Yamin: More fans would benefit Northwestern athletics

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Yamin: More fans would benefit Northwestern athletics

Jennifer Yamin, Columnist

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One of the many benefits of being an athlete at Northwestern is having some of the best facilities, equipment, training, coaches and teammates available. Every time Wildcats step up to compete, we do so with the force of all these necessities rallying behind us and pushing us to win.

But there’s one athletic resource at Northwestern that is not nearly up to the strength and power of its competitors: the fans.

As a student-athlete, I know what it feels like to step up onto the fencing strip to the sound of deafening cheers. The only problem is that too often, I hear them coming from the opponent’s side. While I understand that fencing is a lesser-known sport and won’t pull as large a crowd as, say, football or basketball, it’s a shame that schools we defeat on the strip can trump us so regularly in the stands.

My team and I traveled to Notre Dame on Nov. 16. As we warmed up for the team competition, I kept gazing up at a sight I have rarely seen at Northwestern: completely packed stands, with students proudly wearing their school colors and cheering on their fellow students by name. I was shocked. There were people beyond immediate friends and family present; there was a community.

Such camaraderie and support at NU sporting events can truly benefit the student-athletes. Fans give us a purpose, remind us of whom we’re playing for, and create an environment in which we can thrive. I’m sure we all remember that sense of community during the Homecoming game against Ohio State this past fall. Recently, however, that feeling has dissipated. In order to bring it back, we need fans to attend more athletic events.

A shortage of fans is seen across all NU sports, not just fencing. On Sunday, a few of my teammates and I attended a men’s and women’s tennis match. The bleachers held a few scattered fans, mainly family members of the competing players. Compared to the scene at Notre Dame, the silence from our stands was jarring.

When fans are in attendance, athletes do notice the change in atmosphere. Tara Puffenberger, a senior on the field hockey team, explained the importance of having fans at her games: “It supplies a natural electricity to the air that can’t be described. Not only does it amp up the team, but it also helps intimidate the opponent. It’s a rewarding experience to have fans at games for all of the hard work us student-athletes put in.” A fanbase at games truly does have an effect on athletes’ performances, whether the fans are aware of it or not.

And make no mistake, I hope you’ll consider attending more sporting events not just to support the athletes, but because it’s a fun experience for fans and a great opportunity to take a break from schoolwork. It’s a chance to escape your textbooks, dorm rooms and chaotic schedules and enter an atmosphere where yelling your head off among all your friends is acceptable. It’s no new concept that watching sports is fun. So take advantage of the regular, free sporting events available here on campus.

Feb. 1 and 2, the women’s fencing team will be hosting our annual home duals at the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion. A great fan turnout could help give us that extra edge.  Don’t let your fellow Wildcats step into their competitive arena and feel like they have to beat the odds. Bring yourself, and all of your friends, to a game, and let us hardworking athletes know just how many people are behind them. As always, go Cats.

Jennifer Yamin is a Communication sophomore and a member of the Northwestern fencing team. She can be reached at jenniferyamin2016@u.northwestern.edu.  If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.