No more student sections at Hills sporting events

The recent rise in COVID cases has led to a temporary suspension of student attendance at sports games. Its effects on the school have already become clear.


Photo Credits: Dream Maywether

This Monday, Jan. 3, Hills athletics director Steven Papa sent an email informing students and faculty of recent spectator guidelines for school sporting events. The guidelines included a reminder to all of the mask mandate and introduced a limit of no more than two spectators per athlete during game events.

Possibly the most jarring shift to winter sports this season is the removal of student fan sections. Morning announcements and mass emails have been encouraging student engagement at sporting events from the start of the school year, so the sudden elimination of this aspect at games might be startling. Looking at the ongoing basketball season, it becomes apparent that this has already had an impact.

“A lot of players rely on students giving them energy… There wasn’t as much energy in the gym during the last game, so we had to rely more on each other.” said senior Ian Solomon, who plays on the varsity team. 

Papa, Hills Athletic director said that “Our athletes feed off [students’] energy… and the student sections bring a certain level of that to the gym that you just don’t get when it’s empty. But at the end of the day, the athletes want to play. As much as they’re fans of having a big crowd, I think it’s more important they get that chance to play.”

Live Streams have been set up so students can still support the teams, but attendance there remains to be seen without the experience of an in-person crowd. Several fans attend more for the opportunity to show Hills Pride and support the school than to watch the game itself.

“Some people go to games because their friends are going. A lot of it is about the event. Without that, there won’t be as much interest,” said Solomon.

The rise of these restrictions begs the question as to how much time and thought was spent on the dilemma before the official notice was sent. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to see the outstanding level of consideration given to the fans and athletes from everyone involved with this choice.

“It was a big, collaborative decision from all the higher-ups in the district… The superintendent, principals, and school nurses were all involved. This wasn’t something we took lightly” said Papa.

Three virtual conferences were held prior to the conclusion made public on Monday. The interests of fans, athletes, and the sports in general were all kept in mind when looking at potential COVID spread, a crystal clear possibility in light of the recent surge.

Alejandro Camarena, who plays on the Broncos’ football team, compared his experience of a large student crowd to the new rules. 

“We were fortunate to have a lot of people show up to support us during [the football season]. [The basketball team] not being able to have that really sucks, since it definitely helps when you’re out there, playing,” said the junior.

As much as the new guidelines put a damper on the fun of a sports season, it is important to acknowledge the fortunate circumstances. Cutting the student section has drawbacks, but it allows for the team to continue playing their season without suspension.

“I’m happy [the team] can keep playing, because the sport is really what it comes down to in the end,” Camarena mentioned.

“I’d rather our kids be able to play a game than just have fans there,” Papa added. “It was still a difficult decision, but the last thing we want to do is stop our athletics from happening.”

As mentioned in the notice, these new guidelines will be revisited each week as COVID cases ebb and flow, but even the athletic director remains optimistic.

“It was a decision made out of necessity, but the fans want to be back, so hopefully we can return to normal soon enough.”