If you are a passionate student or work in athletics, you may have asked the question:
"How do you build a student section from scratch?"
How is that some schools seem to have packed, rowdy and electric student sections every game and yet our school is just "Bleh"?
Are they lucky? Do they have winning teams? Is it the demographic of the student population? Do they have more money? Have they always been like this?
This blog will demystify the success of other student sections and explain the proven process to build a student section from scratch.
You might be asking, 'how does this guy know what works?'
Well I've built a student section from scratch. Ever heard of the GCU Havocs?
I was the first President sophomore year of college.
We started with three leaders, 150 students at games, no social media presence and were competing with other campus events.
Three years later...
Nine leaders, 2,500 students at games, 10k+ social media followers, 100k+ revenue to the school and Bleacher Report gave us the moniker "The Biggest Party in College Basketball".
Then in 2018 I launched Biggest Fan Consulting and have helped colleges and high schools across the country start and scale their student sections.
These three steps are the proven way to build momentum and start a student section from scratch. I'll save higher level scaling strategies for another blog...
But if your campus is a blank slate and you want to start your student section from scratch, follow these steps.
Step 1 - Identify Key Student Leaders
I've written multiple blogs on this, but this concept can never be stated enough.
The student section starts and ends with your students, specifically student leaders. No ifs ands or buts. No questions asked.
You see attendance and engagement are a product of culture. And the only way to build culture is through leadership.
And the only way to get students to listen and follow leadership, is to have their peers be the ones leading them.
Trust me, I've searched far and wide for the magic bullet and the quick fix. I've witnessed athletic departments throw every idea and strategy at the student section, none of which worked.
If a school is unwilling to identify key student section leaders, they will never reach their full potential. In fact, they probably won't even get off the ground. Or if they do, they'll lose momentum as soon as those leaders graduate.
At Biggest Fan Consulting, we call these types of students 'Top 1% Leaders'. These are the influencers (not social media) on campus. The real influencers. The leaders who students look up to. The leaders who are servant leaders. The leaders who think bigger than themselves.
These types of students are outgoing. They are willing to stand and cheer at games even if no one else is. But they're also responsible and willing to put in the effort into planning behind the scenes.
So if you are looking to start a student section from scratch, you shouldn't do anything until you go recruit a couple leaders who are spirited and want to be involved.
Step 2 - Create a Student Section Brand
A new-age student section represents the group of students who go to athletic games and cheer. It is not the physical location in the stadium or arena.
A brand can help clearly define what the student section is for students.
There are three components to a student section brand: name, logo and slogan.
The name should represent your school and desired culture. The logo should match school colors but be unique and different than other school or athletic logos. The slogan is a simple phrase that explains the culture you're trying to build.
These three elements can be put on shirts, flyers and put onto social media accounts.
The end goal is for students to take pride in the brand. When they hear the name or see the logo or slogan, they have an emotional response and think 'YES. I am part of this movement and I have a responsibility to show up, stand up and cheer'.
Extra tip for social media:
Every student section should have their own social media accounts. All the handles should be uniform and be as simple as possible. The profile picture should be the logo. The description should say 'The NAME. The official student section of SCHOOL. #SLOGAN'. Another secret is to only post pictures of students, not graphics.
Step 3 - Stand Up and Cheer at Athletic Events
This goes back to student leadership. The easiest way to actually build momentum and produce results in-game are to have students who are standing and cheering.
If student leaders aren't at games standing and cheering, then they are not student section leaders. The #1 responsibility of a student section leader is to stand and cheer at games.
This lowers the barrier to entry of other students. This breaks down the walls of other students and allows them to join the group and let loose.
Few students are usually willing to be the first, but most students are looking for that leadership and willing to jump in as long as someone else is doing it first.
Once you have some leaders and have created a brand, don't underestimate the power of simply standing and cheering at games. I mean at the end of the day this is what a student section is.
This provides community and camaraderie among students, athletes and coaches.
Want to know how I was selected as a leader and how built momentum initially at GCU?
I went to every single home men's basketball game, painted my chest and stood up.
Once students saw there was a crazy person willing to do that even if no one else did, it wasn't hard for them to follow suit.
Don't overcomplicate the student section. Go to games. Paint your face. Stand up. Cheer your heart out. Invite students to join you.
These three steps are the proven way to build momentum and start the process of building a student section from scratch.
Now go take action!
If you want more tips, feel free to check out our other blogs.
If you are looking for a proven system and more hands on support, schedule a free strategy session with our team to see if we can help.
To your success!