A giant blur of fans wearing the school’s colors are packed together on a Friday night, sitting on the cold, metal bleachers in a roaring crowd. The smell of buttery popcorn at the concession stand drifts by. There is an overwhelming sense of community, anticipation and excitement as everyone is consumed by the common goal: to win. That’s what San Antonio, Texas, native JD Scott experienced at her high school’s football games. When she came to Webster, it was a different scene.
Scott says high school games were a huge deal. Students loved going to the games — being loud and crazy were part of the excitement. It was a significant part of her high school experience.
Scott, a cheerleader for the varsity men’s and women’s basketball teams, says she doesn’t feel much support at Webster because the student body isn’t showing up to games.
“Everyone wears Webster gear, we all see the entire school painted with t-shirts that say Webster Gorloks,” Scott says. “But we get maybe 20 to 30 people for women’s games and probably 40 to 70 for men’s. Coming into college, I expected it to be more.”
Junior Tehvynn Crenshaw traveled almost 700 miles from Mobile, Alabama, to play varsity basketball at Webster. Crenshaw thought the college game day experience would be bigger than it was in high school. He imagined a packed crowd, electrified cheers and excitement on and off the court. But it’s different at Webster.
“It was a shock, seeing how the first game turned out. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t what I expected it to be,” Crenshaw says. “I wish it could be more but I understand that we’re at a small school.”
Webster is a Division III school in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). One aspect of being a Division III university is that student-athletes are not given athletic scholarships.
Additionally, since Webster doesn’t compete in the higher divisions, there’s less national attention on our athletics program. When combined with Webster’s liberal arts atmosphere, it’s no surprise there’s not much support in the stands from non-relatives.
Crenshaw has been to home games for volleyball, soccer and other sports and thinks that games at Webster don’t feel like home games. He believes it’s important for students to go to games because it shows school spirit. If more of the student body came to the games, he says, it would make a big difference in the vibe felt throughout the gym. Crenshaw feels that having fans at the games to support the team really motivates them to be successful.
“People coming to support us are included in the team because we are all working towards a win,” Crenshaw says.
Despite the apathy from the general student body, Crenshaw says he feels a sense of camaraderie from the rest of the athletics department. Ashley Yacks, a freshman soccer player from Whittier, California, says that most of the crowd at games are other athletes.
“Knowing that your team is not the only one that supports you [makes it feel like] it’s more of the whole school supporting you,” Yacks says.
Scott says that she quickly learned Webster is more of an arts school and sports don’t play a huge role in on-campus activities. Athletic achievements are easily overlooked, like the fact that the baseball team is ranked 5th in all Division III teams and both male and female track athletes set Webster records this season.
“I don’t think people really understand that all of our athletic [programs are] really stellar,” Scott says. “They know the conservatory, they know the arts part of it, but our athletics are very good.”
Scott says basketball games here at Webster get awkward sometimes. As a cheerleader, her job is to pump up the crowd and support the team, but when the crowd is a small, unresponsive group, her job is difficult.
After seeing the difference between her high school’s games and Webster’s, Scott knew she wanted to teach her fellow students through her cheering that having school pride doesn’t have to end at high school. Scott says her cheerleading coach, Justin Barton, tells the team their goal is to teach students how to be fans with a new, higher spirit level.
“People are going to show up to the games and yell and chant and do crazy stuff, because that’s what you do when you get really into college athletics,” Scott says.
Yacks says that she understands it’s hard to balance schoolwork and campus activities, but even sending athletes a quick message on Facebook wishing them good luck before a game means a lot.
If more students came to the games, Yacks thinks the team would feel like they’re doing something good for the whole school. She says the soccer team tends to play better when more people are there.
“My team and the coaching staff make me feel like it was worth coming all this way,” Yacks says. “But having a crowd and tons of support would definitely be the topping on the cake.”
Story: Chelsie Hollis
Photo: Macy Salama