There are two things you can always expect when going into a South Carolina home game: Rally towels and high-decibel chants. Although the student section can be obnoxious and loud, those practices are what foster a community.
Manners are seemingly nonexistent when "welcoming" an away team into a school’s home stadium or arena, and Williams-Brice Stadium is no exception. Booing is almost compulsory during another team’s warmup, and acting negatively toward the opposing team is an unofficial Gamecock tradition.
It was no Clemson game, but our football game against Kentucky stands out this year for the most lively student section so far. A sold out stadium welcomed the Wildcats with boos and shouts, and a yellow rope in front of the student section was placed to keep Carolina students contained.
Watching our football team has almost been like finding solidarity in the trenches: We are suffering, but suffering together.
For another example of our student section's community, consider our volleyball team. The season opener was a nail-biter between South Carolina and Washington State. After going down 2-0, the home crowd began to dissipate, with hope for our team evaporating by the minute.
Fast forward two sets, and suddenly the game is even, eventually becoming a USC win. The main reason? Our student section banging on the bleachers during WSU's serves. Home field advantage is real if there is enough sound and momentum in your favor.
However, our student section is not without drawbacks. Sometimes individuals turn against other students for divisive chants — including those of the political variety.
For example, some of students coordinated an anti-Joe Biden chant.
It is hard to tell what the motive for the chant was, other than to serve the ego of anti-Democrat voters and to create controversy on campus. It’s your own peers affected by that chant, certainly not Kentucky. The student section isn't a space for political discourse on metal bleachers; our student section is meant to foster the Gamecock community. Voices wasted on a political chant would be better used for shouting at the referees or the other team.
More than anything, our student section is meant for solidarity and community. Hayden Uzelac, a fourth-year mass communications student and a founding member of the Cockpit (Carolina's official student section), highlighted the fact that, although college student sections have a reputation of drunken rage for athletes, it is an expression of a college’s core: its students.
Members of the student section are part of a community supporting college athletes. Uzelac described wanting to keep the student section civil but also rowdy enough to invigorate the players to perform.
Uzelac said he led cheers during the volleyball game against Washington State. By banging on a sign above the court with others below, a chaotic rumble gave way to a clutch upset — what could have been considered disorderly created a movement of our students.
Another USC program that demonstrates the talent of our athletes alongside our fans' passion is women's basketball.
We all know that our women's basketball program is top-tier, and that excellence is expected to continue this season: The team is ranked No. 1 in the AP preseason poll. The Gamecocks benefit from a packed Colonial Life Arena; South Carolina consistently has the largest home attendance in the nation. Our students support many sports, but the success of women's basketball invigorates attendance to rates well above any other school in the SEC.
The community found in yelling and banging on bleachers can represent the broader Gamecock student base. Along with chaos, the student section is the framework of a unique community coming out to support fellow athletes and students.