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Low turnout may affect athlete performance

Cyclone athletes receive relatively little support from their fellow students, which may or may not affect their success in athletic competitions.

The athletics department has a high participation rate among undergraduates; nearly one in seven is a student-athlete. "I think it's obnoxious that people complain about Mills and the lack of community here when sports are a big thing that brings people together," said sophomore Nadia Ghani, who is both a volleyball player and a swimmer.

Sports teams at Mills seem to form their own community; many athletes say that the majority of their friends are also athletes and are often on the same team.

"It is its own little world. I've never been on a sports team, so I don't feel that inclusion," said senior Nuria Gomez of why she does not attend sporting events.

Head swimming coach Neil Virtue agrees that there is often a gap between student-athletes and students. "If people felt that connection with the athletes, they would be more apt to come out," he said.

Sophomore Cyclone swimmer Chrissy Fisher understands the lack of support. "We're not a big division school that has rival teams or high impact sports," she said. Fisher also added that in a sport like swimming, having an audience doesn't typically make a difference in her performance.

However, Ghani disagrees. "It makes a huge difference not only in terms of team morale but it actually makes us play better," she said.

According to Ghani, it is common for other teams to travel with their supporters, and as a result Mills fans are usually outnumbered three or four to one at many home games.

"In my experience, [low attendance] makes a huge difference in how teams feel about their sport, but not necessarily how they perform," said Virtue.

Non-athletes seem to agree that Mills is an exceptional case because of the makeup of the student body. "Mills just doesn't have a lot of school spirit," said senior Ali Uscilka, who takes physical education classes but has never played on a sports team.

Gomez, who attends "a few" sporting events each academic year, agreed. "I'm just not that interested in sports. I like supporting my friends who are athletes, but I wouldn't go to a game spontaneously," she said.

Another reason for low attendance could be the lack of publicity for events. "Athletic programs in the academic arena are not known, unfortunately," said President Janet Holmgren.

Signs sometimes scatter the campus and there is an occasional posting on student-news, but for the most part fans must take responsibility to find game times and locations. Also, few people know that all athletic schedules are available on the Mills Web site. "I almost never know when the games are, so how am I supposed to show up?" said Uscilka.

Virtue hopes his student-athletes can reverse this trend. "If some athletes on the team took responsibility to do some promotion, I think that could be a huge factor in getting more support," he said.