Written by Summer Neal
Bright lights, touchdowns, cheerleaders and bleachers full of screaming fans are all staples of a Friday night, right? Not anymore. The Clarksville Generals football stands are louder than they have been in the past couple of years, but they are still the quietest in our area. Meanwhile stadiums across Indiana and the United States are becoming less filled with screams and filled with more empty seats. 71% of the 31 states that published their state attendance for high school sports had a decrease in average attendance. Some states loss up to $85,000 due to this attendance drop.
Clarksville’s bleachers on Aug. 30 were filled with 450 fans, a low compared to other high schools in our area’s home game average of 550. Although Clarksville’s stands are slowly becoming more and more full, they still have less than schools comparable in size and ability (2018). (Eastern High School, Charlestown High School and Madison High School all at an average of 550) “This year the administration’s relationship with the student body has improved, and we have a much more active student body wanting to help with the games. We are also trying to advertise the games better by having the discounted student passes, theme nights and events like the free student tailgate,” said Athletic Director Levi Carmichael. The Generals defeated Eastern (Pekin) 54-18 on Aug. 30.
Although the Generals fan section is now full, it hasn’t always been like that. Just last year, there was a low average of 350. But many years before that, the stands were always packed to the brim. “Last year we didn’t have as active of a student body working with the administration to get the students involved. Now that we have the more active student body we are more able to allow students to experience the game and support the players and the team to bring the school together,” said Carmichael.
The 2017-18 Indiana High School Athletic Association’s (IHSAA) Football 2A State Finals attendance was down 3,855 fans (19%) from 2016-17’s 20,606 fans. That’s a loss of more than $57,000 for the IHSAA. But it’s not just Indiana, almost every state other than Texas’ attendance for all high school sports are down. Wisconsin’s 2017-18 Football State Finals attendance was down a large 35% from 2016-17.
There are many reasons why students and fans in general aren’t coming to games. One of these reasons is the team’s reputation in the years before and farther into the season, the team’s record. “No one came to the games because of their record,” said sophomore Selena Maldonado,”No one wanted to hang out at the games if we weren’t going to enjoy ourselves.” Last year the Generals went 0-10 extending the losing streak to 4 years. This streak would be broken on August 30 2019.
Another reason why fans do not come to games is conflict of time. Less in football, but in other sports, there are many activities going on at the same time. There may be a home tennis match, golf practice, a volleyball game 30 minutes away and cross country all at the same time, and fans must choose which to go to. Another conflict is jobs. Many students must work to support themselves and their families. “I have to babysit my mom’s friend’s kids on Friday nights, so I can’t ever come to games,” said sophomore Skylar King.
“I didn’t know anyone that was going to the games to hang out with so I just chose not to go,” said Maldonado. Lack of student participation at games is an issue for some schools. Last year the “Clarksville Crazies” student section was never full. This year however, the student section was full, and overflowing. The student council and athletic department hosted a free “student tailgate” with free food, drinks and cornhole to help promote the game and to fill the student section.
“Overall, there are less people coming to events,” said Northern Valley/Demarest (NJ) athletic director Greg Butler to USA Today. “Teams having successful seasons, rival opponents, and tournament games will bring crowds but still not to the extent of crowds in the past.” Unlike professional sports where fans are normally fans of that team for life, high school sports fans are normally only around for along as they go to school there. Because of this there are always new sets of fans for high schools sports, meaning attendance will always be fluctuating, but the numbers have not risen to the numbers they once were.