Due to COVID-19, Clarke University made the decision to not allow spectators at any fall sporting events pending evaluation later in September. Now, in October, staff have evaluated how the Clarke community has handled all the rules in place and have now decided to change this and allow spectators at outdoor games only. To attend the game, a game pass or current Clarke ID must be shown to be granted entry. Masks are still expected to be worn and social distancing guidelines are still expected to be followed. Those allowed are faculty, staff, students, and parents/family. Spectators for the opposing team are still not allowed at this time. Although spectators are now allowed, there have still been games played with no spectators. But has anyone thought about how this would affect the games and athletes themselves? The decision to not allow spectators affects both coaches and athletes.
After speaking with a few athletes and coaches, it is clear that spectators do play a role in the atmosphere of a game and the way an athlete may play. Acacia Dabareiner, a sophomore on the Clarke women’s soccer team shared her own feelings about the policy after an interview and said, “I do believe not having fans at our soccer games have affected the team’s play. When I know people are watching me play, I personally strive to compete harder and play better with the pressure of having an audience watching me. It makes me more nervous about how I play, and, in turn, I compete harder.” Robert Lynch, assistant coach for Clarke women’s soccer however disagrees. “I would argue that having no fans does not necessarily increase or decrease performance directly.” Lynch explains that some teams may feed off of the energy the fans give off or even be “thrown off their game” if one is on the away team, but overall does not feel that it has any true effect on a final outcome. “To say that having no fans won or lost a game would be difficult to prove, but having fans would certainly have the chance to increase the performance, thus creating a better chance to create the ideal outcome, a victory,” claims Lynch. So, essentially, not allowing fans has an impact on a game depending on the role you feel spectators and fans play personally.
But how big of a role do fans really play? Do they really have an effect on how a game can go? Sean Ceasar, a sophomore on the Clarke football team, feels very strongly that fans really can change a game. He explains about the term home field advantage as wells as how although players practice every day, fans give them the extra push. Ceasar remarks, “Without fans, the atmosphere is different, it is not as loud, you don’t have the confidence boosts, and if the team has a bad moment, who can cheer them on and increase their drive besides each other? Without the fans, the tide of the game can switch at an instant, and that’s bad business.” According to Ceasar, Dabareiner, and Lynch, fans help to create an atmosphere that pushes athletes to work harder. Ryan Bayless, a junior on the Clarke men’s soccer team touched a bit on how fans can help you emotionally. “If you are losing, the fans can cheer you on, [and] help you dig a little deeper compared to when there are no fans. It is more down to the mental side of the game and if you are at an opponent’s home field and the fans are constantly having at you, it can knock your game completely off.” Although the players and coach interviewed do not speak for all athletes and coaches, these players believe that it does affect the actual play of the game whereas the coach believes that it affects the atmosphere of the game. Overall, though, it is clear that the game is at least changed in some way when there is no one to cheer you on.