Are those people in the stands?

Cory Sparks, Sports Editor

April Lee / Advance-Titan
Fans were seen on the bleachers at a UWO athletic event for the first time since the winter season of 2020. The change comes following an update in WIAC spectator policy

For the first time since the winter season in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic stopped everything in its tracks, UWO athletics will be allowing spectators to sporting events, but in a limited fashion.

On March 16, the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) announced its spectator policy for regular-season competitions during the spring 2021 season.

The WIAC stated that each school, and sport, will have slightly different spectator policies, but that all conference competition must abide to the following rules:

  • Each WIAC member will create procedures to govern spectator attendance in accordance with state and local health and safety guidelines and their campus visitor policy.
  • All guests must wear a mask or face covering that is covering the nose and mouth at all times.
  • Guests must remain socially distanced at all times when in the competition venue.
  • Guests must observe the institution’s seating policies, must remain socially distant and may not interact with any student-athlete while in the competition venue, including bench areas, dugouts, warm-up areas, etc.
  • Guests are asked to depart the competition venue as soon as the contest is over and will not be permitted to meet with any student-athletes at the athletic competition venue.

Each UWO athlete had their own reaction to the spectator policy announcement, but there’s a general sense of gratitude in being able to perform in front of a live crowd again.

“When I first heard that we had limited fans at our meets I was kind of disappointed because it’s nice having people cheer for you and support you throughout any sport,” freshman track and field sprinter Valerie Seeley said. “I think having a crowd helps you through any sport because it’s the people you care about cheering for you, like your family and friends.”

Most sports are allowing two people per home athlete to come and watch the events, but the UWO track and field team is not scheduled to have any track meets as a whole this year.

This means that UWO track and field athletes are expected to travel to other meets and, while their competitors may bring supporters, they cannot bring anyone to watch their meets.

“So far we haven’t been allowed to take any of our own fans. It’s just the home teams that’s allowed fans,” Kyra Huber said. “For us we are allowed to have fans for home meets, but only throwers have a home meet. We don’t have much of a [live] fan base right now.”

Nonetheless, UWO athletes as a whole, regardless of the sport they play, have learned to lean on one another for support since it’s evident that events with full stands are not a guarantee in the near future. Athletes have used this peculiar circumstance to become more acquainted with one another and to support each others’ performances as each others’ “cheerleaders.”

“UWO has a great team of people that are always there for one another,” Seeley said. “I think that having a good connection with [the team] helps since we can’t have as many fans or supporters as we would like.”

For those who will be playing matches at home, there’s a lot of excitement knowing friends and/or loved ones will be able to watch them compete again.

“I am very excited to have spectators this season,” freshman tennis player Mattie Beck said. “I have friends and family coming to watch which makes me very excited that they are able to do so, as it will be amazing to have their support.”

As of now, the WIAC has yet to address the spectator policy for postseason games.

In order to view the policies for each individual UWO sport, go on the UWO athletics page: