The stands inside the Ruth Gunden Gymnasium just have not looked the same since the latter days of the 2019-2020 basketball season, and for five long months, they stood empty.
No cheering mothers and fathers, no visiting alumni and no raucous student section were present to cheer on Maple Leaf athletics.
And as the spring 2020 sports fell one by one, so did the likelihood that the fall 2020 season would go off without a hitch, spectators included.
When Goshen College’s fall 2020 spectator policy was officially released on Sept. 4 in order to maintain social distance guidelines, limitations were set on the number of fans that can attend each GC contest.
“Each Goshen College participant in an event will be given two complimentary tickets through the pass list,” the release stated. “Additionally, Goshen College students and employees will be able to obtain tickets at the gate with their campus ID cards.”
Tickets for each event will be distributed on a first come, first serve basis, and the maximum capacity of each contest includes the game’s participants and game-day coaching staff. Fans and unnecessary team personnel from all visiting teams will not be allowed to attend.
To ensure that those who attend are related to the GC community, all spectators are required to show identification before being allowed into the game. At this time, 100 seats are available for spectators in the Gunden Gymnasium, and outdoor bleachers are also open to GC spectators.
Spectators are required to follow specific guidelines in order to attend the games, such as being required to wear a mask for the entirety of the contest, and separate families must socially distance themselves from other fans. Hand-washing, sanitization and self-screening is also highly encouraged.
GC has also been following NAIA regulations according to interim athletic director Erica Albertin, and team members are subjected to daily temperature checks and symptom screening for all athletes.
According to Albertin, the current set of COVID-19 guidelines is here to stay, at least for the fall and winter 2020 seasons.
“At this point in time, I do not think there will be changes for winter sports seasons,” Albertin said. “We are prepared to change plans if the NAIA, Crossroads League or the college provide guidance to change.”
According to Albertin, the athletic department has been working closely with campus event staff in order to spread awareness of GC’s spectator policy and the guidelines associated with it.
The new protocols appear to be working well, and parents of players have added a fresh sense of odd humor to the situation in several ways. Most notably, a fan has brought in cardboard cutouts of Elvis Presley to both home volleyball games for unknown reasons.
While the crowd noise, or lack thereof, has yet to play a significant role in a GC home contest, the season is still young for most fall teams. Senior Taylor Eash, captain of the women’s volleyball team, talked about how she is impacted by less fans in the crowd.
“I think that affects us because we don’t have the support and cheers to keep us going,” Eash said. “It’s hard to rely on yourself sometimes.”
Fans can attend all GC home contests with limited seating in the Gunden Gymnasium for women’s volleyball and at the Ingold Athletic Complex for outdoor events. All Goshen College home sporting events are live streamed on goleafs.net.