2021 is a year full of new experiences, or old ones that are finally coming back. Northwest has been cautious about COVID-19 from the start, so we have all been missing some old traditions. One of my personal favorite pre-COVID traditions was going to sports fan nights with my friends. During the pandemic it was not possible to have fans at games, which affected the athletes and was sad for the fans. This year, the fans are back and better than ever. I sent a form to Northwest students to get their thoughts on fans at games, along with masking during sports.
Everyone plays and experiences sports differently. Some people thrive in high pressure situations, and some people’s stress gets to them. The same thing happens with fans at games. Some people love the energy and excitement that fans bring, while others can’t operate with the pressure. About 80% of the athletes that took my survey liked having fans at their games and meets. About 14% of the remaining athletes like having fans at games sometimes, and about 5% do not like having fans ever.
The athletes that said they liked having fans at their games seemed very happy that they were allowed to have that support. Many thought fans helped them play better for many different reasons. The energy that fans bring is one of my favorite things about playing high school sports, as well as many other students. Some said it makes them excited to play, encouraged to run faster, and motivated to do their best. Some sports had fewer fans than others, cross country did not have many fans, but when they had teammates or occasional fans, it helped their spirit and motivated them. “I always feel that having supportive eyes on me encourages me to put more effort in and play harder,” said a Northwest ultimate player. It is so important that at Northwest we have positive fans that lift our players up.
Some athletes said that they do not like having fans at games or meets, and some didn’t always like it. Having people watch you compete after so long of spectators not being allowed is nerve racking. It’s easy to get nervous when you are thinking about not wanting to mess up in front of people. Some athletes think that because they were nervous about fans watching them, their nerves would affect how they play resulting in them to mess up more.
There are also always going to be different feelings about wearing masks during sports. During fall sports, Northwest required masks to be worn for indoor sports, but not outdoor sports. Outdoor athletes were allowed to be unmasked during active play. Indoor sports that have medium contact, such as volleyball, are sports with a high transmission rate in relation to other sports, mostly because they are indoors. Many people feel safer because of the decision to wear masks in indoor sports, but others thought it negatively affected their playing. A lot of athletes said it was hard to breathe, and made them tired more quickly, but others said they got used to it so it was not bad. Many outdoor sport athletes said that they were glad to not have to be wearing masks, saying that they think it makes them run slower, or get tired fast.
In spite of these COVID protocols for indoor sports, it’s all been worth it to be able to play our fall sports safely in front of our fans. Having fans back in the Haus has been very exciting, and makes athletics fun for everyone!