By HEATHER STROTHER
Community is built in part by invested fans at sporting events cheering for and supporting their local teams, encouraging the players to do their best, cheering for successes and consoling the team in the case of a loss.
For Megan Sokolowski, an alumni of UMW, being a part of the Women’s Rugby team on the field and off impacted her tremendously, providing strong ties into the community at UMW which aided her in attaining the success she found here.
“Definitely being part of a sport made me feel like I had an automatic family, especially with the culture of rugby,” said Sokolowski. Not only did her team make her feel welcome, but the spectators did as well by cheering the team on. “Having fans at games really helps motivate and encourage me,” said Sokolowski.
If one takes the time to notice how fans affect players, try listening in to the chants. Outlandish, loud, and often abrasive outbursts can negatively impact the play an opposing team is attempting to run. “…fans have the power to make or break some professional’s’ psyche and can enhance or undermine concentration” according to Psychology Educator, a website dedicated to sharing information on psychology topics that may interest higher education students more than the usual classroom topics.
The same can be said for positive cheering and applause to boost the confidence and athleticism of the home team’s players. This beneficial cheering supplied by the crowd ties them to the outcome of the game encouraging cheerful jubilation in victory or a somber coming together in defeat.
Branching out and making new connections at UMW sporting events can lead to new friends and new opportunities as it helps students get out and meet not only other students but people in the Fredericksburg community. For UMW students it gives another reason to be proud to be an Eagle because they’re supporting their peers.
“Studies have shown that rabid sports fans have higher self-esteem and are less depressed, less alienated and less lonely,” said psychology professor, Daniel Wann, from Murray State. No matter one’s gender, race, or crazy hyper dance the day of the game, everyone is a happy camper to be celebrating with one another and cheering on their winning team. Even if they lose, at least they’re in this together.
Jessica Elkins, a junior who is heavily involved with UMW Theatre knows all too well the importance of spectators and support. “I think going to [games] builds a sense of community between the members of UMW because it is a giant bonding experience supporting our fellow students.”
The ability to be loyal to theatre as well as multiple sports teams throughout Elkins life has proved successful in furthering her foundation as a University of Mary Washington Eagle. What once was two hundred and thirty-four acres of brick buildings and completely new faces has become her dwelling place with warm character. She feels at home on campus now that she has a big support system, she passes that along in the stands hoping others will be granted that same feeling of support that she feels when there is a full crowd at Klein Theatre.
Being on a team might be temporary but being a part of that team through a sense of community can be forever. Support your fellow Eagles and go check out future games and maybe you too could be a part of this welcoming and proud community.