“Of course, we are there to cheer on the team, but our focus extends beyond that,” Shoemaker said. “We pay close attention to players that are down, the athletic trainers and team physicians.
“We try to interpret the injury on the field to see if it’s muscular cramping or a possible more serious injury that will require our services. There are times we miss big plays, but in those times, taking care of our athletes takes precedence over my love for the game.”
Inside a small room underneath the stadium, Shoemaker and Burton use a portable X-ray machine to take images that will help determine whether it is OK for a player to return to the game.
The duo often assists trainers in the removal of uniforms, tape, braces and other pieces of equipment from players’ bodies.
Shoemaker and Burton make sure that players are positioned correctly for imaging the part of the body that needs to be examined, and they operate the machine to take the required images as accurately as possible. These images are then immediately available to the team doctors.
“Our main focus is speed and efficiency,” Burton said. “The players always want to be back out on the field as soon as possible. Nothing is worse than being the first person to see the images pop up on the screen and noticing an obvious injury. It feels terrible to be part of the team that is the bearer of bad news.”
But Burton said it’s special to see the way head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s players respond to whatever the circumstances may be.
“Even in times of great pain or after receiving terrible news that could end their season, they are polite and respectful,” Burton said. “You can see how much they love the game and how loyal they are to their teammates. I can’t tell you how many times a player has found out that they are injured and the first question is, ‘What’s the score of the game? Are we winning?’”
“To see the support and encouragement they still provide to their team on the sidelines is amazing,” Shoemaker added.
This is what is at the heart of being a 4th Side member, and also what made last season so challenging, according to Shoemaker.
“Without all of the 4th Side there, you could say there was some extra pressure to be loud and show support,” she said.
“It was a strange feeling to be there,” Burton added. “We were used to the sounds and sights of Scott Stadium, and it was sad to see it so empty. However, volunteering for the games helped us maintain a sense of normalcy through the fall, and for that I am grateful. And UVA Sports Medicine staff did an amazing job ensuring that every participant remained safe.”
This season, Shoemaker and Burton are thrilled to see the fans back in larger numbers.
“There is nothing like a packed stadium,” Shoemaker said, “and hearing the roaring of the fans and the echo of that ‘Good Old Song’ in unison.”
Even if, on some occasions, you can only hear it from a distance.
Editor's note: The photographs in this article were taken before the COVID-19 pandemic.