Increase efforts to promote varsity sports

The average student has no idea about our sports—why not catch a game?

The successes of varsity athletes often go unrecognized by the greater student body.
The successes of varsity athletes often go unrecognized by the greater student body.

As a varsity athlete, I could easily complain about poor facilities like the rundown Physical Education Centre (PEC) or disastrous field conditions at West Campus. However, there are already plans in motion to rectify some of these issues, such as the construction of the new Queen’s Centre.

In my opinion, a more pressing problem is that many student-athletes train and compete year-round to represent this university without support from their peers. Many of us have been quite successful over the past year: men’s volleyball won the Ontario championship, women’s soccer finished second in Canada, women’s lacrosse and women’s hockey were both second in the province, field hockey and women’s water polo were both third in Ontario, and many rowers, runners and fencers came away from provincial and national events with medals.

It’s too bad the average Queen’s student has no idea. It’s quite probable that more students have tuned into an NCAA college basketball game these past few weeks than have attended a Gaels game this year.

Why are the sports fans at this university not coming out to support our teams?

If American schools are examples of anything, they show us how athletics can create a sense of belonging and inspire school spirit. I was once walking through a hotel lobby wearing a Florida State hat when a group of Americans, who must have been in their late 40s, got really excited and started doing some cheer. Of course I had no idea what was going on as I had only bought the hat because I liked the colours, but they seemed really into it so I played along as best I could.

This year, Queen’s signed a clothing deal with Russell Athletic, the major provider to NCAA schools across the U.S. The goal of this deal was to equip all student athletes with common uniforms and apparel to create a recognizable team look. If you have ever visited a campus bookstore at an NCAA school, the racks are full of athletic apparel.

I would like to see Queen’s take advantage of this partnership with Russell and produce a line of athletic and fan apparel to be available at the Campus Bookstore. For example, I think students would jump at the opportunity to buy a Queen’s football T-shirt as opposed to the generic versions in the bookstore today. To me, this cross-promotion could be an effective tool for influencing more students to support campus athletics.

To get more students out to games, the University also needs to put more effort into promoting events. Besides the Frosh Week and Homecoming football games and perhaps the Kill-McGill hockey game, promotion for events is either absent or not very successful. During the school year there was a board set up in the PEC to advertise upcoming games, but not all students go through the PEC on a daily basis.

Although fan support for on-campus sports such as hockey and basketball is less than ideal, the support for West Campus sports such as soccer and lacrosse is virtually non-existent. The long walk to West Campus may be discouraging to students and the city shuttle between West Campus and the hospital doesn’t run on weekends, but a Queen’s shuttle service for game days may attract more fans to West Campus.

However, no matter how much energy and resources the University decides to put towards marketing athletic events, it’s ultimately up to the students to create a solid base of fan support for our teams.

Next fall, when you’re planning your Friday night or weekend excursions, why not try to catch a football or a volleyball game? Queen’s boasts the largest number of varsity and competitive club teams in Canada. With this wide selection of events, you should be able to find something you can be excited about.

--Eilish McConville is a fourth-year chemical engineering student and member of the CIS silver-medal-winning Women’s Varsity Soccer Team. This year, she was the top scorer in the country and was named CIS Player of the Year.

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