Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman fandom lacks vigor

It’s no question that Whitman students are an enthusiastic bunch. Students’ enthusiasm for the Whitman community they work so hard to create falls short, however, when it comes to supporting the college’s athletics.

Whitman sporting events are often sparsely attended; the students who do turn out for games either come to watch a particular player, such as a friend or standout athlete, or they come to simply socialize in small groups during the game.

Junior Thomas Knook describes fandom at Whitman as    being “very docile.”

“Whitman does not have the sense of community around their varsity athletics that seems a very integral part of attending a larger school,” said Knook, a self-proclaimed sports enthusiast and avid IM football coach and  player who particularly enjoys watching basketball, volleyball, ultimate frisbee, rugby and lacrosse.

Sophomore club volleyball player Alex Brott believes that perhaps what is lacking at Whitman is “the high school football game environment,” where a central sport serves to unify the school.

“I want to feel, as a supporter, united in one common cause with a lot of other people. I think that’s a universal desire for any sports fan,” said Knook.

For larger Division I universities such as UCLA, an established reputation in athletics makes sporting events an automatic unifying factor for the student body. Sophomore transfer student Genay Pilarowski remembers no lack of fans in the 60,000-person crowds at UCLA football games.

“There are thousands of people in the stands, and they’re almost all cheering for UCLA. It’s an insane feeling. I miss that,” said said of her experience attending athletics events at her former school, an experience that causes the empty stands at Whitman events to pale in comparison.

Is the problem that Whitties are simply less interested in sports than the average UCLA student? Not necessarily.

“[Attending games is] just a social thing to do. Not everyone pays attention to the game,” said Pilarowski, explaining that the huge crowds are largely a result of the established “sports mentality” at UCLA, and thus serve as something that brings the whole campus together.

Efforts to achieve this campus unity have been ongoing  through the Whitman Student Athletic Advisory Council (SAAC), a group of student-athletes and coaches whose goals include promoting athletic events on campus and fostering support of the athletic community.

In recent years SAAC has been making a concerted effort to strengthen the fan base on campus. Its efforts do not go unnoticed by athletes.

“It helps us out a lot as a team to know that our peers are there to support us,” said sophomore varsity volleyball player Hannah Holloran.

“If a team is struggling and needs a little ‘oomph’, a crowd can definitely do that,” added Pilarowski, a member of  varsity swim team.

Sylvie Luiten, a junior swimmer and SAAC vice-president, said the group regularly puts up posters for upcoming home games,  sponsors free treats for fans  and holds half-time competitions to bolster fan participation. SAAC also pairs up varsity sports teams to support each other.

“Every team  gets a buddy team, to help promote their events, attend games,” she said.

This year baseball and volleyball are buddy teams, so Holloran is “excited for the spring to head out to the fields and watch our men dominate.” Her attitude is evidence of the program’s successes, as it gets athletes excited about supporting other athletes.

“The crowds at games are mostly students and fellow athletes,” said basketball player Peter Clark, who said that he in turn “really enjoy[s] going to all Whitman sporting events, particularly volleyball and soccer.”

It is not surprising that athletes and friends of players make up large portions of the crowd at games. But faculty and staff members as well as Whitman alumni can also be found among the fans.

“I try to attend as many events as possible with my family”, said Jamie Kennedy ’96, a former swimmer and the current Director of Planned Giving at Whitman.  Kennedy is one of a select few staff members who regularly attend games.

“We really enjoy the outdoor venues when the weather is nice, but the gym and pool are great places too,” he said.

Kennedy recognizes the value of athletics not just for students and staff, but families as well.

“I like that my daughter can grow up around sporting events,” he explained.

Many elements are involved in creating a supportive community for athletics. Encouragement from students and staff and the ongoing efforts of SAAC may yet create a more supportive and lively fan base at Whitman.

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