Between classes, study sessions and extra curriculars, William Jewell College students have a hard time finding time to attend Jewell sporting events. In fact, according to ncaa.org, William Jewell ranked 148 out of 171 NCAA Division II schools in total attendance for the 2014 football season. However, this statistic does not take into account the size of the student body or the ratio of student athletes, which is currently around 40 percent at Jewell.
With 40 percent of the student body involved in athletics, Jewell has fewer students available to attend games than many other Division II schools. Regardless, the athletic department is focusing its attention on students to support their fellow peers in their endeavors outside of the classroom.
“I think one of the things that we have to be realistic about is when 40 percent of your student body are student athletes, you have to look at the total you have to draw from,” Director of Athletics Dr. Darlene Bailey said. “We have 1000 students to draw from, and at a given fall, let’s just say football for example, if the volleyball team is traveling, the soccer team is traveling and the football team is on the field, more than 20 percent of our students couldn’t come to the game because either they’re already there or they’re somewhere else. Or you could argue 100 football players, 20 cheer and dance, and 20 student workers, and maybe the band is there, that we already have a pretty good percentage of our student body at the game.”
However, the athletic department recognizes that different marketing schemes may need to come into play to encourage Jewell students to attend events. Recent research has shown that college students today are more immersed than ever in social media. Watching sports may no longer be valued for the experiences they provide because people are becoming more and more interested in the highlights.
“We have to be mindful of social media and the fact that students maybe don’t want to watch a full game anymore. Maybe they just want to watch the highlight or see the Snapchat. I just read an article about this this morning, that students in the 18-24 year old demographic don’t have or don’t want to have the attention span to watch a two-hour game because there’s a lot of other things they want to be doing instead. They’d rather see the highlight and then go on to something else,” Bailey said.
In order to appeal to the more tech savvy generation, the department has worked to provide wifi access to all fans in the Mabee Center. This allows fans to easily check scores, stream other games, interact on social media and even work on homework.
“Anyone has access to wifi in the Mabee Center. Watch us play, and at the same time, you can watch Mizzou on your smartphone. While you can’t be at the Mizzou game in person, you can watch it just as well at our game as you can in your dorm room,” Dr. Bailey said. “I think we have to start thinking that way. Even if you look on TV at a game, how many people, if the camera pans, were all [looking at their phones] and looking up only when something good happened.”
The Jewell Athletic Department is hoping to change the way students see attending sports games. By providing incentives such as give-aways, free wifi, social media outlets and a sense of community, the department hopes to see the number of students in attendance at games increase.
“We encourage students to be a part of the campus, and sometimes students are looking for something to do, and sometimes that something to do is just down the hill. Come to an athletic event, see the person you have class with. See them doing something that they’re passionate about,” Bailey said.
Even with the adjustments the Jewell Athletic Department makes to encourage attendance, some William Jewell students find going to games an obligation that comes with being a student, one that they believe shows support for their community.
Despite busy schedules, first year students Gabby Goering, a double major in history and education with a minor in theatre and classical humanities, and Charlotte Burns, a biochemistry major with pre-med emphasis, attended every home football game this season and even traveled to Rolla, Mo. for the game against the Missouri University of Science and Technology.
“Just do it. Not even just for sports, just for anything, like choir concerts and theatre,” Goering said. “It’s our students. It’s our community. You’ve got to be there.”
The complete athletics calendar can be found at http://www.jewellcardinals.com
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