Op-ed: No more empty stands and sidelines

Blue Crew chairman Luke Barr urges student body to support athletes on the field

Op-ed: No more empty stands and sidelines

It is a balmy August 2015 night in Northwest DC. Students, both upper and lower classmen, flow into Bender Arena for the beginning of the year. ‘Bender Blue Out’ District Day is a pack-the-place match. Without a doubt, tonight is the biggest crowd that AU students will see all year.

As students file in, signing up to be a part of the Blue Crew, they pick up their new Blue Crew t- shirts from the women’s’ basketball and wrestling teams. There is a palpable feeling in the air. It is not just because the reigning Patriot League champion volleyball team is taking on the University of Florida Gators, who are nationally ranked, but because of the excitement and togetherness of attending a sporting event.

As the Gators break out to an early set lead, the crowd settles in for a great night of high quality volleyball. With promotions and activities galore, there is no shortage of fun that can be had attending an AU sporting event.

Attending a sporting event in college is a rite of passage – even for those who do not like sports, supporting your school, but more importantly your peers, is an essential collegiate experience.

American is not a big school. Many of you will have a field hockey player in one of your general education classes or a basketball player in one of your major specific classes. Once you get to know them, suddenly they are not just a field hockey player or basketball player – they are your partner on a class project, your study buddy, your friend.

It is good for athletes to know that we have their backs, but even better for your friends to know that too. Most students do not know how rigorous and difficult it is to play a collegiate sport. While many students are interning somewhere in DC, athletes are practicing or catching up on homework before a road game. Not many AU students understand the hard work, dedication and time it takes to get to the level of playing a Division I sport.

Fall athletes cut their summer vacations a month short to come back for preseason in early August. Those athletes include members of the three time Patriot League champion women’s volleyball team and the men’s soccer team, which has received national recognition in the top 25 polls, and two years ago, beat the number one ranked team in the country. AU’s field hockey players also cut their break short, and they too are winning, adding the 2013 Patriot League Championship under their belts. They consistently play the best teams in the country, right here on campus.

Winter athletes have three days off over the Christmas holiday, while most of us have three weeks. It is incredibly difficult to balance the rigorous academic climate of AU while also getting up at 6 a.m. for daily workouts and spending days away from class during games.

It should not take the First Lady’s visit to fire up the student body to go to a sporting event. AU’s sports teams have rarely gotten the support they deserve from the student body. And our teams are good! Just in my three years at AU, our teams have hit their strides.

Women’s basketball won the 2014 Patriot League championship, the first in school history. The men’s basketball team won the Patriot League title the year before. AU wrestling had three members compete at last year’s national championships with one finishing 4th overall in the country in his weight class. Our swimming and diving team has olympian Caylee Watson on the team, who represented the U.S. Virgin Islands at this year’s games.

Supporting our peers means that we should cheer for them and be there for them. We should not be allowing these achievements to be largely unknown. It is important to recognize that our athletes are overachieving on the field, court, track and in the pool.

For those students who are dedicated and do come – keep it up! For those who don’t – come experience the intensity of a volleyball game or a soccer game. Watch our men’s and women’s basketball team this fall and winter, then go and support the women’s lacrosse team in the spring. Let’s get up as a community and show our athletes we care. Games are free and fun – they are well worth attending. With so much going on in the world, coming together to root for our team, our athletes and our university makes so much sense.

To find out more information about joining the American University Blue Crew or any upcoming games click here.

Luke Barr is a senior in the School of Communication and the chairman of the AU Blue Crew.

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