Remember all of the Hollywood flicks that depict groups of jocks congregated in leather letterman jackets? Art mimicks reality as athletes are well-known for their tendency to associate with one another, with collegiate athletes being no exceptions. While some GW sports programs, such as men’s basketball, have passionate and established fan bases, less popular programs rely on fellow student-athletes for support.
“It’s natural for athletes to support other athletes,” head volleyball coach Jojit Coronel said. “Even if the sports are totally different, the commitment and dedication are exactly the same.”
Athletes arrive on campus before other students and share both practice space and workout facilities, so fraternizing is inevitable. In volleyball’s case, Coronel said, the team becomes close with the men’s and women’s soccer teams, in particular during the difficult two-a-day summer practices. These symbiotic bonds carry over to the season, when the teams need fan support at home games.
Both Coronel and sophomore water polo player Julie Jacoby agreed that playing in front of friendly faces picks up the level of play of the home team. When the seats are mostly empty, it’s difficult to get pumped up for a game, they said.
Coronel went as far as to say that playing in front of a sparse home crowd is “detrimental” to the team. Because of this, any additional fans are greatly appreciated.
“I think it’s great when athletes come to each other’s games,” Jacoby said. “Athletes really compete at their highest level in front of fans, especially their friends.”
The Miami native said she made a lot of student-athlete friends early on during her freshman year, so she consistently attended their events and they subsequently returned the favor. Last year, Jacoby said, she went to all of the basketball games and some of the softball games.
“I go to support my friends, but it’s different also being an athlete yourself because it gives you a different perspective,” Jacoby said.
Teams with opposite sex counterparts, such as water polo and soccer, tend to have special relationships with their equivalents, as they especially can understand the triumphs and tribulations of the other. Jacoby said that even though the boys play in the fall and the girls play in the winter, they get to know each other extremely well, especially since they share a coach, Scott Reed.
Reed strongly encourages the teams to go to each other’s matches, and they frequently help each other out by doing things such as running the clock at matches. Last weekend, Jacoby and a few members of the women’s team went along with the men’s team to Annapolis, Md., to watch the men compete at the Naval Academy.
Unlike Reed, Coronel does not mandate that his team support a certain other team, but he does think it is an excellent way to show support and get more fans to games.
“I highly encourage (my players to go to other events),” he said. “I think one of the toughest things we have to do as athletes, especially at GW, is to try to find a huge fan base. If you can get other athletes to come to events, those athletes are going to bring non-athletes with them.”
One particularly spirited group, Jacoby and Coronel said, is the men’s crew team. Although Coronel acknowledged the likelihood that the men come out because volleyball is a female sport, he appreciates the support nonetheless.
“They’ve done an outstanding job (supporting us),” Coronel said. “They’re slowly gaining more knowledge about volleyball, but they’re always hysterical and great supporters.”