More than 411 spectators attended Robinson Stadium Oct. 23 to watch PCC defend its home turn against Compton College. Because of the coronavirus and its variants, this was the first time that fans were allowed into the stadium since 2019. Most of the fans looked pretty excited to cheer on the boys in cardinal and gold from the bleachers instead of Parking Lot No. 4, but it was the student-athletes at PCC who were impacted the most.
“I was pretty excited,” freshman striker Juanita Diaz said. “I definitely felt like that was something that was missing from our games. It was nice hearing them from the parking lot because that’s where most of them would stand, but hearing them from our bleachers was more encouraging. I definitely felt that when fans came in we had a lot more energy as a team because I felt like our parents were a lot closer to us, and we could feel the support a lot closer than before.”
“My first thoughts were that I was happy knowing how long we spent without them [fans],” sophomore wide receiver Jabari Kindle said. “My other thought was that my family gets to come see the games. Like my mom. I was just excited to get her back into the stands.”
“I was excited that my parents could come watch me play my last season here at PCC,” winger and fullback Daniel Vargas said. “And past teammates could come watch.”
Sophomore quarterback Edward Norton, felt that performing in games without spectators felt a little eerie at times. The team has had to create its own version of self-motivation.
“The games felt a little fake because there wasn’t any noise,” Norton said. “If we wanted to bring joy, it had to come from our sideline. We travel, but we don’t travel that deep, so we had to try and find our own energy to come out and play. It was kind of different.”
Asked if Norton felt that there was more pressure put on him because of the lack of fans.
“I wouldn’t say [having no fans] put more pressure on me, but we had to find our own spark without the fans there,” Norton said. “With fans it’s quick to find a spark. For example, with a big play, you might not hear anything the whole time. Even on the sideline.”
This year the football team has a record of 6-2, but the women’s soccer team has a record of 6-13. Call it lack of experience or the lack of support, but each PCC sports team was affected differently. One of the characteristics that stands out as a result of those games is that the football team brought back a lot of players from 2019, at least on the offensive side of the ball. The women’s soccer team, however, has 15 freshmen and one redshirt freshman out of the 20 player roster.
“We played in quite a few and luckily our parents were able to go to those, but some of those were an hour or so away, so our parents had to make that long drive to go and support,” Diaz said. “A lot of our parents did luckily and we were able to get some support still from away games. But it was a little frustrating at first to see that our away games, even just half an hour away at times, were allowing fans when ours wasn’t.”
A few other PCC student-athletes acknowledged that seeing away fans at their games was frustrating. Kindle and Norton felt that Grossmont had the most fans out of all of their away games this season. Kindle, Norton, and Elias Galaviz from the men’s soccer team felt that seeing fans for the first time was frustrating, but didn’t adversely affect their games.
“They were actually close to the field and sitting on the track,” Kindle said. “They had their lawn chairs on the track. I also feel like that motivated us too. They brought an energy and it gave us that back against the wall mentality. We’re in our opponents house and we’re not really welcomed here. We still have to show up and perform regardless of who’s here, regardless of the fans, how close they are, if they’re heckling, whatever. We still have to do our jobs.”
“With opposing fans and open stadiums at away games, I got a little jealous because we didn’t have open stands yet,” Galaviz said. “And I use it as a reason to upset the fans. To play better. Upset the team. Upset their supporters. And then, go there and do our work.”
Vargas was also angry that opposing fans were allowed in the opposing team’s stadium, but felt that every school had fans since the beginning of the season.
“Generally, I think every school had them [fans] from the beginning,” Vargas said. “I didn’t like that at all because it would be a different type of push to have your fans there. At the Mt. Sac game. We were supposed to lose that game in theory because Mt. Sac was second in the state and we weren’t doing so well in the season. But I believe since there were fans there cheering, we wanted to have an upset for them. And I think that pushed us a little more.”
While the football team had its own way of approaching empty stadiums with a little support from the marching band who cheered them on every home game, Diaz felt that the lack of family and fan support for the women’s soccer team made the games that much harder.
“It was pretty discouraging,” Diaz said. We knew obviously that our parents supported us and stuff, but it’s a lot harder to feel that when they’re not allowed in with us. So, it definitely felt, not lonely but kind of disappointing in a way. It’s kind of hard to describe. It just wasn’t as nice not having them in there.”
The reason that some community colleges were allowed to have fans is that different schools are zoned in different counties with different local rules and regulations. PCC decided to allow fans after the CCCAA working group got together.
“The CCCAA Working Group recommended that spectators be allowed according to local conditions and regulations,” President-Superintendent Erika Endrijonas said. “In our case, it is masks, a vaccine or a negative test within the last 72 hours. Since we learned that people were tail-gating on the fourth floor of the parking structure in order to watch games, it seemed like allowing spectators under the appropriate conditions would be a better option.
None of the student-athletes we spoke to seemed overly upset that fans weren’t allowed in the stadium even though a few of them admitted that it adversely affected over the course of a long and enduring season.
“It just needed to take time because we’re in different areas and different counties and we have to follow certain protocols,” Galaviz said. “It was just time. We needed to wait our time.”
Another key difference between the football team and the men’s and women’s soccer team is schedule. They tend to play in the middle of the week and during the day when most of the parents or fans are working.
“Our motivation went down,” Galaviz said. “A few started coming down, but it was during peoples work schedules, so we didn’t have too many coming out but the supporters we did have coming out, they were there to help us support and motivate us. We heard them sometimes throughout the games as we were down or if we were up to keep on going.”
Asked if Diaz thinks that the lack of fans affected the outcome of their games.
“I definitely think so,” Diaz said. “I think it’s a lot different having your family there because you really feel higher energy when you have people who are rooting for you right next to you. And it’s different from just knowing when they’re thinking of you instead of being there physically and being able to yell and support you. Even in yesterday’s game we had some of the football boys standing around and cheering for us when we would make a move or something. You’d hear ‘Ooh yah. Let’s go!’ It was a lot more empowering as a team to have fans cheering on even the little things. Stuff like that was really fun because even from the fans that stayed in the parking lot, we couldn’t really hear them. So it was a lot different and a lot more fun to have them next to us. I’m a lot happier now with the last few games where we can have fans.”
Video curated by Photo Editor, Xavier Zamora
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