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Go Capers Go?
The Cape Breton Capers men's and women's soccer teams were successful in capturing Atlantic University Sport championships on Sunday for the second straight year on home field.
The victory marked the fourth straight title for the men's team. As for the women, it's their third title in four years.
While the teams celebrated their respective wins and the end of another successful AUS championship tournament, many of their peers weren't there to be part of the celebration.
Was it because of weather conditions? Maybe there isn't any real interest among students when it comes to soccer? Was it the game times being in the afternoon?
There are many determining factors as to why the "orange army" wasn't as big as expected for the championship tournament.
We don't know how many students watched the AUS championship. We know there weren't many in the stands, but we don't know how many watched online with the AUS free broadcast, which could very well be one of the reasons for the small number of students.
In fairness to the students, nobody wanted to be out in the rain on Sunday. It's understandable if many watched the webcast instead of making their way to the Cape Breton Health Recreation Complex for the matches.
However, the rain did eventually stop towards half-time, which provided a nice finish for the women's final. Meanwhile, there wasn't any rain for the men's championship, however, it was a little chilly.
Despite high winds on Friday, weather conditions temperature-wise cannot be used as an excuse. The temperature was around 15-20 degrees — you can't get any better than that in early November. The wind was challenging for the players, but didn't affect the fans in the stands.
It should be noted there were a handful of students in attendance for the semifinal games and a few more for the finals, but not nearly what there should have been. Kudos to those who did attend.
The lack of student participation goes beyond just the AUS championship weekend. This has been a trend throughout the whole season.
The big questions are these: Is the university doing enough to promote the sports teams to the students? Are they finding ways to engage with students at their own level?
Cape Breton University does a fair amount of promoting on its social media pages — they're really trying — but what's really important is the hours those posts are being made.
For example, if a social media post is made at 9:30 a.m., it likely won't catch the attention of the average student, who's likely in class at that hour. A prime hour for posting is mid-evening between the hours of 7-9 p.m.
In saying that, the university does a great job promoting its athletic teams to the general public. They run newspaper advertising in the Cape Breton Post, while also using various other outlets including radio and digital billboards.
The general public isn't the problem. The general public is seeing and hearing the promotional advertising, which is a positive thing and will surely be continued by the university, but until it's right in the students' facees consistently, they're not engaging with it.
Students need to get something out of attending the games. Sure, the argument can be made they're watching the game and supporting their peers and university and that's enough.
To draw students to the games there has to be potential benefits for them. The university has to make the students want to attend.
The AUS has a partnership with Subway, maybe the AUS can do more to support student participation with a contest for students — fan of the game wins a free sub of his or her choice?
Just a suggestion.
Game times may also play a factor in participation in general. Most regular-season games on the weekend, with the exception of a few, are played at 1 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. Maybe pushing those games to 4 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. may draw more interest for the soccer clubs.
One thing that should be touched on is with games being played on the weekend — and there's nothing that can be done about that with Cape Breton's geographical location — the majority of students have jobs and work on the weekend, which could be a major factor in the small student population at games.
Of course, Cape Breton is the topic of this column, but it's certainly not the only university having trouble attracting students to games. It's an AUS-wide issue, depending on the sport and universities.
We know Cape Bretoners are great for supporting their sports teams, especially when they're winning. The Capers soccer teams know how to win and deserve to have the stands filled every game. Students can be a large part of the atmosphere.
Let's hope the student engagement in university sports improves over the next year. It would be quite disappointing if the stands weren't filled with students for the 2020 U Sports National Women's Soccer Championship next November, considering the amount of work the university is putting into hosting such an event.
Jeremy Fraser covers sports for the Cape Breton Post. If you have a column idea, sports story or would like to give feedback about this week's Sports Chat, contact Jeremy by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @CBPost_Jeremy on Twitter.