Attending athletics

WSS takes a deeper look at the fan culture at West High.

The bell rings, signaling the end of yet another long school day. The halls are abuzz with excitement about tonight’s big event. Athletes’ lockers are covered with posters wishing them luck for the game.

Students rush through the hallways sporting their green and gold, and athletes wear their jerseys as a badge of honor, signaling the upcoming event. Some can’t wait to watch the thrilling displays of athleticism, while others are just looking forward to catching up with friends. However, in recent years, excitement for student athletics has been waning.

Morgan Hawkins ‘19, one of the senior leaders in the student section this school year, has noticed a large discrepancy in student attendance than in years prior.

“Honestly, most of the sports this year haven’t had the fan base they deserve at their games,” said Hawkins. “Especially girls and boys basketball, which were super disappointing this year in comparison to previous years.”

While it may not always be evident to the people in the stands, athletes draw from fan energy for motivational purposes both on and off the field. This is one reason the lower amount of fans has affected the mindset athletes have on the field.

Assen Olivo ‘20, the student co-manager of the West boys Varsity basketball team, thinks that athletes not only use fans to motivate them during the game but also as a reminder to keep practicing.

“I think [fans] motivate [athletes] to know that they have people to play for another night [instead of] just practicing and having these long leg workouts for nothing,” Olivo said.

Girls basketball players agree that fans are a strong incentive to play well. While Olivo states that it helps with practices, Grace Schneider ‘20, who has played basketball since third grade, believes that it also creates a good playing environment.

“Having a crowd at games makes them much more intense and easier to get fired up in,” Schneider said. “It’s also great to know your peers are there supporting you and your teammates in getting a win.”

Schneider believes that the support shown by classmates allows for a better environment to succeed on the court. Olivo also shares the sentiment that having crowds at games is an advantage.

“It’s nice for [athletes] to have people to watch them and cheer for them because I feel like everyone needs a little cheering so it’s just good … for them and for everyone,” Olivo said.

But convincing students to come to games is tricky. Gary Neuzil, who has announced West High basketball games on and off for 33 years, thinks the secret lies in school spirit.

“There is something special about athletics that just brings the school together, and school pride is really lost when you have a weaker student section. I’d really like it if we were able to bring back the halftime events to maybe rile up student engagement,” said Neuzil.

Neuzil also notes that even with lower attendance, the student section has been lax, and fan distribution between girls and boys basketball games has been close to even.

“I think that the student section this year was really well behaved. I didn’t really hear any terrible comments or inappropriate taunting or cheering,” said Neuzil.

Additionally, the students who have been attending games have provided a great environment.

“Girls [basketball] has been pretty empty and for boys there’s been a few more people, but not as many as in past years, but it’s still been a lot of fun,” said student section leader Liam Terry ‘19.

“I enjoy seeing how passionate all the athletes are about the sport they play,” Hawkins said. “They are all super hard-working and deserving people, and it’s exciting to be able to cheer them on from the sidelines while they do what they love.”