Within the past few months I have attended multiple sporting events. I regularly go to the Michigan football games, but I often find myself at Michigan volleyball games. Volleyball is one of those sports in which either team could win depending on the day, no matter their rank. This creates a competitive atmosphere, accompanied by incredible athletes. Seeing someone jump over 42 inches in the air, and then spike the ball straight down at 75 mph is unbelievably entertaining. It is a hard game to just sit there quietly and watch.
The University of Michigan Volleyball team has a huge following. Every game I have been to is either sold out or 75% full of spectators.The band is always there, standing in the far corner of the arena right in line with the benches, heckling the other team, and getting the crowd involved. The atmosphere is always positive and eager. The fans and players feed off each others energy, and there is never a dull moment throughout the entire game.
Obviously, volleyball is not a contact sport, but that doesn’t stop the players from sacrificing their bodies left and right diving for every ball, tripping over chairs to keep the ball in play. It is clear how much of a team sport volleyball is. After every point the players on the court come together in a huddle to get refocused and to encourage each other. They are always talking, picking each other up when they need it, and communicating about how to defend the other team. They resemble a well oiled machine, and this largely has to do with how close together they are on the court. This helps the players to focus more on themselves and their own team, rather than their opponent.
The Michigan volleyball team has a certain presence about them. The minute they step on the court their focus spreads throughout the entire arena. They are focused, but they also have fun and can be seen in their celebration after every point. Although their focus on winning never breaks, the team stays loose. This looseness is a big attribute to their success, and it was completely obvious when they played Ohio State this past weekend. They swept them in three sets, carrying with them the raw emotion and competitiveness that comes with playing such a hated rival, but showing how much fun it is to play in such an intense atmosphere.
The Michigan Men’s soccer team has a different culture about them. I went to their game on October 21st when they played the University of Detroit. I had never been to a soccer game at Michigan before, so the first thing I noticed was how spread out the fans were, and the difference between the student spectator side and the general spectator side. Unlike in Volleyball games where all the fans are in close proximity to each other, the band, and the court; the soccer field has a very different feel to it. The band wasn’t in attendance, rather it was a student fan section with a drum who kept the crowd going. The student section was on the opposite side of the field compared to the normal fans, and there was a lot of empty space throughout the entire stadium. The normal fans didn’t seem to get as into the game as volleyball fans did, but that can be attributed to the slower pace of the game. The student section however was just as rowdy, if not rowdier than the student section at volleyball games.
On the field, the team closeness and unity is not as evident as it is during a volleyball game. The players are spread out over the whole field, rather than just the confines on their side of the net. Because points are not scored as frequently in soccer, the team rarely huddles or encourages each other. During the game the bench players do not get as involved or rowdy as opposed to volleyball, but this can also be because of the rareness of scoring. One thing is for sure though, watching the game as a whole, each team works like a well oiled machine, anticipating the moves of their teammates, and backing up each other if one gets beat.
During the Detroit game a fight broke out between two of the players, and immediately almost everyone on the field got involved. People were pushing each other, while others were trying to break it up. This is rarely, if not ever, seen in volleyball. Because soccer is a contact sport, the opposing teams get on each other’s nerves more frequently and there is a lot more pushing and dirty play throughout the game. Another reason why this would never be seen in women’s volleyball would be because men’s sports are more likely to have fights occur. Even if the Michigan men’s and women’s soccer teams were being compared, this point would be made because it is more accepted for men to fight during their sports than women. It is part of the social identity of men and male sports, and not women’s.
Both Men’s soccer and Women’s volleyball are extremely entertaining to watch but they are very different. This has a lot to do with the dynamics of the sport, as well as whether male or female athletes are playing. Each sport carries a different culture, and spectators have very different expectations when attending a volleyball game compared to a soccer game. The close proximity and intensity of a volleyball game aids the fans into becoming more involved, where as the more spread out layout of a soccer game causes a less intense atmosphere, but an extremely rowdy one at that.