By Clay Sidenbender | Echo
Prior to their Sept. 15 home game against Indiana Institute of Technology (Indiana Tech), Taylor men's soccer coach Gary Ross encouraged his team to find more people for the student section.
Ross did address mistakes the team made as well, but his desire to fill the bleachers acknowledged the influence of a particular outside group. The fans.
"There is something significant about people supporting you," Ross said. "In any area of life this is true. But in sports I think it's especially true because failure is such a public thing in athletics. So having a base with you is crucial."
The Trojans started out their season 3-3, going into the Indiana Tech game. Ross noticed the missing presence of the student section, so he took matters into his own hands.
The recruitment of a student fan base proved successful. Sophomore midfielder Alex Gallup named the fan base, the Trojan 12th.
"To be honest, we didn't have to recruit all that hard," Gallup said. "My roommate Jakob Sprunger, one of the founders of the Trojan 12th, has done a great job of getting guys on our wing as well as other people around campus to come to the games."
The name Trojan 12th was influenced by other "12th man" groups for other dedicated sports teams. The most notable example was from the National Football League (NFL) Seattle Seahawks team based in Seattle, Washington.
In a 2014 Seattle Times article, columnist Larry Stone said Seattle's 12th man is important. Not only is the team affected by fandom, but the fans are affected by team as well.
"Virtually every study shows precisely that: The sense of goodwill, bonding and shared purpose that comes with being a fan has a ripple effect that can benefit all aspects of living," the article stated.
Stone said fans tend to feel positively when their team wins. Even when the team does not win, the fans are bonded over their loyalty to the team.
In the same way, the fans who make up Trojan 12th are brought together by the soccer team. The team is in turn inspired by the community's loyalty to them.
"Seeing and hearing all the people on the sidelines continue to cheer for you after they've already yelled for an hour and a half really just shows you how much they care for you and makes you want to give everything you got so you don't let them down," Gallup said.
The shouting and sneering of fans were thought to bring the issues to the opposing team as well.
Has the fanbase been an important boost since more students have been coming to games? Based on the number of wins, no. The men's team managed to win one game in their last six games since Sept. 15.
Ultimately, winning games brings the crowds and the responsibility to win is on the team.
"There may not be a scientifically gathered data showing its true but I would venture to say that when people support friends and those around them in any sort of venture that the performance rises," Ross said. "I think they make a big difference."
An organic fan base still could be worked out over time. Other factors also played a role in the losses the men's soccer team suffered.
If intentionally continued, the coming years could bring better outcomes.