The Added Boost From Minnetonka Sports Fans During The Home Games

Samuel Bremer, Deputy Editor, Sports & Wellness

Twenty seconds remain in the most highly anticipated Minnetonka Football game in years. Sheets of rain pour over Einer-Anderson Stadium as Saint Michael-Albertville (STMA) lines up for a game deciding fourth down. Minnetonka leads STMA by a score of 23-20, and the Knights need a first down to keep their chances alive. 

As the Knights race into position for the biggest play of the night, the Minnetonka bleachers start to get loud. In a matter of seconds, the noise level in the stadium rises from a small murmur to a deafening roar that would humble even Mufasa. The ball is snapped, and before STMA’s quarterback even has time to look up, defensive lineman Andrew McCalla, ‘22, comes up with the game-winning strip sack. 

Impossibly, the ensuing celebration from the Minnetonka student section was even louder than it was before the play. As Minnetonka takes the final knee to end the thrilling homecoming showdown, all 7,000 people in attendance simultaneously erupt in cheer (at least the ones wearing Tonka blue). 

Starting Varsity wide receiver Tyler Lien spoke highly of the noise brought on by the Tonka faithful.

 Lien said that “It was a one of a kind game. The atmosphere was electric. I’ve never seen the stadium so full before”.

That’s just a glimpse into the picture of what a hyped-up Minnetonka fanbase can do in a pivotal game for the Skippers. In terms of attendance, football is the king of high school sports. That isn’t a secret. But just because the sport attracts more fans than others, that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a humongous advantage to playing home games in every high school sport. 

Soccer captain Ben Chung, ‘22, and volleyball captain Abby Stanwood, ‘22, both spoke about the role of the home crowd in their teams’ successes. 

As for the added boost the athletes get from playing at home, it’s very interesting. Volleyball, soccer and football are all very different sports, and although there is always an advantage to playing home games, those advantages are very different across the three sports. 

Chung said that playing at home “Makes [him] feel like [he has] nothing to lose” and that “when I look up into the stands and see my friends and family cheering me on, I know that win or lose, I’ll still have them.” 

Tension and stress are as formidable an opponent as one can face in high school sports, and playing loose is sometimes as important as playing with intensity. 

Stanwood is of a similar school of thought. 

“When we play at home, there’s definitely an added boost because you know everyone in attendance is rooting for your success,” she said. 

She also added that momentum is a lot easier to obtain when fans are rooting for their team, instead of against them. 

“When I look up in the stands and know that everyone there is cheering for me to succeed, that gives me all the confidence in the world to do so,” Stanwood said. 

Last but not least, Lien and the football team use the fans as extra motivation and juice when the going gets tough. 

“Late in the game when it gets to the fourth quarter and everyone’s feeling the fatigue set in, when you look up and see all the stands packed and you hear them changing the funny chants they do, you realize you are not only playing for the brothers on your team but also for your community. It gives us the extra edge to keep going and finish the game, “he said. 

It’s sometimes very hard to find a balance between playing for one’s community while at the same time easing the pressure one might feel. Lien and the Skippers have seemed to become masters of that art.

The boost Tonka athletes get from playing at home, though, is a stark contrast to how tough it is playing on the road. Truth be told, sometimes the best thing about playing a home game is simply that the players don’t have to play a road game. The home field advantage giveth and the home field advantage taketh away. 

The three athletes all had different takes on how playing on the road is difficult, but the two main themes that generally emerged were the noise and heckling opposing fanbases bring. 

Chung said, “I’m not going to lie. In my sophomore and juunior seasons, the pressure and noise of road crowds used to intimidate me. I’ve gotten used to the pressure now and even kind of like it, but when you make a bad play and everyone cheers, that really puts a lot of pressure on you.” 

Lien and Stanwood both singled out individual games as especially tough environments to play at.For Lien, it was the Skippers’ week three loss at Maple Grove. 

“They had a pretty big fan section, and with all that extra noise, it was really challenging to get a play call and hear what my QB was trying to say.” 

Stanwood, on the other hand, referenced a road game at STMA. 

“Nobody’s going to drive 45 minutes out to a game at STMA, so we knew the environment would be tough. [One of STMA’s fans] pulled up our roster on their phone and the heckling that ensued was pretty rough,” she said.

Stanwood did add, though, that the noise of a road crowd is still tougher to deal with than heckling. 

Overall, it’s clear that there is just something special about Minnetonka’s fans. The reason Skipper athletes find it so much easier to play at home than on the road is because Skipper fans are just different. It’s all about the energy. For Lien, it’s the rowdiness the student section can provide. 

“Our fans in general are really loud but our student section is the loudest I’ve witnessed. It’s really encouraging looking up there and seeing every spot taken.” 

While soccer and volleyball crowds may be smaller than they are for football, it’s the same idea. The idea that “The fans are small in number but uniquely fun and energetic” was brought up by both athletes.

Whatever words one wants to use to describe Skipper Nation —Rowdy, chaotic, loud, crazy, electric— never underestimate what a devoted fanbase can do for their team.