Where is the student support?

Patrick Newell

At the end of a successful boys’ basketball season last February, one in which Norwich’s varsity finished 15-6 and the junior varsity went 19-1, head coach Mark Abbott suggested we have a sit-down – or as it turns out – a phone conversation to discuss a little thorn in his side.
Earlier this week, I had Abbott on the line to gather information about another story that will appear later this week in The Evening Sun, and we eventually segued to this “pet peeve” of Abbott.
Just to get unaware readers up to speed, through a large portion of the 1990s, Abbott presided over a sensational winning basketball program that won two state titles. While that success may never again be matched, a number of good Norwich teams have taken the court since that time including a 2001 sectional champion.
Even Norwich’s so-called down years usually yielded double-digit victories, and through it all, Abbott’s teams have embraced and welcomed the support of adults in the community. The real issue, Abbott says, is student support. “We just don’t get the students to games, and I don’t know why,” he said. “You go to Seton, Chenango Valley, and even Vestal…they all have big student cheering sections, and for whatever reason, we do not.”
Behind the home bench, seating of adults and assorted fans is nearly elbow to elbow, and across from the visitor’s bench, adults typically fill that section. The section across from the home bench, designated primarily for students of the home school, is now a mix of adults and students, with the attendance of the collective study body becoming more and more sparse. “It’s not like our teams do not do pretty well,” Abbott said, “and we’re probably going to have big crowds again this year.”
As local fans will soon find out, the current crop of Norwich varsity basketball players are immensely talented, dedicated, and quality citizens and students. Abbott hopes to see more students at games next year, and he knows his players wish for the same thing.