Student, peer, and family attendance of sporting events have been declining over the past five years. Audience members have been showing up to fewer games and tournaments and leaving earlier.
Athletes get thrills out of audience cheers. They perform their best when they have people to support them, whether it be their families or friends. According to the North American Journal of Psychology, Volume 13 Issue 2, “audiences or fans can impact performance” based mainly on the type of behavior they show.
Cheers, jeers, and silence can all help and hurt athletic performance.
Football, basketball, and volleyball are considered “mainstream” sports that have greater attendance than most. Tessa Renze, a freshman swimmer at Morningside College, said that swimming is less attended than many sports, and usually attended only by family.
Larger swim meets are usually attended by both parents and another family member or friend for each athlete, but many smaller meets aren’t even attended by parents.
When asked what having audience members cheer for her felt like she responded, “having them there is the best feeling. They’re supporting me. They know I can do this” and they are what push her to perform her best.
Haley Mathes, a third-year bowler at Morningside College, agreed with Renze. She said that having personal support “makes me feel like I need to try more.” Not to impress, but to make people proud.
Cassy Huiras, a freshman bowler at Morningside College, had a different outlook. She said that support “does make a difference but it isn’t always positive,” especially when spectators don’t understand the rules. Even with this outlook, she still believes that audience attendance pushes her to excel.
Renze also said that audience support helps “release a competitive side” of her swimming spirit. But these sports, bowling and swimming, are one of many competitive sports offered by colleges that don’t receive much attendance.
Without consistent audiences, these athletes have had to learn that “the audience doesn’t necessarily make the player,” as said by Renze, but that it does boost their morale.
Huiras said that “getting and having people there pushes me harder to perform my best,” but getting the audience is the difficult part.
Relaying accomplishments only goes so far. Spectators can live the moment with the player, both at the competition and after. It creates a bond and an impact. It allows players, such as Mathes, to “showcase my talents for the people that know me.”
Audiences, though they are leaving earlier and supporting less, change the way players perform.
Without an audience, a player has to find an inner reason to perform to their best ability. With an audience, a player performs for themselves and for those watching.
An audience is an integral part of sports performance for college athletes.