Girls vs boys: fan attendance gap at sports games

Syd Pierre, page editor

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Since the Title IX Education Amendment Act was passed in 1972, there has been a large increase in athletic opportunities for female students in high school and college. Title IX continues to have a lasting legacy by providing equal opportunities in sports and education. Female athletes have seen more exposure at the professional level as well, with the creation of the WNBA in 1996, the NWSL in 2012, and the NWHL in 2015.

However, there is still work to be done with regards to attendance at all levels, starting at the high school level. The Edina Girls’ Varsity Hockey team has attended the State Tournament eight times since it started in 1995. They have won the championship two consecutive years and scored 71 goals.

The Edina Boys’ Varsity team has attended the state championship 15 times since 1945, winning a record-breaking nine championships and placing third in 2018. The Boys’ State Hockey Tournament is one of the biggest events in Minnesota each year and it shows in attendance. In 2018, the Boys’ tournament at the Xcel Center welcomed 121,38 fans; 16,697 in the class A and AA alone. The Girls’ State Tournament saw a total of 17,467 fans; 2,674 combined for the class A and AA championships.

Combating the issue of lower fan attendance for girls’ hockey has been a hot debate within the community over the years. Some fans are in support of relocating the tournament to Ridder Arena, home of the Gopher Women’s’ Hockey team. Ridder can hold 3,400 fans, while the Xcel has a 20,554 fan capacity. Fans believe that downgrading the rink size would help the teams, because the stands would be filled to full capacity, creating a more competitive and energetic atmosphere. It was recently announced that the consolation games would be held at the TRIA Rink in St. Paul. The quarter-finals and championship games are held downtown at the Xcel, so it brings more centralization to the 25th anniversary of the tournament.

Signs of lacking attendance also plague other sports at EHS, but according to Troy Stein, Assistant Principal and Activities Director at EHS, the administration “continues to look for ways to promote and share the sports in which our girls compete.”

Stein provided multiple examples that have been put in place, including boys’ and girls’ basketball doubleheaders at EHS. Doubleheader games have been used for EHS soccer and lacrosse and in Stein’s eyes, they have been seen as a success. Other promotions include the EHS student nights at girls’ volleyball games, which involved free attendance and pizza for superfans.

Stein pointed out the recent group of EHS students who formed superfan groups “specifically to support girls’ sports.”  He praised the “amazing group of girls’ soccer superfans” who attended most of the soccer games, including some away games, and how over 750 students attended the first round state volleyball game at the Xcel Center.

Senior Noelle Waggoner signed up to attend boys’ varsity sports as a superfan. She isn’t against going to girls’ games, but felt pressured into going to boys’ games because she’d signed up to have a “superplayer,” a common occurrence for superfans. Waggoner pointed out the social media accounts that the Girls’ Varsity Hockey team has, including a Twitter account with over 1,100 followers, but said that “people don’t usually listen to them when they’re trying to get people to go to their games.”

Like Waggoner, Emerson Evans is a superfan for Boys’ Hockey and she noticed the attendance at boys’ games is higher than girls.’ Citing her own experiences as a player on the Girls’ Softball team, which currently has no superfans, Evans hopes that “more people will show up to girls’ [sports] because it’s the same level of school spirit.”

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