Fan sections at sporting events are back

After three long weeks of Hills’ new Winter Athletics guidelines limiting student access to the stands, Athletic Director Steven Papa announced that fan sections will now return.


On January 3rd, an email was sent out from Hills’ Athletic Director, Steven Papa, notifying students of the temporary removal of student fan sections at home sporting events, as well as a maximum of two spectators per athlete. The guidelines were a direct result of the recent spike in COVID due to the Omicron variant.

However, Papa made mention of the fact that he, as well as the “higher-ups in the district,” would be monitoring the situation regularly to determine when the original guidelines could be restored.

On Monday, Jan. 24, another email arrived, this one overriding the last by announcing that “fans are back for all home games/matches!” With the amount of rising COVID cases having subsided, another look at the numbers sparked the good news.

“It was unfortunate that we had to make our last call at all,” said Papa, “but it was in everyone’s best interests. Thankfully, the number of cases has gone down enough to allow the fans back.”

The athletic director went on to state how the large crowds at games and matches do indeed play a significant role in the sports culture of the school. He and many others are looking ahead to the remainder of the teams’ respective seasons with anticipation.

“I’m very happy to have the fans back. I know they’re excited, I know the athletes are excited, and I know the coaches are excited. We’re all really looking forward to having that energetic atmosphere return.”

The athletes themselves are also looking forward to the noise of a fan section since it can bring a lot to an athlete’s performance since it allows them to channel their energy in a beneficial way.

“Hearing the crowd cheering for you helps,” said junior and wrestler Shaan Dalal. “It can drown out the thoughts in your head and make it easier to be in the moment so you can react quickly and wrestle better.”

Other methods of viewing events were set up for fans who still wanted to get in on the action, with the “PH Stream” YouTube channel broadcasting games via livestream during the month, but even those who covered the streams believed there was something to be desired.

“Being there in the crowd and cheering along with everyone else adds something special,” said junior Ben Hoffman, who worked the camera for a handful of basketball games. “The livestreams allowed people to watch along, but not participate the way a fan should.”

Papa added to this, stating he would “prefer to have [fans] at the game to experience it at Hills than have them watch it on YouTube.”

Most everyone involved with athletics, regardless of the role they play, appears to agree upon the difference between in-person crowds and empty stands. Certain elements of an athletic event, namely cheerleading, become increasingly out-of-place without the rowdiness of the fans.

“It was really awkward being [at the basketball games] without anyone else in the bleachers since I’d say we’re there more for the crowd than the players, ” said Julia Constantino, member of the Varsity Cheer squad. “The athletes still need to concentrate on their game, so it’s weird without the fans.”

The announcement involving spectator guidelines ironically seems to have had more effect on the players than those watching, as a game’s audience drastically changes its environment. Even without a current season underway, members of the football team agree that the mindset of an athlete is partially dependent on who is watching.

“Not being able to have the fans last year because of COVID really sucked,” said junior and Broncos running back Daniel Sabio. “It’s really good for [the athletes] that they can have that again now to motivate them.”

Sabio and many others are looking forward to the upcoming chances to support athletics with Hills Pride, opportunities that seem as substantial as ever coming out of the three-week hiatus. And assuming adherence to the safety mandates remains, it looks like a return to the Jan. 3 guidelines is unlikely for the time being.

“As long as the masks are up at all times, we’re really hoping to not only bring fans back, but to keep them there,” Papa added. “You’re only gonna get the true experience by being there.”