Jordan Malter ’09 thinks that Yale fans are the most vicious in the Ivy League.
“They do their homework,” he said. “They know the goalie’s mother’s name.”
But that’s only if they show up. While some Yale sports — like football and men’s basketball — often draw significant crowds, other teams are looking for ways to boost their attendance, and with it, the extent of their home-field advantage.
Ersilia DeFilippis ’11 knows how helpful a supportive crowd can be. That’s why DeFilippis, a former tennis player, and Karolina Grygierowska ’09, the women’s tennis student manager, teamed up to create the Blue Aces, a fan club which provides incentives for supporters to attend Yale women’s tennis matches. With membership cards that are stamped every time a fan attends a match, people can enter a raffle or win free food just by watching Yale tennis. In a recent contest, the Blue Aces set up “target practice” during one of the breaks, in which supporters could serve balls to the other side of the court and hit prizes like t-shirts and other Yale tennis gear.
The initiative includes a Facebook group and an e-mail list through which fans can receive recaps of recent matches and alerts about upcoming ones. But DeFilippis said one of the best ways to get people to games is by word of mouth.
DeFilippis said she hopes the Blue Aces can garner support to a team that is generally not as high-profile.
“It’s a way of paying tribute to all the people who have played in the past,” she said.
It is not just athletes who have a stake in Yale sports programs. Non-athletes, especially sports enthusiasts, reference the need for school pride as a motivation to get people to games.
John Song ’11, a member of the Yale College Council, said that fan programs help increase campus spirit. The YCC is also discussing an incentive program to get students to athletics events, though currently it is only in its beginning stages. Song — who is also a staff reporter for the News — added that increased student support could also bring more commercial sponsorships to Yale teams.
“Athletics are normally an integral part of student life,” Song said. “Maybe that’s just because I’m from Florida.”
Malter, a WYBC broadcaster and coordinator for the Dawg Pound, the Yale men’s basketball support program, agreed, adding that more fan turnout can psych out the other team. He cited examples of games when opposing team players were taken out of play because of fans’ jeering.
“I’ve seen it happen at the Amphitheater,” he said, noting an incident during the 2005-’06 season when continued harassment forced a Harvard point guard to falter on the court.
But even sports with less rowdy fan bases need support. Lauren Tatsuno ’09, a member of the Yale Gymnastics team, said that while she and her teammates love competing at home, they also welcome competing at larger state schools where the attendance, and the energy level, is higher. The gymnastics team uses Facebook events, mass e-mail messages and table tents in Yale dining halls to publicize their meets.
Tatsuno added that while she is not sure specifically what the Yale athletics program could be doing differently to encourage fan turnout, she feels that women’s sports are generally overlooked by fans.
Patrick O’Neill, the director of sports marketing for the Department of Athletics, said that getting fans to games can be a tricky thing, especially in the Ivy League.
“If students need to study,” he said, “they’re going to study.”
But at the same time, Yale has some exciting student-athletes who are worth watching, O’Neill noted. To that end, Sports Marketing is continuing initiatives like the Kids Club and other programs — not to mention adding Boola the Bulldog, the new performing character mascot that debuted last Friday.
But at the same time, O’Neill admits that students and other fans are not going to flock to games just because of clever promotions.
“What brings people out is winning,” O’Neill said. “It’s like fertilizer.”