5 Steps to Improve GAME DAY - The Student Section Rebuild Part 5

Visualize with me.

It’s game day.

Students haven’t been to a game in 12+ months.

You and your team have been working tirelessly to promote the game.

There’s a buzz on campus. Something feels different today.

Tonight is the home opener.

The arena starts filling.

Students are painted up, wearing school colors.

It’s almost tipoff...

The bass starts thumping as Seven Nation Army begins playing…

Students start jumping up and down chanting:

Ohhh Oh Oh Oh Oh Ohhhhhhhh Ohhhh

Ohhh Oh Oh Oh Oh Ohhhhhhhh Ohhhh

Ohhh Oh Oh Oh Oh Ohhhhhhhh Ohhhh

Close your eyes… can you feel it?

A student yells:

I - ‘I’

I b e l i e v e - ‘I b e l i e v e

I believe that - ‘I believe that’

I believe that we - ‘I believe that we’

The whole student section starts chanting… I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN, I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN.

Get the chills?

We can all picture it. Everyone wants it.

It’s the power of game day.

Game day is the end product of a student section.

Game day is what opponents hear.

Game day is what fans see.

Game day is what students experience.

So what makes an unbelievable game day atmosphere?

Is it the Promotion? Music? Team record? Opponent? Tradition?

Sure, all of those things are great.

But they’re not what separates a new-age student section.

For a new-age student section, it’s all about ONE THING…


It’s what every student is looking for.

It’s what every student wants.

It’s what every student needs.

Yes, the end product for a student section is Game Day.

Cheers, chants, entertainment, in-game impact.

But what fuels that product is community. Marketing and promos might get a student to a game. But what keeps them coming back is community. What empowers them to stand and cheer the whole game is culture.

This is why student leadership, culture, brand and marketing all serve as the foundation for the student section and need to be worked on before game day. (see previous blogs)

They are the necessary pieces to be assembled to create the end product...

Which is why they should ALL point to game day.

Imagine if Apple sent you all the pieces to an iPhone, but they weren’t assembled…

OR if they sent you an iPhone without an internal operating system…

You’d be frustrated and think you got scammed.

But this is exactly what a lot of schools do with their student sections. They’ll focus on everything BUT game day.

They’ll assemble leadership, marketing, promotions, content, memberships, budgets but then come game day, leaders are nowhere to be found and students are sitting down and quiet….

OR schools just focus on boosting the game day environment by hiring a DJ…

But then there are no students at the game because there was no strategic planning with marketing, culture, brand and leadership.

If schools just focus on game day without the proper foundation, there’s no substance.

There will be no culture. There will be no community. It will just be a game being played with a few students in attendance.

But when you strategically build a CULTURE that creates COMMUNITY on game day? You’ll start a movement.

Students will start coming to games because they feel it is their duty.

You won’t even have to incentivize them to come. They’ll be there out of a responsibility to themselves, the players and the other students who are part of the student section community.

So please, be diligent in focusing on leadership, culture, goals, branding and marketing before working on the ‘fun stuff’ aka game day.

That being said… Here are five strategies to improve in-game engagement and entertainment immediately.

(and a few secrets on how we built “The Biggest Party in College Basketball”)

1. Determine In-Game Culture

I think schools often have an idea of what they want the student section to look like, but then don’t define exactly what they want the culture to be.

Student leaders and staff need to visualize game day and determine what they want culture to be.

That’s why I started with that small visualization exercise. It’s actually incredibly powerful to guide and grow the vision of staff and students. When you can visualize your stadium or arena packed and full of energy, it will give you an idea of exactly what you want the culture to be.

If you need help, here’s a picture of some examples of an ideal game-day culture.

2. Lead by Example (and determine the energy)

The #1 responsibility of a student section leader is to lead cheers, chants and energy at games.

Let me say this again.

The #1 responsibility of a student section leader is to lead cheers, chants and energy at games.

If a leader is not willing or able to do this, they’re simply not a good fit to lead the student section.

All the other secondary responsibilities (office hours, marketing, game day planning, budgeting) can be taught…

But in-game leadership and energy can’t.

A student section will only be as energetic as the example the leaders set.

Want students to dress in goofy costumes? Leaders need to dress in goofy costumes.

Want students to paint up? Leaders need to paint up. Want students to stand and cheer? Leaders need to stand and cheer.

Want students to be positive yet intimidating? Leaders need to be positive yet intimidating.

When it comes to in-game energy, leaders and student sections have two options.

Option 1 (Traditional Method): Let the game, weather, opponent, record dictate the energy of the students.

Option 2 (New-Age Method): Leaders and the students dictate the energy of the game regardless of weather, opponent or record. If there’s a game, they’re bringing the energy. See the graphic below to help:

In the second year of building the Havocs, we expected 500 students to show up one game…

75 came.

Yes, it was discouraging. But we made a decision to focus on the students that were there and wanted to be there…

And made a decision to show up and bring the energy no matter how many students were there and go crazy!

3. Systemize Cheers

Top student sections get this.

Few schools do it.

Build a cheering system in-game.

For each sport, come up with a pool of chants for






Communicate this system.

Lead by example.

There needs to be a consistent system and routine every game.

Is cheer starting the cheers?

Are the student section leaders? Whatever you pick, run with it (adjust as needed).

But students need to be trained on where to look and what to say. Otherwise you have a random student in the 7th row trying to start some cheer they liked in high school, while the cheer team is cheering ‘de-fense’ *clap* *clap*...

And it sounds awful. You get the picture.

Having cool and innovative cheers is less important than consistent and unified cheers.

When you have 2,500 students, band, cheer, dance all cheering the SAME THING at the SAME TIME…

It’s powerful. It doesn’t matter if they’re cheering the most basic cheer like “De-Fense” *Clap* *Clap* or “Let’s--Go--Team--*CLAP*”

Here are two of the most common systems. Pick one.

Communicate with your students.

Lead by example.

Train them to look at the student leaders and follow their lead.

Oh… and know the sport and cheer often.


A new-age student section needs to be cheering EVERY possession on offense and defense. The best student sections do this.

Yes, every possession.

4. Work with ‘The Unit’

You’ll notice cheer, dance and band in those graphics.

That is strategic.

At Biggest Fan, I call these ‘THE UNIT’.

The more the Unit works together, the more energy on game day.

When student leaders are meeting with cheer, dance and band captains to coordinate and collaborate, it will transfer to game day.

I can’t explain how many times I’ve heard “Our band seems to have so much energy, how do we utilize them?” Or, “we have cheer and dance, but they seem to be doing different things than the band, which is doing something different than the students”.

The solution? Meet. Well how do you get on the same page? Everyone has different priorities and objectives on game day.

Go back to my first tip.

Meet together and determine the ideal game-day atmosphere. My guess is that everyone will agree they want more students at games, standing and engaged, with more energy and entertainment.

Then work together as a unit on game day. It will boost energy immediately!

If your school doesn’t have a band, cheer or dance, that is okay! Utilize whatever assets you have and use your leaders!

5. Give Students What They Want

The Biggest Party in College Basketball. How does that even happen?

We gave students what they wanted.

Here’s some more secret sauce. Understand what your students want.

Like what they truly want... Understand what your students are looking for at bars, clubs, parties, groups, intramurals, greek life, residence life, student activities…


The most powerful thing every student is looking for is community.

If they feel part of the brand and the movement, they will participate.

Are students looking for entertainment or energy at a bar?

Play high tempo music that is popular among students.

Are students looking to escape stress through video games or a party? Provide a fun engaging atmosphere that pumps their adrenaline.

Do students want to compete and feel like they’re making a difference?

Communicate competitive goals. Let them feel like they’re making a difference. Give them resources to ‘understand and heckle’ the other team.

Are students going to every single event on campus BUT a game?

Figure out what they’re truly looking for and provide that.

(Again, my guess is it’s community, fun and escape)

BONUS - Think About Every Detail And Make It About The Student

“But we have donors and season ticket holders”

“We can’t change our traditions”

You know what every single donor and season ticket holder wants?

More students at games.

They want to feel the energy and fun. They want to see their money go towards building a program and environment. They will adapt.

If you change up the music, location of students or entrance process to make it easier for the students…

You’ll get a few disgruntled alumni and season ticket holders but they will soon get over it when they see more students at games excited and engaged.

Think about every detail: pre-game, ticketing, entrance, pre-game hype, media timeouts, halftime, hot timeouts…

And within whatever means possible… MAKE EVERYTHING ABOUT THE STUDENT!

That is how you will build a community and start a movement.

Need help taking your game day to the next level?

Schedule a free strategy session here to see how we can help.

-- Brandon