An Athlete’s Perspective on Athletic Attendance

FILE - In this Dec. 11, 2016, file photo, many empty seats are shown at Levi's Stadium during the second half of an NFL football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Jets, in Santa Clara, Calif. While overall attendance in the NFL is up _ credit in great part the Rams’ move from St. Louis to Los Angeles _ those empty seats you see in several stadiums are no mirage. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

It’s doubtful that a Big Ten-esque, tailgate Saturday, type of environment was a top priority in the college decision making process for most Swatties. None of us opened our Swarthmore acceptance letter and immediately had visions of being in a crowd of students, decked out in Garnet gear, cheering wildly on the sidelines of some sporting event. However, most games, meets, and matches only boast a turnout of about 1 to 2 percent of the student body. This means that there is often a ratio of only 1 Swarthmore student spectator to student competitor. With twenty-two varsity teams, roughly 20 percent of our student body participates in NCAA athletics. This indicates that even athletes from other sports rarely show their support in the form of watching each other’s events.
Women’s Volleyball, who have been celebrating a lot of wins this season, had a game this past Saturday afternoon. There couldn’t have been more than twenty-five Swatties in the stands. While Women’s Soccer (currently nationally ranked at number ten in the country) is probably the most consistently attended fall sport, the bleachers are still rarely full.
The biggest exception to the low sporting events turn out were last year’s Men’s Basketball team conference championship games, which were held at home. Attendance at these games was highly encouraged by the administration. Robbie Walsh ʼ18 confessed that what stood out to him most about the stands last winter was how hard people cheered, and he recognized the excitement that comes with being a fan at a sports game, especially with being so close to the action in basketball. When asked about the unusual turnout at conference games, which he admits is the best since he has played for the Garnet, Walsh had a good guess.
“We had a successful year the season before, and [we] continued to build off that and won games, so more people kept coming,” said Walsh. Perhaps there was something about the notoriety of the team that made more people talk about Swat sports and feel motivated to go watch and cheer at an event.
Or maybe it was the fact that the games were well-advertised. We all know how easy it is to get caught up in our busy schedules, classwork and extracurriculars, and usually the furthest thing from a student’s mind is looking for a way to fill up an hour or two of their evenings or Saturday afternoons. Aside from the occasional Sharples cup-drop announcement or an @swatathletics Instagram post, the lack of spectators at games is probably due the majority of Swatties, athletes or otherwise, not knowing or thinking about what teams are competing when.
Many groups on campus advertise their events on the Dash or on bulletin boards, or even just by word of mouth.While some players on sports teams might mention to their friends that they have a game later that day and extend an invitation, they are usually not seen taping up a “Game: 7 p.m at the Fieldhouse” poster in the Science Center. In fact, most athletes seem to confine most of their talk about their sport within the friendships and conversations they have with their teammates, which, while understandable, makes it even less probable that word will be spread about their upcoming competitions.
I think last year’s basketball tournament displayed one of the most salient examples of community and school spirit, and it’s a shame that instances like those only happen every so often when the opportunities for them are frequent. Sports are just one of the many ways for this campus to come together and support one another. So next time you’re sitting near a Field Hockey player in Chem lecture, ask her when her next game is, spread the word to a few friends, and take a study break!

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