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Ottawa woman's column on youth sports goes viral

Dr. Kristin Heredia
Dr. Kristin Heredia

Times guest columnist Kristin Heredia hit a nerve — a lot of nerves.

Last month, the Write Team columnist wrote a piece titled, "Equal playing time in youth sports?" She encouraged parents to promote sportsmanship instead of instill entitlement in their children.

Her Feb. 19 column went viral. It has been shared 16,900 times on Facebook and drew more than 70,000 reactions, according to Nathan Carpenter, a social media analyst at Illinois State University. It's been bouncing around both the United States and Canada, and continues to be popular on Twitter.

"I can't find the epicenter where this took off," he said.

Carpenter said 16,900 shares is enormous compared to the results ISU sees from its posts.

According to a Times analysis, Heredia's column was visited more than 400,000 times on newspaper's website. That's far more than the top-read story in 2017, a piece about the Ferracuti mansion in Ottawa being on the auction block that drew 63,000 visits.

In her piece, Heredia, an Ottawa resident, said she recently saw a girl become upset she wasn't getting as much playing time as others. Instead of blaming the coach, she said, the girl's father asked his daughter when was the last time she worked out in the gym to hone her skills, whether she had a good attitude and whether she worked as a team player.

The girl did not answer.

The father then said, "This is one person's problem, yours. You need to make it so they have no choice but to leave you in because you are that good and valuable to the team."

In her column, Heredia, dean of students at Ottawa High School, said by the time students reach junior high, the idea of equal playing should no longer be seen as a requirement.

"Not everyone is going to get equal playing time. Not everyone is going to get an A on his or her test. Not everyone is going to get the same amount of stage time," she wrote. "People earn these things by their performance."

In an interview, Heredia, who has been a Write Team columnist for a few months, said she was surprised by the interest in her column. Because of it, she is to be interviewed on the weekly podcast, "Recruiting Real Talk." And Dr. Tommy John, the son of retired Major League pitcher Tommy John, whom the Tommy John surgery is named after, emailed Heredia to thank her for making the points.

Heredia said she has received mostly positive feedback to her column, although some disagreed, maintaining high school students should receive equal playing time.

She said there are other variables in playing time she did not mention in her column — for instance, coaches showing favoritism.

"I know that goes on," said Heredia, who has a doctorate. "You would be blind to say that's not an issue."

But she said she wanted to rein in her column to the subject at hand.

As both a parent and school administrator, Heredia said she watches a lot of youth sports.

In many comments to her column, Heredia said, people blamed parents' behavior for a shortage of coaches and officials. Parents point the finger at coaches for their children's lack of playing time, commenters said.

The reaction to the column, she said, has been exciting.

"It's a common-sense issue," she said. "I'm glad people found it interesting and related to it in some way."

Join the next Write Team
If you like to write and are willing to share your views on local issues or personal experiences, consider joining The Times Write Team. The deadline to apply is Monday, April. 9. The Write Team consists of local residents who write columns every other week for six months. Professional writing experience is not needed. To apply, send:
A short bio about yourself and why you like to write.
One or two sample columns (500 to 550 words).
Ideas for future columns.
Send to or mail to The Time Newsroom, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350 Applications can be dropped off at our Ottawa office, 110 W. Jefferson St., or the Streator office at 115 Oak St. For more information, call Stephanie Jaquins at 815-431-4087.

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