The student news source of Iowa City West High

Empty Stands

November 16, 2021

Lack of accessibility to competition venues can pose a barrier for students, especially those who rely on others for transportation. Bowling, swimming, cross country and golf compete off-campus, so supporting a home competition requires travel to another location.

According to Olivia Taeger ’22, the girls swim team lacks attention because home meets are held outside of school grounds at the Coralville Recreation Center.

“I think one of the main factors is that we’re not an on-campus sport, so it does require transportation to attend,” Taeger said.

Athletic Director Craig Huegel notes that one reason some sports generate a lot of popularity is because of their existing level of national recognition. 

“We have kids that are more familiar with certain sports,” Huegel said. “On TV, you see football and basketball quite a bit.” 

Head swim coach Byron Butler also believes national spotlight influences popularity.

“There is a lack of name recognition [in swimming],” Butler said. “Nobody knows who the fifth-best person is in the world, so there’s an education component to it.” 

However, national recognition may not have the greatest impact on fan turnout. With a variety of school sport teams competing simultaneously, students must choose which sport to support. 

“In spring, we have seven different [sports teams] that perform almost all the time on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so that really pulls our student fan base in a lot of different directions,” Huegel said. 

While this may be one of the largest barriers for student turnout, scheduling is not an easy fix. 

“There’s not a great answer in terms of giving each [team] their own separate date because we run out of days,” Huegel said.

Football player Noah DeSaulniers ’22 believes the social environment surrounding a sport’s competitions also impacts support. Students that show up may want to participate in the social experience that the event provides. 

“I think it’s just that atmosphere, like Friday night lights, [that attracts people to games],” DeSaulniers said.

Head girls basketball coach BJ Mayer says that basketball games serve as opportunities for students to socialize.

“In the winter, kids are looking for reasons to get out and be with their friends so going to a game is a good reason,” Mayer said, through email. 


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