As I scrolled through the Instagram explore page, a video of Cassius Stanley captured my attention. But it was not his high-flying dunk or even the catchy background music that drew me in. The post focused on a fan dressed in red, who pretended to pass out as he reacted to Stanley’s dunk.
The caption dubbed it the “best crowd reaction ever,” complimenting the hard work of the Fanatics, a group of students that leads the cheering section during games and works to promote school spirit overall.
In recent years, the games have felt quiet and the stands empty, leading to complaints that the Fanatics have not effectively rallied the student body. However, they and the school continue their efforts to pack the bleachers for home games. By encouraging athletes to attend other teams’ important matches, the Fanatics not only increase home attendance, but also validate each sports program and work to foster the school’s athletic community.
The group also promotes attendance by organizing theme nights such as jersey day—when spectators don clothing from professional sports teams—as well as incentives like raffles to attract more casual fans. In addition, the Fanatics utilize a Facebook group in order to communicate directly with students. Therefore, complaints regarding the Fanatics’ efforts are unwarranted. Poor attendance results from students both attending an urban high school and managing a strenuous workload.
Since many of the home games take place late on Friday, attending these events requires students to give up the majority of their nights. But with all that Los Angeles has to offer, it is unreasonable to expect students to stay after hours for their high school’s games. Instead, students could watch the Los Angeles Lakers live, attend a concert at The Forum or enjoy four different amusement parks nearby.
In addition, the scheduling of the actual games further explains the lack of attendance. Students who attend our school can live far from Studio City, ranging from Manhattan Beach, to Malibu, to Pasadena. These students either drive around an hour to get to school or take the bus in order to get home. Forcing these students to choose between remaining on campus, missing the bus or forcing their parents to drive an hour to pick them up is unreasonable. As for weekday games, the empty crowd is a byproduct of the busy schedules many students face. Because homework, sports practices and extracurriculars routinely fill daily activities, students are often unable to attend these games. To expect a student to practice for three hours and then watch another team is asking them to neglect their homework until 9 p.m.
Additionally, the school teams’ playing styles are relatively monotonous and disciplined, resulting in competition that fails to entertain the average student. For example, the basketball program utilizes an immense playbook and traditional basketball sets, rather than a fast style of play. Additionally, the football team employs a more run-based offense, instead of opting for a more pass-oriented system. While their methods successfully translate to wins and should not be changed, spectators may not engage with the teams as effectively.
Despite these challenges, the Fanatics this year have done a great job engaging the community and creating school spirit. In some of the Friday games I have attended, the stands have been nearly full, providing hope for this integral school program.