Equal work for unequal recognition: the disparity between high school sports fan bases

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Jen Peters

The PV varsity girls golf team posed with their individual and team awards at the Falcon Invitational.

Sidney Brockmann, Social Media Manager

High school athletic events have the potential to bring entire towns together. In Iowa especially, crowds for certain athletic events are anything but weak.

Although crowds for high school football and men’s basketball are impressive, many other sports are left in the dust, lacking both attention and support. 

Some athletes are used to the disappointing turnout for their sport, while others long for more spectators considering the hard work and time they put into their sport.

Senior Drake University golf commit Erika Holmberg expressed her thoughts on the support section of her regular golf meets. “The crowds at high school and summer events are slim to none. Usually a few parents come to watch, but many groups don’t have any spectators.”

Other than the gender-based difference in sports followers, popularity of high school sports may differ due to what mainstream culture promotes and how many people are involved in the sport. 

Football is arguably the most supported sport at PV, attracting hundreds of people to watch a game on a Friday night in the fall. Perhaps a bit of the football team’s success could be attributed to the amount of support the team receives. 

Senior Air Force Academy football commit Luke Vonderhaar explained the importance to the football team of having a large crowd. “It just pushes you to do better and work your hardest,” said Vonderhaar. “When you succeed on the field, all the fans become more energized and you just feel better about yourself and about the team as a whole which really boosts our energy.”

Vonderhaar also empathized with athletes that play less supported sports, “During COVID when less people would come due to the ticket situation, it was deflating to go out on the field and see minimal people in the stands, and I feel for the other athletes that may play a less popular sport so there’s not as many fans there,” he said. 

Among many other sports, PV golfers believe their sport is one of the least supported when it comes to the amount of fans at competitions. “It is a bit disheartening that more attention isn’t directed towards golf but I understand that spectating golf isn’t as exciting as spectating football or volleyball,” Holmberg said. 

Holmberg, along with her teammates, longs for a greater number of consistent supporters and cherishes the moments the team does have a crowd. “I get more fired up and excited at the state meet every year when our groups gather closer to 10-15 people, way more than we ever get,” Holmberg said. “It turns your energy on like a switch and your drive to put on a good show just skyrockets…I just wish we could experience that more often.”

Many would argue high school athletes that contribute hours each day to their sport all deserve equal heaps of support and recognition when competing. Although only about three sports get a large amount of attention, athletes of less popular sports feel they still deserve to be honored.