching position in March.

He said there was rarely, if ever, a mention about message boards in Yermo.

“These are people’s opinions,” Campbell said. “If they have better ideas than I do, I have an open door.”

Campbell said being criticized on the boards is the nature of the beast, but he said they do cross the line when they attack high school athletes.

Bornn said a couple of years ago he went on the boards because he had heard his players were being attacked.

Specifically, last year’s Foothill League and Santa Clarita Valley player of the year Desi Rodriguez and all-league and All-SCV running back Ryan Zirbel were being called overrated.

“It was pretty gnarly, malicious, mean-spirited,” Bornn said. “Clearly we are dealing with people who have too much free time.”

Yet Bornn said there are times where a message board will link to a video or “something cool” that a player is doing that celebrates accomplishment.

Most of the message boards are dominated by football, yet other sports are included, most notably basketball.

“I heard he has a temper ...”
“Playa” about a Golden Valley basketball player on SoCalHoops

Golden Valley boys basketball coach Chris Printz said he read this post and it angered him because it was about a kid.

But Printz has taken his own hits.

People have posted negative comments about him on multiple boards.

“I think it’s slander,” Printz said. “I have three kids. My daughter’s 10 years old. She’s my oldest. She’s able to go on the Internet. She could search and see what’s being written about her dad.”

Printz said he feels sorry for the better athletes because they are usually the targets on the message boards.

As to who is posting, Printz said sometimes it’s the athletes themselves and parents.

Every season, he said, he tells the parents and players not to go on the message boards.

He added that William S. Hart Union High School District blocks the message boards in the six high schools’ libraries.

Interestingly, Printz said he used to use the boards.

He said many local basketball coaches used to use sites, such as Socalhoops.com, to post openings for tournaments.

Printz said he no longer does that because of the amount of negativity on the boards.

That’s not to mention that there are non-sports related posts on these sites.

A link was posted to pornographic pictures on Socalhoops on Monday.

An e-mail from The Signal to Socalhoops seeking comment about its board has not be returned.

The post was removed as of Tuesday.

Mike Civita said he is a reformed poster.

The Canyon High football public address announcer and Cowboys football aide said he was a regular on the message boards when the Cowboys were winning CIF championships in 2005 and 2006.

“Basically it’s for top dogs, bragging rights,” Civita said of the boards.

Civita said former Canyon head coach Harry Welch and current head coach Chris Varner have told people within the program to not post because they did not want information on the boards to be misconstrued as the official word from Canyon football.

Civita said there was a lot of negativity on the boards and that he toed the line of what would be considered offensive.

But at the same time, he said the message boards served as a sort of social networking.

Officials for Scout.com and Rivals.com, which run some of the nation’s most popular message boards, say that the social networking aspect is a big part of the boards.

But both Web sites have also pushed their premium sites, paid sites that specialize more in insider information and give the sites more of a journalistic aspect.

Brandon Huffman, the West regional recruiting manager for Scout.com, said message boards saw a boom in the early part of this decade. At that time, they were a free-for-all with less governing.

Huffman said because of the anonymity of posting, these sites struggled early with receiving credibility from sports information directors at universities.

He said it is difficult to police all the message boards because of the amount of daily posts.

Nonetheless, Scout.com has the ability to remove a post or remove a user if it sees fit.

Rivals.com has a list of 14 rules, which includes no profanity and no attacks on players and coaches.

Dallas Jackson, managing producer of high school sports of Rivals.com, said posters have to be careful as well when dealing with possible recruits because posts could be construed as NCAA violations.

Huffman put message boards this way: “It’s talk radio online basically.”

And as long as there is freedom on the Web, they aren’t going anywhere — like them or not.

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