Both the Hastings College men’s and women’s soccer teams are perhaps the most successful sports teams on campus. Yet attendance is low — the lowest of all the fall sports, according to the Hastings College Athletic Department. There are many factors as to why the attendance is low, but with programs as successful and dominant as the soccer teams, it is fair to wonder why spectators are sparse.
Three senior members of the women’s team, midfielder Megan Kruse, defender Michaela Vadeboncoeur and midfielder Maddy Paskevic, all agree that crowds definitely improve their team’s play.
“We are lucky to get more than just a few of our parents to attend games, yet we have made the national tournament the last three years in a row,” Paskevic said. “School and fan support is important to our team and is a big motivator during competitive games.”
Kruse shared a similar take on the subject. “There is a change in attitude throughout our team when our peers come out and watch our games at home, and historically it has helped us succeed.”
Vadeboncoeur shared Kruse and Paskevic’s sentiment. “When lots of people come to our games, it really helps us out just knowing that people care enough to come support us. It’s awesome when the whole football team comes, especially since they are very loud.”
Similar to the women, the men also struggle putting fans in the seats. “Obviously, it’s frustrating to walk out of the locker room and only see 20-30 fans at our game, but it’s been like that all four years that I’ve been here,” Senior defender Brandon Hedgecock said.
“The biggest issue, though, is that a majority of the school just simply doesn’t understand the sport, and when they do watch, they get bored because we score one, maybe two goals in a 90 minute game.” Hedgecock stated. “But it also probably has to do with the fact that we have a lot of foreigners and guys from out-of-state, so the number of family members that attend our games is low.”
A recent poll of students shows that only 16 percent attend soccer games. Of that 16 percent, some claimed that they either “had nothing better to do” or that they are “there supporting friends.” On the other hand, the ones that do not go cited multiple reasons not to attend, including “I do not like them” and “not having time.” The most popular answer for not going was “I don’t know when the games are.”
Men’s coach Aaron Champenoy said, “We could always do a better job ,and we have to take some that responsibility. It can’t be other people on campus’ [sic] responsibility to tell everybody when our games are.”
Women’s coach Chris Clements noted that other things take precedent over soccer. “We are in Nebraska. Soccer isn’t the biggest sport here, football is. I’d say any time that the Huskers are playing, that cuts it down too when we play Saturday.”
With both programs squarely nestled within the NAIA Top 25, for now, it’s fair to ask when or if attendance will improve. “Home-field advantage” is a factor according to Clements. “Ten or fifteen fans being loud and cheering and having the correct attitude makes a big difference for us.”