Coaches Corner is a series of stories about a variety of issues coaches must deal with on and off the playing surface. Today, amid the outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19), talks of playing games with no fans in attendance are ongoing across all levels of sports. What do fans provide to the gameday atmosphere, and what would coaches and players miss out on without them?
Not much has been normal about Todd Murray’s transition to head football coach at Southeast Whitfield High School.
Amid the outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19), the cancellation of spring practice and a heavily restricted summer workout routine, Murray will take whatever level of football he can get.
Even if his players must play in an empty stadium.
“This year, we’ll just take anything we can get and roll with the punches,” Murray said.
As discussions about the return of sporting events go on amid the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the possible safety measures thrown out across all levels is the possibility of holding games without allowing attendees. The NBA, for example, will begin its paused season later this summer in Orlando, Florida, without fans in stands. The discussion of whether to allow fans at sporting events centers around the fact that COVID-19 can be spread through close contact.
“It certainly wouldn’t be the same,” said Dalton State College head basketball coach Alex Ireland. “The fans are a big part of the game. You wouldn’t see games in big arenas and wouldn’t see games on ESPN if there are no fans to watch. The fans are a reason that the games are what they are. “
Demand from fans in major professional and collegiate sports leagues helps raise the money needed for those big arenas and TV deals, but what about the local high schools that have stands usually comprised mostly of player families?
“Friday night football is for the players, but also for the fans and community in the stands,” Murray said. “It would be odd not having them there. I think it would affect the kids some, not being able to look up and see mom and dad.”
Ireland said that fan support at his level of NAIA basketball can create a palpable atmosphere that can have a very real impact on the game.
“To not hear the roar of the crowd or to come out to a packed arena, it would be very different and very weird,” Ireland said. “I understand all the precautionary reasons behind it, but it would be something to adjust to.”