Winning teams and empty bleachers - Does anyone care about campus sports?
The El Camino College Warriors men's volleyball tam is scurrying to keep up with their Santa Monica College counterparts. The wooden floor is squeaking beneath their feet and our rivals are grunting to keep up. It's an intense game but the only noises heard are whistles from the referee and the grunts of struggling Warriors that aren't living up to their names.
Meanwhile, the bleachers are comparable to a desert in terms of noise. Besides a few supportive parents, there are few SMC students cheering on the bleachers in support of their winning team; a usual oddity in the athletic department.
Despite the mass success of the athletic teams, there is not a consistent following from the student body. With such impressive string of glory, it’s strange to see the bleachers as empty as the wild west on any given game day.
In a transitional community college most students are focused on their classes with the intent to transfer leaving their acknowledgment for sports on the back-burner.
Not only that, in this demanding era, students are juggling their job(s), education and personal lives in a limited amount of time.
Even sports fan Eyosios Hailu, a graphic design major who plays striker position in his free time has trouble keeping up with sporting events.
"I don't attend games. I have a lot of homework to do and no time. If I had time I would," Hailu said.
Unfortunately, at SMC the demanding lifestyle of a student has led to a lack of viewership at sporting events.
“Even for an accomplished athletic department, students are unable to make games unless they're physically involved," Jerome Jenkins, Coach of Men’s basketball and project manager at SMC for seven years said. "Rare is it that students attend home games.”
Jenkins views SMC as a little university considering the roughly 30,000 students that walk through its halls. In his time here, Jenkins has found that student attendance, like most things, is cyclical.
“In 2011, there were a lot of people at football games and this year there isn't," he said. "There are fluctuating waves of students involved in athletics and that changes every year along with the crowds."
Even with women’s tennis taking home gold state medals for singles and doubles, a state championship in men’s volleyball, winning streaks in women’s volleyball and soccer, not to mention the football team’s four consecutive Western State Conference championships and reputation as a factory creating professional caliber players, 2015's student body happens to be one of the years with a low mark on the attendance scale.
Jenkins and new Associate Athletic Director Reggie Ellis aim to engage students by promoting athletic department with events, fundraisers, passing out flyers and posting notices.
"It's a college that require a commute," says Ellis, "A lot of students don't live in the area."
The average student is on campus to attend classes. Unless it is obvious that events are taking place, they won't attend. The promotional flyers, events and notices will allow a student to see at any given moment they're on campus
The lifestyle of a college student comprises of time shrinking and responsibilities growing large enough to ignore hobbies. At least that's what former athletes and current science students Holli Swift and Tichina Facey ascribe it to. They're still in their early twenties and trying to learn how to balance school and work leaving their affinity for sports on the side.
Facey has attended a few basketball games but only to support her classmate on the team.
"The games are unheard of unless you search about them yourself or know someone in sports," Facey said.
As the seasons change and different sports come and go, the athletic department expects to see a rise in attendance by the student body with the addition of their promotions. Considering the student body fluctuation and schedules of games to be subject to change, the main factor is informing the students.
Jenkins notes that along with the record of winning streaks and expectations of an audience, "We take a lot of pride over here in athletics and we hope people will start to recognize it."