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November 21, 2013

Supporters come from out of town to cheer away teams

By John Cuturic

Go to any Cleveland State University sporting event, and you can hear the crowd cheering for the home team.

You can also hear a loud minority in the crowd cheering for the away team.
It’s easy to tell them apart -- they’re wearing school colors, cheering for the wrong team, and typically very loud and passionate. In fact, I noticed this semester it’s not that uncommon for the “away team” fans to out-cheer Cleveland State fans at home games.

These people are parents, friends, and former coaches who are traveling with the team. I talked with some of them to find out where they came from.

Denise Podolsky came from Canfield, Ohio, a city near Youngstown, to a Cleveland State women’s soccer game. She came to support Youngstown State University. Podolsky sat in the stands at Krenzler Field in a bright red jacket, cheering, “Let’s go, Youngstown!”

She had come to the game to support her daughter Jackie, a junior who plays goalie for Youngstown State. Podolsky said she’s gone to every game Jackie has played in since her freshman year.

“It helps [athletes] a lot, knowing they have family there to support them,” Podolsky said. “It also helps the other girls on the team, knowing they have people there to support them.”

Podolsky said she would go to Milwaukee for Youngstown State’s final game of the season -- about a 7-hour drive from Youngstown. She said that’s the farthest that she’ll have to go this season.

There is some science behind the idea that social support can help athletes perform better. Tim Rees, a professor in the Sport and Health Sciences program at the University of Exeter, worked with some other Exeter professors to research how social support affected high-level golfers. They found that receiving support increased an athlete’s performance.

“In this study, received social support aided performance, regardless of the amount of stress,” Rees wrote.

Of course, that has to do with more than just cheering -- in fact, as professor Kimberly Epting at Eton University found when studying the effects of cheers and boos on sports performance, in sports like golf where athletes are used to silence, cheers can harm their swing just as much as boos.

Still, athletes who receive more support from people in their social networks -- such as the friends and family members who drive out to away games to watch them -- tend to do better.

Clay Schultz and Debbie Schultz, another married couple, came out to Woodling Gym to watch their daughter Sierra play for the Oakland University volleyball team. They came to Ohio from Highland, Mich. to watch the game.

Clay Schultz said that he recognized a lot of faces that he saw, going around watching Sierra play.

“It’s a lot of fun to watch her play people she used to play in club, when she was in high school,” he said.

In fact, he said that a player on the Vikings team, Maggie Hannon, played on the same club team as Sierra in high school. Debbie Schultz said that she hoped to get a picture of Sierra and Maggie Hannon together after the game.

Also at the Youngstown State University soccer game were Chuck and Judy Riese, a married couple who came to watch their granddaughter, Macey Riese. They said that they come out to all the games they can make it to -- they came to Ohio that day, even though they live in Wisconsin.

But Judy Riese said that they didn’t have a hard drive up.

“We’re so used to doing it that it’s like the car is on automatic pilot,” she said.

The Rieses have watched their granddaughter play soccer since she was a child. They saw her in high school, and now in college. Judy Riese said that they have gone as far as Buffalo, N.Y. to watch their granddaughter play.

“We’re really happy for her, that all her hard work paid off,” Judy Riese said.