How do we get the students to give a damn?

There must be a joint effort from the administration, the AMS and Athletics to get students to start going out to games.
There must be a joint effort from the administration, the AMS and Athletics to get students to start going out to games.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

This has easily been one of the most successful seasons Queen’s Athletics has ever had.

We’ve seen six championship banners—two national—the opening of a brand-new facility, multiple football players getting professional contracts and numerous other athletes selected to represent their province or country in national and international competition.

And yet, no one cares.

Once you leave the ARC, once you start talking to the folks who aren’t wearing blue tops emblazoned with the new “Q,” you start to realize that students at Queen’s don’t know what’s going on in Athletics, and they don’t care to know.

For all the successes Athletics Director Leslie Dal Cin and her team (and teams) have achieved this year, engaging the general student body hasn’t been one of them.

Until the football team started to make serious inroads towards the Yates Cup, most of the student-side seats at football weren’t even close to full for entire games. We can chalk up both hockey teams’ low playoff attendance to the scheduling of games during Reading Week, but attendance during the regular season was nothing to write home about. For the second straight year, Queen’s students were outnumbered at the Carr-Harris Cup by our neighbours across the peninsula. We were supposed to be the home team, for crying out loud!

It’s fair to argue that every professional team out there suffers the problem of fair-weather support: when the team’s winning there’s lots of buzz, but when the team isn’t doing well no one cares.

There’s certainly a difference between the average team and a university team. I’d even argue there’s a difference between the average Canadian university team and a Queen’s University team. We pride ourselves on our school pride. We pride ourselves on wearing the Tricolour, wearing our Queen’s jackets, knowing the Oil Thigh and making a ruckus in the name of Queen’s.

The problem, of course, is Queen’s students are lovers of convenience. It explains the high attendance the volleyball, rugby and basketball teams regularly enjoy. It explains the marked drop in rent rates between the south and north sides of Princess St. This is a pattern that stretches back to my first year and probably earlier. It’s something Athletics should understand and be working with. But no changes have been made.

A change in attitude needs to come on the part of Athletics, the AMS and students.

Students need to recognize Queen’s teams represent them and must apply their immense school spirit to supporting their teams. Multiple Queen’s athletes have talked about the discouragement they feel after getting pumped up for a game in the locker room, then going out to play in front of empty stands. It’s our job to stand behind them, especially given the national attention and respect our Athletics program is garnering.

Athletics must recognize the students’ love of convenience and make more of an effort to engage them. Have a students’ choice award at the Colour Awards for team and athlete of the year. Make more of an effort to advertise the big games (there was no word on campus from Athletics before the Carr-Harris Cup this year). They’ve made strides this year having a weekly marquee matchup advertised on the website, but they need support from students who don’t regularly visit gogaelsgo.com.

Maybe a weekly shuttle that leaves from the ARC to go to football and hockey games would help. Open up the possibility for alcohol consumption at games. Look into the possibility of allowing the soccer teams to play on Tindall Field. Conversely, for football games, have a weekly parade from campus to the game, led by the bands. Make it easier for students to find out about games and make it worth their while to attend them. When advertising big games, tie one’s attendance to one’s school pride.

The AMS needs to facilitate these changes and act as a link between Athletics and the students. Maybe a weekly email update from the AMS executive could mention the weekend’s games? It’s not enough to talk about increasing student support for Athletics during election campaigns; next year’s AMS executive must take an active interest in doing it.

Since starting at Queen’s in 2006 I’ve seen Athletics grow and change, but I’ve also seen them stay the same. The general characteristic regarding the Queen’s students’ love for convenience is nothing new, nor is it a mystery.

Queen’s Athletics has done well in making their teams the talk of the country, now it’s time to make our sports teams the talk of the campus.

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