Tennis pro Rebecca Marino has announced she will be leaving the game, in part due to all the cyberbullying she experienced during her three-year career.
In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, the 22-year-old U.S. Open competitor recounted harassment that has taken a toll on the athlete who suffers from depression that led to her loss of passion for tennis, Toronto's The Star
"The hurtful ones kind of stick with you a little bit more," Marino told the reporters. "I was getting some messages saying I should go die, that I should go burn in hell, that I’m a dumbass, that I’m an idiot, that I lost them money."
As a result, the Vancouver native said, she also is taking a break from social networking.
"Social media is actually a really important part of our society, and there can be a lot of good that comes out of it. I don’t want to discredit social media, but personally, I find it can be quite distracting," Marino said.
Marino's announcement has brought the topic of cyberbullying in the world of professional sports to the forefront.
Personal attacked on professional athletes by disgruntled fans and sore losers is nothing new, but social media websites have allowed people to connect with athletes more than ever before, and athletes who have been training hard their entire lives may be more vulnerable to first-hand criticism.
"The regular media world has always been there, but this is a new development and we have to take it seriously," said Ralph Krueger, head coach of the Edmonton Oilers hockey team in Canada.
Krueger fears the harsh distractions could negatively impact his players' performances.
"It’s an issue we need to understand, the sports psychology of all that. We need to get some psychologist in here to help us understand how we can improve the future of these players," Krueger said. "They may get thrown too high or too low after wins and after losses, partly because of social media."
In 2010, British police arrested a 17-year-old man for reportedly contacting Olympic British diver Tom Daley via Twitter after a disappointing performance, telling him that he let down his deceased father when he did not medal, Reuters reports.
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