Sports

Empty seats a bad trend at high school events

Where are the fans? Because they’re not showing up to high school sporting events around Federal Way.

I guess there’s too much to do around the city, like watching reruns of “American Chopper” or planning out all those home improvements that never seem to get done. I have been the sports editor at the Mirror for over a year now and am still waiting to see a full stadium or gym. I’m actually waiting to see an even half-full facility.

Why is that?

Is it because the Mirror sports section is doing such a good job covering the four Federal Way high schools? I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. Could it be that students, as well as adults, just have better things to do?

I’ll tell you what I think, as far as the adults are concerned — Federal Way has no sense of community. There are four high schools scattered around a spread-out city with a population of over 80,000 and people don’t associate Federal Way with a high school like they do in other places around the area. Could it be because there aren’t a ton of adults who graduated from the city’s schools currently living here? I don’t know. Other South Puget Sound League schools like Puyallup, Bethel, Tahoma and Enumclaw have a lot more graduates who stay and live in the communities they grew up in. That makes it easier for them to spend a Friday night watching their alma mater play a football or basketball game. They have a little pride in their school and want to see them do well.

I graduated from Auburn High School in 1991 and remember how important high school sports, especially basketball, were to people around town. When I was in elementary and junior high school, it was a big deal to make the trek downtown with my dad to watch an Auburn boys basketball game. I knew the names of all the players and could still rattle off the entire roster of the 1985 Trojan team.

I haven’t seen that kind of passion in Federal Way. Not even close. Sure there are rabid fans around, but not many. The stands at most games include just parents and boyfriends and girlfriends.

Another big reason why the Federal Way schools could be suffering in attendance numbers is because a bulk of the teams aren’t competing for championships. I assume this is the main factor why students stay away.

Overall, the four Federal Way high schools have struggled in the last couple years, especially in the two highest-drawing sports of football and basketball. No basketball teams qualified for their respective state tournaments last year and only Decatur has played a playoff football game since 2003.

The Federal Way boys basketball team is the only lock to qualify for the SPSL Tournament this season and the Eagle boys might have the most loyal student following of any city team.

Federal Way seniors Tyler Pac and Chris McColgan lead a contingent of students who attend every Eagle varsity game, home or away. They are decked out in blue wigs, painted faces and blue T-shirts that read “FW Crew” on the front and have a yield sign on the back with “Caution this fan stands a lot.”

But that’s not the norm.

I’ll give an example, at kickoff time in a season-ending football matchup between Beamer and Jefferson Oct. 28, I counted just over 20 people on the visitor’s side of Federal Way Memorial Stadium. Let’s just say, finding a parking spot wasn’t too hard that night.

Girls basketball games are even worse. You can hear every shoe squeak, instructions from the coach and can eavesdrop on most conversations around the gym. That was even the case when the Federal Way girls took the floor at the 17,000-seat KeyArena last week at the King Classic tournament.

Where are the fans? I want to know.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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