Vassar is known neither for its sports teams nor its devoted fans, but, this semester, there is a growing group of Vassar students who show up in force to support the men’s soccer team. Under the leadership of junior Josh Pratt, a group of at least 20 fans finds its way out to Gordon Field, rain, wind or shine, to cheer on the men’s soccer team at every home game. Occasionally sporting face paint, they strive to emulate Premiership-style chants, shouting at the top of their lungs and willing the ball to find the net. Their passion for their team can be heard from the TH path.
Although this year Pratt and co. have a consistent turnout for games, the fan club had humble beginnings, starting back in 2012 with Pratt and Ben Glasner (Glasner is a junior on the men’s varsity team) as its only members. Pratt recalled the first game he and Glasner went to with the intention of starting up some chants, stating, “We were a bit nervous since it was just the two of us, and the first chant we did, people were quiet for a bit and then they started laughing and clapping.”
But the idea quickly caught on. The team made it to the Liberty League finals that year, and the fan club came up to the challenge: “…About six of us did body paint. Our chants definitely upped the energy a lot, and there was a huge crowd there that day.”
Pratt hails from England, and his love for the game and the experience of being a fan there inspired him to create the chants here. “I really enjoyed going to games in England, so I took some chants from there and put Vassar into them.” Pratt is not the only foreigner glad to have the chance to continue cheering for his team. Sophomore Ioannis Filippidis comes from Greece, and, although he misses his home team’s games, he’s glad for the opportunity to get behind Vassar’s soccer team.
“When I’m back home, I always go to my team’s games. Even if I have an exam the next day, I’ll go to the game. It’s something that I missed doing and it’s great to have the chance to cheer for a team,” Filippidis said. Yet another fan, junior Dillon Guynup, remembered what it was like to cheer at his high school and found the chance to continue here at Vassar a fantastic opportunity: “I was in our sizable cheering section at high school for the last three years. We were louder but we were also bigger. It’s great to have the chance to support the team; they’re such great guys.”
Pratt actually was on the soccer team his freshman year but decided to stop playing for academic reasons. His time on the team, however, left a deep impression on him. “I came away from the team with a huge amount of respect for their team spirit,” said Pratt, “They’re really great guys together—a really strong unit. They really pour themselves into the team and I thought they deserved some committed fans.”
The passion shown by these fans has not gone unnoticed. Junior midfielder Jordan Palmer was very grateful for what these fans do for the team. “Josh Pratt and the guys he comes with to the game really bring a great atmosphere. We really appreciate what he does. Especially when it’s raining out, knowing there are people there who care about the game and how we do,” he said. Palmer continued, “He really tries to emulate the atmosphere of the European matches, which obviously we all follow. It brings something extra to the game and the venue which you really only find in the European arena, so that was a really special thing he did. We were surprised when we first heard them but obviously we love what he did.”
Sophomore forward Andreas Freund agreed with Palmer, adding, “It definitely fires you up, knowing you have a bunch of fans in the stands who are as passionate about the game as you are. Especially when it’s raining, it fires us up to know that these guys are willing to come out there and care about how we do.”
Though they may succeed at bucking up team spirit, both Palmer and Freund laughed when they thought of the chants themselves. Freund admitted, “They were pretty funny cause they have some pretty personal ones about some of the players.”
An example of this is the Jordan Palmer chant: “There’s only one Jordan Palmer! / One Jordan Palmer! / Walking along, singing this song. / Walking in Palmer Wonderland! Jordan Palmer!” Freund’s favorite picks out Jordan Palmer from the field, “I like the one about Jordan, I find it hilarious.” On further reflection, Freund added, ”They’re all pretty witty, or at least creative.”
As for Palmer’s favorite chant, “We’re the famous Vassar Brewers and we’re gonna win the League!” is representative of the kind of school spirit and pride that Pratt and co. are trying to capture and come together around.
“It’s a great way to come together as a school, to come together behind a sports team. It’s a great way to unify the school, I mean we’re singing songs like ‘I’m Vassar ‘til I die,’ and yeah it’s lighthearted, and we wouldn’t do it unless it’s fun, but we put our effort behind the team and we get to share in their victories.” Pratt believes that the work he and his band of fans do is not only a great boost for the team themselves but for the athletics department as a whole. “Ultimately, going to watch the guys is about giving them positive energy and what we’ve observed is that it spreads around. We give our positive energy to the team and they give it back to us. And they’ve gone and spread that positive energy at other teams games now. Every time they finish their games, they give us a round of applause and they show their support for us.”
The positive energy that Pratt puts in to the soccer team has exhibited itself far more than one might first expect. Palmer and Freund recalled the time when, after they’d finished their match on Gordon Field, they went over to watch the field hockey team who was playing RIT. RIT had just scored to tie it up, and it was toward the end of the match. In attempts to bring the Brewers to victory, the Vassar stands erupted in chants led by the men’s soccer team. Palmer recounted, “Pratt started doing his chants, and the crowd joined in and we really got excited about it.“ Pratt also remembers the day vividly, but his memories were slightly different than Palmer’s: “They were my chants but [the men’s soccer team] led them completely. They swung the energy right back to Vassar, who then scored with two minutes to go.” Not only is this a good example of the inter-team support that athletics offer to one another, but it also adds to the idea of the oft-mentioned home court advantage.
Though Pratt is the driving force behind this cheering initiative, he noted, “More and more people are taking the initiative; [freshman] Louis Moffa decided we should make some signs, and so a bunch of us got together last night and made up some signs that said ‘The Famous Vassar Brewers’ and we wrote each of the players’ names on it.”
This ingenuity is very exciting for both Pratt and Vassar athletics. One of the toughest parts about Pratt’s project is getting more people involved. Guynup considered this problem, “I think probably the biggest challenge is getting non-athletes to come to games. I know a lot of the freshmen, their roommates are on the team, and it’s definitely important to support your team, but it would be good to have more people who aren’t connected come out and support our teams.”
Aside from the give-and-take that the fans and the team engage in with one another, Pratt’s motivation to find the time to come out to every game is the gratitude he feels towards the team for doing what they do. “The reason it’s worth getting behind these guys is because they sacrifice themselves for the team, two hours of practice everyday. They work hard for something bigger than themselves and I think it’s the least we can do to show them that they’re not just working for themselves but for us as well.”
Most Vassar students might be unaware of the time and energy athletes put in to their sport. Pratt and company wants to change that; they see the potential for Vassar as a place where students and faculty can be proud of their teams and where their teams can be proud to play for them.