To whom it may concern…

Dear Portland State Athletes,

Are you tired of playing in front of empty seats? Would you rather play in front of wild and crazy fans? How does having the best home field/court advantage in the Big Sky sound to you? As a fan and fellow student, this sounds great to me. I would like nothing more than to see a Stott Center filled with rabid student fans cheering on the Vikings. But more importantly than me wanting to attend intensely exciting games, we need you to want to play in that environment. If you’ve always wanted to play in front of thousands of screaming fans, then hear me out because the process starts with you, the athlete.

As I think back on every PSU sporting event I’ve been to this year, I remember a majority of the seats being empty, people barely cheering and athletes playing their hearts out for unengaged fans. However, a few basketball games this past season were different. The Stott Center sold out, the student section was overflowing with boisterous fans cheering the Viks on, and I saw the team play with a fervor and passion that I had never seen before. Players were running faster, shooting better, jumping higher and playing harder. There was electricity in the air that changed the whole character of those games and it was a direct result of the environment the fans created, coupled with the way the players reacted.

My question is, how can we replicate this electric environment for every home game in every sport? The athletic department and Viking Athletic Partnership are doing their parts by providing free food and drinks to fans that come, and the administration is doing their part by turning the Stott Center into Viking Pavilion. What else is missing? It’s simple: engaged fans. To help create an environment like the one during those sold out basketball games, the student fans need to feel like they have a stake in the game and in the team. How do we accomplish that? Well, that starts with you, the athlete.

We need you to get out of the Stott Center and start interacting with non-athlete students, especially on game days. We need you to build relationships and encourage them to come support you. By simply interacting and engaging the student population, as well as encouraging them to come to your games, you will help build the bond that is needed to create the best home field/court advantage in the Big Sky.

A perfect example of the impact fans can have is with the Seattle Seahawks and the 12th man. Seattle has done an amazing job of making their fans feel like they have a stake in the game and that they’re just as important as the players. As a result, the players feed off this energy and dominate opponents when they’re at home. We can create this environment here at PSU, but we need you to step out of your comfort zones and help build it.

I am not asking you to schedule hours of your days to go talk to people. I am just asking that when you are walking to class, eating in the cafeteria, or just hanging out in the Park Blocks, to interact with students other than your teammates. Build friendships and relationships with your fan base while encouraging them to come support you. If everyone did this, the games would be much more exciting for players and fans. Let’s work together to build the best home field advantage in the Big Sky and beyond.

Matt Rauch,
Vanguard Sports Desk