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ROBBINS: Let’s support all student athletes

Football, basketball and lacrosse are not the only talented teams on Grounds

Watching a relay team finish seconds ahead of their competitors was just as nerve-wracking and exciting as waiting for a winning touchdown.
Watching a relay team finish seconds ahead of their competitors was just as nerve-wracking and exciting as waiting for a winning touchdown.

We’ve all been there — we get an email from the Virginia Athletics or scroll past a post from Wahoops on Instagram and see that there are matches coming up. We immediately rush through to find the details about football, men’s basketball or men’s lacrosse — whichever hallmark sport of the season is currently being played — and forget about the rest. We go to the big tailgating events in our orange and blue before going home and back to our everyday lives. 

In part, this is wonderful. We fill the hill, rock Scott Stadium, storm the field, make John Paul Jones buzz with energy and flood the stands at Klöckner. We support some of the teams that are crucial to maintaining our standing as a “sports school.” We cheer on the star players that make big names for themselves in the sports we’re known for or most invested in. But what about all the other athletes? 

For context — during Virginia football’s most recent season, 48,584 fans attended the home game Nov. 13 against Notre Dame. Compare this to field hockey, whose most-attended game this season against Duke Oct. 1 drew 542 fans. During the 2018-19 men’s lacrosse season — the last season before the pandemic — one game against Notre Dame brought in 4,489 fans. That same year, the women’s lacrosse team’s most populated game attracted 1,551 fans against Navy Feb. 9. There is a stark disparity between the attendance of different teams’ games. 

While the University boasts 25 Division I teams, we seem to only recognize the three trademark sports that draw the most attention — football, men’s basketball, and men’s lacrosse — and let the others fall by the wayside. Or, better yet, we do acknowledge those other sports, but only to swipe in for our Sabre points — the points that reward students for attending games and enable them to get better chances at securing tickets for highly popular sporting events like basketball games — and immediately leave afterwards.

Don’t get me wrong — I love football games as much as anyone. I love getting dressed up in orange and blue and intimidating the other fan section with the “Good Ol’ Song” after every score. But I also can’t help but think how much we’re ignoring some of the most hardworking and dedicated athletes at the University.

Being a college athlete is hard. It requires physical ability of course, but also determination, commitment and responsibility. Athletes have to balance full course-loads with daily practices and lifting at the same time as making sure to leave time to enjoy college and have a social life. There’s immense pressure on them — class checkers who observe to make sure they’re present at all times and physical pressure to push their bodies to the limits and eyes on them as they represent the school in their competitions. The athlete merch comes at a price — an unwavering commitment to the University for the four or more years an athlete may be at the University.

On the surface level, when we look at our sports teams, we see big conglomerations of orange and blue, singular units dedicated to achieving victory for our school. But by viewing them in this way, we forget about the individuals on each team and the incredible amount of effort that goes into securing every win or mitigating every loss. These athletes are students — just like the rest of us — and they deserve respect and support for the energy they give our school.

So I propose a new outlook on sports at the University — let’s start supporting all athletes and all sports as much as we can. In everything else at the University, we’re eager to try new things — perhaps playing intramural water polo as our sport or trying a new type of art. Let’s extend this same open-mindedness to watching new sports and supporting teams we haven’t focused on before.

Prior to this year, I had very much been the type to only go to the big, advertised games. But the weekend of Nov. 5 and 6, I tried something different and went to the swimming and diving meet against Texas. The meet was so incredibly entertaining — watching a relay team finish seconds ahead of their competitors was just as nerve-wracking and exciting as waiting for a winning touchdown. The women’s team secured a win over Texas after unveiling their National Collegiate Athletic Association National Champions banner in the Aquatic and Fitness Center, and the crowd was exhilarated.

Thanks in part to the Summer 2020 Olympics and the record-breaking nine medals won by Virginia athletes, there has been much more recognition of sports teams outside of the big three in recent months. But it shouldn’t take the Olympics to recognize these athletes. Regardless of the medals or matches they win, our athletes are incredibly devoted to the University, and we should show the same dedication to them. It’s a win-win situation — students win by getting to watch entertaining matches and the athletes win by feeling supported.

Hailey Robbins is a Viewpoint Writer for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com.

The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.

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