Athletes supporting athletes: an inside look at sports attendance

by Caitlyn McGovern and Elijah Czysz | 4/22/19 2:30am

spectator-centerspread-photo

Big Green sports teams, such as the women's hockey team, often attend the games of other teams.

Source: Courtesy of Christina Rombaut

The seats at most sports games in Hanover aren’t packed, but a near constant across Big Green athletic events is fan support from fellow student athletes. The Dartmouth Sports Staff took a closer look at what drives so many student athletes to take time out of an already hectic balance between their sport and their academics to support other teams.

What we found were numerous causes — some affecting certain sports more than others.

A common understanding

One might think that the grueling schedule of a student athlete would prevent athletes from having the required free time to attend additional sporting events, but according to women’s soccer captain Chloë Conacher ’19, it is a common understanding and appreciation of that grueling workload that drives student athletes to support each other.

“That appreciation for the overall effort that goes into it definitely influences — positively influences — athletes going to other events,” Conacher said.

Conacher also talked to The Dartmouth Sports Staff about the tendency for women’s teams to make a point of attending each other’s competitions.

“Volleyball, women’s basketball, women’s lacrosse: all of the different women’s sports who put in the effort to come to our games, we try to reciprocate that support throughout the year,” Conacher said.

Entertainment value

It also makes sense that a group of people who enjoy playing sports would enjoy spectating for the sake of spectating.

“Sometimes [we] just go to basketball, football or hockey games for fun,” said Jason Wang ’22 of the men’s cross country and track and field teams.

The men’s heavyweight rowing team, for example, attended alpine skiing slalom nationals and the Winter Carnival races this winter.

When it comes to supporting each other on the field, ice, track or water, teams like to have fun with it.

“With softball, sometimes they come to our games wearing crazy outfits, like in flair, and in turn we’ll go to their games just dressed up in a bunch of flair,” said Christina Rombaut ’20 of the women’s ice hockey team.

Proximity

A seemingly obvious explanation for increased attendance from student athletes is that they are often on the same field back-to-back, or just one field away.

For instance, the schedule for women’s soccer often lines up with men’s soccer as well as the Dartmouth field hockey team’s.

“They’ll come and watch until they have to go do game prep, or we’ll go watch them,” Conacher said of the relationship between men’s and women’s soccer.

“We play right beside field hockey and they come and watch us a lot,” said Conacher.

The same goes for the world of lacrosse and ice hockey.

“We’re definitely really close with the men’s lacrosse team just because you know it’s the same sport, we share our field, so we hang out a lot with them and we try to support them as much as we can, especially when they have games right before or after our practice,” said Kathryn Giroux ’19 of the women’s lacrosse team.

“During our season, we also love to go and watch the men’s [hockey] games,” said Rombaut.

And with large fall regattas, such as the Head of the Charles and the Princeton Chase, with all three rowing teams — lightweight, heavyweight and women’s — members of the Big Green can often support one another.

“Between other rowing teams, at least in the fall, we can be in attendance because we go some of the same regattas,” said heavyweight rowing captain Marc Sevastopoulo ’20 on supporting lightweight and women’s rowing.

Of course, proximity (or lack thereof) can serve as an impediment to student attendance of games. This season, the rowing team is mostly away from home water, so they already rarely have fans watching. Moveover, in the spring, lightweight, heavyweight and women’s rowing have schedules that don’t line up. Consequently, none of the three rowing teams typically have the chance to attend each other’s races during the spring season. 

Greek life

A lot of the support athletes get in the stands can be attributed to relationships they have in the Greek system, which is a significantly active component of campus life at Dartmouth. Relationships built through houses often turn out athletes and non-athletes alike.

“[Attendance of sports events is] more related to Greek life,” Sevastopoulo said. “The ratio of athletes to non athletes is smaller, so I think you get more people supporting enthusiastically.”

A 2017 article in The Dartmouth found that “78.5 percent of varsity athletes eligible to rush are affiliated in Greek houses, in comparison to the student body average of 65 percent.” 

“The best example would be the hockey team and Heorot … the entire house goes because a large portion of the house is made up of hockey players,” Conacher said.

Here, the pattern sees a divide between men’s and women’s sports.

“The biggest difference between men’s and women’s sports is that a lot of times, in a frat, the entirety of the team who is a part of Greek life will all be in the same frat … There are five different houses represented on my team,” said Conacher.

Due to the less self-selecting rush process for sororities, however, women’s teams tend to be less concentrated in a single Greek house.

This trend can be seen in a comparison of fraternities and sororities with the highest concentration of athletes. As of 2017, in Gamma Delta Chi fraternity and Heorot, athletes make up 98.5 percent and 89.2 percent of the brothers, respectively. In contrast, Kappa Delta Epsilon (36.8 percent), Alpha Phi (30.7 percent) and Kappa Kappa Gamma (23.8 percent) are the sororities with the highest percentages of athletes.

Non-Greek personal connections

Of course, friendships between athletes forged outside the Greek system also serve as a motivating factor for support at competitions, especially for younger athletes who have yet to join a house.

“People tend to go to events where they have friends competing,” Wang said.

These personal connections, on a larger scale, can serve to bring an entire team out to support one another. For example, Sevastopoulo’s heavyweight rowing team often goes to support the volleyball team.

“That’s mostly a function of who the younger guys on the team are friends with,” Sevastopoulo said.

The Big Green Rewards app

Launched in the fall of 2017, the Big Green Rewards app has been cited by multiple athletes as a part of the reason why they attend so many athletic events. The app allows students to “check-in” to Dartmouth athletic events to gain points for prizes and it has a feature that allows Dartmouth teams compete with each other. 

“At the end of the academic year the team that accumulates the most points based on their roster size, basically the team that’s been the most supportive of their student-athletes, wins a trophy,” said assistant athletic director for marketing Laura Sgrecci, to The Dartmouth Staff in an interview last fall about the launch of the app.

“Introducing [Big Green Rewards] has definitely incentivized teams to go and watch other teams. I don’t think its spread as much through the entire Dartmouth community,” Conacher said. 

Laughing, Conacher said, “My team takes it very seriously.”

“We’re the reigning champs,” she said.

Wrap-up

No matter the reason, increased attendance of their events is always a positive for Dartmouth student-athletes.

“We have had a few games this year when our home crowd really helped us out in terms of energy and enthusiasm,” Ian Sistare ’20 of the men’s basketball team told The Dartmouth Sports Staff last winter. “A great home crowd gives the players and the coaches such a boost in terms of energy and enthusiasm. [It] makes the game so much more exciting, and the atmosphere is so much better when the crowd is wild.”

For Conacher, spectators also play an important role in the energy of a game.

“Particularly when the game gets started and there aren’t that many people in the stands — or if there are — that either adds or detracts from the energy of the game,” Conacher said.

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