On Sunday afternoon, the Grand Valley State soccer team marched into the lobby of the GVSU Fieldhouse amidst a crowd of more than 100 supporters. Members from the GVSU football, volleyball, basketball, cross country and golf teams were present to welcome home Laker soccer, and a number of other recognizable faces — including athletic director Tim Selgo, football coach Matt Mitchell, cross country and track and field coach Jerry Baltes and men’s golf coach Gary Bissell.

It was a celebration of a third straight national title for the GVSU soccer team. It was also a celebration of GVSU athletics.

Over the weekend, both the soccer and football teams travelled a number of hours to their respective locations. Soccer played in Pensacola, Florida, while football trekked to Pueblo, Colorado. GVSU President Thomas Haas and his wife Marcia both made the trip to Pensacola to cheer on the soccer team. The ThunderBowl at Colorado State – Pueblo was crowded with fans in Laker blue, and the tailgate under the Colorado sun rivaled those drenched with Allendale rain.

The support for GVSU athletics is apparent — both within the athletic community and outside. This season, GVSU football saw an average of 12,365 fans come out to its games at Lubbers Stadium, good for best in the nation. The next-closest school was Pittsburgh State, which drew 9,856 fans per contest.

In his 20 years as athletic director, Selgo has helped build an athletic program that top to bottom is brimming with success and support. Obviously, it’s easier to support GVSU athletics when the performances are strong, but, even last year when GVSU football struggled to a 6-5 mark, the Lakers drew a national-best 11,699 fans.

GVSU is a strong academic entity, but it’s impossible to ignore the importance of sports within the university. And those in the GVSU community help make sure no one does forget.

The support from team to team and community to program can be characterized as camaraderie. The Laker Marching Band shows out at every home football game, and a pep band plays at home basketball games. In recent weeks, members of the GVSU football team have showcased an outpouring of support on social media toward the LMB with the hashtag #BringTheBand, petitioning for the LMB to come to Pueblo, Colorado for last weekend’s game.

It didn’t happen, but it will next week. The LMB plans to travel to Shepherdstown, West Virginia to support GVSU football in its NCAA semifinal game against Shepherd on Saturday. The Laker cheer team will make the trip as well. As the Lakers move closer to home and further down the playoff road, more students and fans are primed to make the drive-able trips to watch the Laker football team drop the anchor.

Right now, football and soccer are sharing the brilliant spotlight. But as both sports wrap up, and winter and spring sports move into the picture, those playing right now aren’t likely to forget the support they received from their fellow student-athletes, coaches and fans.

Laker sports are not separate units. Laker sports are one.