A limited number of fans were allowed at the women’s soccer game on March 6, 2021 against American University. (Jessica Mellon/B&W Staff)

Q&A: Athletes reflect on the impact of fans back in stands

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As Lehigh sports teams have begun to welcome back fans after a year-long hiatus, The Brown and White spoke with Miranda Royds, ‘21, Matt Marker, ‘22, and Annie McCarthy, ‘23 to reflect on the unique experience of playing without spectators and to discuss the excitement of welcoming fans back into Lehigh games. 

Q: What was your initial thought when you heard that there would be a limited fan base at your games as opposed to no spectators?

Miranda Royds, goalkeeper, women’s soccer: When I heard we were able to have fans in person as opposed to no spectators I was pumped. It is awesome that Lehigh was able to allow our families to come and support us in a safe environment.

Matt Marker, attacker, men’s lacrosse: Initially when I heard there would be a limited fanbase at our home games I was excited for my parents to be able to come watch a game in person. In our first game, no spectators were allowed and parents were a bit disappointed that they couldn’t come watch their kids compete.

Annie McCarthy, attacker, women’s lacrosse: Our team was so excited when we heard that limited fans were being allowed. Many of us hadn’t seen our parents since we left home so it really was something we were looking forward to. 

Q: Do you think having fans at home games helps the team gain momentum?

MR: I absolutely think so! I think that having spectators and fans cheering you on is such a critical aspect of sports. I think that having fans there gives extra motivation as well to be able to play on a bigger stage.

MM: I definitely think that having fans at home games helps the team gain momentum. When the tide of a game shifts and we make a big play, having fans just raises the stakes and makes the moment seem bigger. The atmosphere around the game also is what we are typically used to. It gives us a sense of normalcy that we are competing in front of fans like we are accustomed to.

AM: I think it has helped our team a lot. In the first two home games, we didn’t have fans, but in our third we did and you could feel the difference in our team’s energy. We came out really strong and I think it helped us get that win.

Q: We’re there any major differences in play between games without fans and with?

MR: I think at the end of the day, the game is all about which team shows up and wants it more, so I would say not an extremely noticeable difference, but being that we were able to have our fans at home games, I do think we certainly held a home-field advantage.

MM: When we were playing without fans it obviously wasn’t ideal but to an extent brought our team closer together. Looking around and seeing empty stands and only each other made us bond together to rely on each other, rather than the energy of the crowd. It definitely was a bit different having a completely empty stadium but was a unique challenge for all of us.

AM: Growing up playing sports you become so accustomed to fans as a part of the atmosphere. It was hard focusing on the game when it was such a different environment without spectators.

Q: Have your parents been able to come watch you play? If so, how was that experience since they haven’t seen you play in over a year?

MR: My parents have been able to come out and watch. It has been so awesome and I am so grateful they have been able to come out, especially being a senior it is great to have them there for our last season and support our team and cheer us on.

MM: Yes, my parents have been able to come to see me play this year. It’s awesome for them to be able to come to see me play after a full year with no games. It’s also fun for them to get to see the other parents that they are close with. It’s definitely a win-win situation for players having their parents in the stands and for parents being able to watch their kids play in person.

AM: Yes, they have been able to come to all of our home games. Since it has been so long since we have played, they were as excited to be back and watching the team as we were to be playing. Being able to say hi to family quickly after the game is something everyone looks forward to.

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