This 2-part blog series was written by Kyle Sams, former Executive Director ('19-20) of West Virginia University's student section, the"Mountaineer Maniacs". His blogs highlight his experience as a student at WVU and what it's like to lead one of the best student sections for both basketball and football in a Power 5 Conference. You can read about his story here (part 1).
Few people understand how much work goes on behind the scenes of a major college student section. Even I was caught off guard with the extensive work there was to be done while serving as executive director for the Mountaineer Maniacs, West Virginia University’s official student section. In a nutshell, being the leader of the student section was a hybrid between running a mini athletic department and a small business. What everyone sees on game days is just the tip of the iceberg. Extensive planning, meetings, coordinating between different departments within the university, purchasing, and more all went into a successful game day months before the game even took place.
The Mountaineer Maniacs didn’t get to be such a high caliber student section overnight. In fact, this past school year we celebrated our 20th anniversary as an official student organization. Constant improvement every year has helped build the section to what it is today. From my own experience there are a few key factors that are vital to a student section’s growth and sustained success. Those factors are: open communication with the athletic department and university administrators, passionate athletic culture on campus, and student leaders who are 100% bought in.
Open communication between the student section leaders, athletic department, and university administrators is important for collaboration and keeping everyone on the same page. When student leaders can freely communicate with administrators they are more likely to bring new ideas to the table and continue improving the student section. Communication is always key.
Obviously having passionate sports fans is vital to any student section’s success and it looks different depending on the school. If the student section is relatively new, the focus should be on how to create a passionate culture on campus. If the student section is well established there should be focus on continued improvement of the student experience at games. It takes a team of people across the university to create a passionate student section culture.
The ones who are ultimately directing the section are the student leaders. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is for these leaders to be 100% bought-in to the mission of the student section. The student leaders are the driving force behind the student section. They are the loudest voices at the games and the ones working tirelessly planning and improving the organization behind the scenes.
It is important to keep these overarching factors in mind whether a student section is brand new or has been established for 20+ years. Open communication + a passionate campus culture + committed student leaders = a recipe for success.
If you need help building or running your student section like a mini-athletic department or small business, schedule a strategy session to see if Biggest Fan Consulting can help.