One of the most exciting things about watching pro sports is the anticipation that builds before a game between rivals: the clashing athlete personalities, the heightened intensity, the settled scores and the bitter bickering between fans.
But at Ryerson — and most Canadian universities, for that matter — there is no such excitement.
That’s because Ryerson sports lack a crucial ingredient that helps students get emotionally invested in our sports teams: recognizable personalities that pique fan curiosity and give them reason to come back to watch another game.
Or watch a game in the first place.
This isn’t because of any shortage of amicable athletes — far from it. It’s just that the school does such a poor job of promoting its sports that virtually every athlete is doomed to obscurity from the start.
Athletes here are students first and athletes second, meaning practices everyday and games every weekend come in addition to — not at the expense of — a full course load. On top of that, athletes must participate in school spirit events and many also work part-time jobs to help pay bills and tuition.
It’s a huge undertaking that leaves little time for anything else, but there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is the lack of support that our athletes receive, both financially and emotionally.
Unlike American colleges that hand out athletic scholarships like candy on Halloween, Canadian athletes get virtually no financial support unless they attain ridiculously high standards. In order to qualify for one, an athlete must maintain an 80 per cent average in addition to high-level performance and community involvement.
For all that hoopla, an athlete can expect to get a six-digit sum, right? Not even close. It’s all for a measly couple thousand dollars.
But the particularly biting problem — one we can’t simply throw our hands in the air and say, ‘Well, that’s Canada for you’ — is the utter lack of fan support we give our athletes.
For all their hard work and dedication to the school team, most athletes are just another face in the crowd. They play for the love of the game and not for personal fame; they deserve a lot more recognition then they get.
It’s expected that only the most diehard fans and friends make it out to George Bell Arena to see the men’s hockey team compete, or Allan Lamport Stadium to watch the women’s soccer team take to the pitch, but it’s also routine to see the Kerr Hall Gym as empty as a ghost town when the basketball and volleyball teams play.
It’s nice to say that students would fill the stands if the games were advertised more, but the reality is it will take a more proactive approach on the part of both the students and the school to make that happen.
The spiffy new Ryerson Rams website and the top-notch Maple Leaf Gardens facilities are a promising start, but for athletes to feel like real, well, athletes, Ryerson Sports and Recreation needs to put a human face to its operations.
With so many dedicated, personable athletes to choose from, it’s just a matter of organizing more campus events and plastering posters around campus. A little notice on the RAC bulletin board just doesn’t cut it.
But students also have to understand that a lackluster athletics program is a self-fulfilling prophecy when nobody shows up to games. An exciting university sports experience is a two-way street.
There’s an incredible amount of potential for Ryerson sports to be great — just start going out to games and talking about it.