Laurier’s varsity athletes need more student support

After spending two years in the sports section of this newspaper, first as a writer and then as the sports editor, I’ve attended more Golden Hawks varsity sports games than I can count. But what never ceases to amaze me is the lack of support that these teams get from Laurier students.
Whether it’s hockey, basketball, soccer or even football, at almost every game I’ve attended the stands are half empty and the majority of the people filling the seats are the families of the players.

These athletes have devoted their lives to their sport and have worked their way to an elite level of competition, yet the majority of the student body can’t be bothered to take a few hours out of their day to show some support.

Laurier is home to some of the top teams in Canada, but no matter how successful a team is, most of the school’s approximately 12,000 students just don’t care.

Take, for example, the Golden Hawks women’s hockey team. This year they finished 26-0-1, not losing a single game until the final day of the regular season. They went on to sweep the Windsor Lancers and the Guelph Gryphons, winning their seventh consecutive Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championship.

Yet on average, they only played in front of 117 fans, with their season-high attendance being 209.
Even the men’s football team – which tends to be the most popular team on campus – finished second in the OUA this year.

The average attendance at the Hawks’ football games this season was just 2911, with only 1334 fans coming out to watch their upset win over the Gaels.

I know that “school spirit”, or even watching sports, isn’t for everyone, but it’s hard to believe that there are not more than 200 students at Laurier who would enjoy a hockey game.

The common argument made by sports fans that ignore Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) is that the abilities of Canada’s student athletes are pathetic.

Some believe that pretty much anyone could play at the varsity level in Canada, and that if an athlete did have some “real talent” they would have gone to the U.S.

While I have no way of quantifying my disagreement through stats or numbers, the quality of competition in the CIS is very high.

Almost every game is an entertaining, well-played exhibition of athletic ability. I’m not going to argue that CIS sports are in some way better than college sports in the U.S., but there’s not as much of a gap as people think.

The talent showcased in inter-university north of the border will pleasantly surprise any sports fan and for Laurier students it’s almost always free.

With the exception of football games – which are only $5 for students – anyone with a OneCard gets free entry into Golden Hawks sporting events.

When else will you get the chance to have unlimited access to elite-level sports without having to pay a cent?

To me, that sounds like every sports fan’s dream, and more people need to take advantage of this rare opportunity.

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