GREAT FALLS — This weekend, Class AA football and volleyball teams have the go-ahead to start competition, and the Great Falls High and Great Falls CMR volleyball teams will get their first taste of unique home-court advantage.
According to COVID-19 rules from Great Falls Public Schools, Yellowstone County and Gallatin County, there won’t be any visiting fans at Eastern AA volleyball games this fall, at least for now. Those mostly empty gyms are a setting the Great Falls High and CMR volleyball teams have been working on.
"I shut the music off. There's nobody in the gym except for us. And I reminded them that this is what it's going to be like, and I stopped talking," CMR head coach Patrick Hiller said. "And literally the gym was just ridiculously dead silent."
Of course, complete silence probably won’t be the exact situation, but the players are recognizing the benefits of practicing in it nonetheless.
"We're trying to just talk about how quiet the gym is going to be without all our fans and stuff," said CMR senior Allison Will. "So we're trying to play without music and kind of get used to it so it's not so awkward when we do play. It actually helps us talk more and communicate on the court."
When the Bison and Rustlers go on the road in the Billings and Bozeman areas without their home fans, that also creates a different scenario: the only cheering happening will be against them.
"I think it is going to be weird, right? The home-court advantage is going to be on a different level this year than any year before," said Bison head coach Taylor Parker. "So I think we just do a lot of pressure situations, pressure serving, pressure points and what we're going to need to score -- game point situations, things like that."
But Hiller said the situation will actually be pretty familiar, particularly since all matches will be on Saturdays.
"Our girls are used to creating the atmosphere themselves, they have to bring their energy because the fans aren't always here in droves like that," he said. "And so they have to create that language and that energy that we're looking in the gym, so I don't know if it'll be as big a deal for our girls."