It was a normal Friday night under the lights as the first week of high school football kicked off. The game was still the same, and it was still 11 versus 11. The only difference was the amount of people in the stands. In different parts around the state, they limited the crowd size because of COVID-19, and they are going to do the same for the upcoming weeks for schools around the state.
Limited fans all spread out in the stands helps and hurts the playing atmosphere for each team.
With limited crowds, it is easier to convert the third-and-short on that critical drive. The offense can hear each other, and it is easier to get set and not commit a penalty that will hurt the drive. While some players thrive under the pressure of the crowd when everyone is yelling and screaming, others may feel like it’s just another practice without a huge crowd in the stands. They may not be as focused as on a typical game day and may be more likely to make mistakes.
Playing in front of larger crowds also helps prepare young athletes for games at the next level. Big-time college programs are going the have 90,000-plus fans yelling and screaming for their teams, which just adds to the pressure of performing. Unfortunately, these seniors are not going to be as prepared for that atmosphere and playing environment.
Just like college and professional teams have been (and will continue to be) hurt financially due to limited or no fans at live games, sadly the high school booster programs will be hurt as well. With limited fans in attendance, that means fewer tickets, programs, and concessions being sold, and it could affect athletic budgets in the future. I hope this is not the case, but depending on how the athletic booster clubs are structured, lack of football revenue could affect that cross country team running in a race or wrestling team going to a weekend tournament.
A way for schools to try and generate revenue this year for the loss of people buying tickets is through streaming services. Some schools will charge per game for you to watch your team online. I would not be surprised if this is something schools continue do after we get through COVID-19. This would be a good avenue for schools to continue to grow their reach and brand across their community, the state, and the county.
With this rough patch that has been 2020, I hope we can all just be happy that kids get to play high school football.
Written by: Locke Hoover