Empty Stadiums

Junior Kamryn Elgersma guards an opponent. Masked play has taken some getting used to for players.


Junior Kamryn Elgersma guards an opponent. Masked play has taken some getting used to for players.

The biggest difference in competing during COVID-19? The volume.

Van Noord Arena, which can seat as many as 3,000 cheering fans, creates an atmosphere like no other when it’s full for big games like Calvin versus Hope, says senior and men’s basketball power forward Emmett Warners.

“Once the game starts, it’s just pure fun,” Warners said.

Likewise, junior Anna Weber, a member of the swim team, remembered invitationals where it felt like an electric current was in the Venema Aquatic Center. 

The energy from fans carried into competition, motivating players to swim or run faster. Now, with COVID-19 restrictions limiting or completely banning spectators, athletes find themselves competing in empty stadiums. Home-court advantage hardly exists, Warners said.

“Having fans seems like a dream nowadays,” said Gabrielle Timmer, a member of the women’s basketball team.

The result? Games and meets feel more like scrimmages, even if they hold the same weight for the season. “Walking into an empty gym with the intent to play a game is a weird feeling. Usually having fans is what makes it a game,” Timmer said.

To make up for the lost energy, coaches have encouraged teams to create their own energy. “We’re going to be the volume for each other,” Weber said.

Weber feels like the swim and dive team has navigated this change well. As a large team with many traditions, members have supported each other in their events, cheering on swimmers from the COVID-safe distance of the stands. The large space of the swim deck allows them to do their group cheer prior to meets while remaining socially distanced.

Men’s basketball has also replaced the energy that fans would have brought. Warners said, “No one else is going to create that energy for us, so if our bench is loud and we’re chattering and we’re going, that’s gonna motivate us on the court more.”

Coach Bill Sall has pushed the idea of ‘bench energy,’ and Warners says that game film shows that the team has stepped up to the challenge.

Building cohesion and camaraderie is also a challenge, as athletes aren’t allowed to meet up in-person outside of practice. Timmer says these bonds have been some of her favorite parts of being on the team, so the COVID-season has been a challenge.

“When we are at practice, we really cherish our time with one another and are grateful for every minute we get to see each other,” Timmer said.

According to Timmer, the women’s team has been relying on and encouraging one another to get through this year. Despite the difficult adjustment, she is proud of the progress they have made.

The women’s basketball team’s current record is 2-5. The team will host Olivet at Calvin on Feb. 27.

Men’s basketball has a record of 5-3. They will be playing at Olivet on Feb. 27.

Swim and dive will host the MIAA championship on March 11. The men’s team has a record of 4-1, and the women’s team has a record of 3-2.