New-Age Student Section: Mindset Shift & Systems

Most athletic directors tell me they care more about having students engaged at games than the actual attendance numbers. They tell me they want an infrastructure that will last year after year. They are wearing multiple hats and exhausted trying to increase student attendance and engagement because nothing seems to stick.

There are two key elements of a new-age, robust student section that stand out compared to traditional student sections: mindset and systems.

Let’s start with mindset. Schools who continue to pack their student section full of rowdy and spirited students, even though the national trend is heading in the other direction, have a different mindset. The student section is a machine, it is powerful, it is influential, it is robust. Students are dynamic leaders full of spirit and passion, they are innovative and creative, they ask the question “why?”. Challenging the way things have always been done could be the best thing that will ever happen to your student section.

I often communicate to clients who is considered a “good client” for me. The first thing I tell them is a school whose staff and students are willing to think different and shift their mindset. They are willing to challenge the way things have always been done. They are willing to shift from “we need more pizza and shirts” to “we need to build a student run self-sustaining machine”. That is a good fit for me. And typically, these schools are looking for systems and a strategy to follow and implement. Every robust student section starts with a few passionate students, yet why do some continue to grow while others lose momentum and fall off? Systems. Why have the GCU Havocs continued to grow long after I graduated? Systems.

In my last post, I talked about the importance of student leadership and how it will always trump technology when it comes to creating a culture on campus. Once passionate student leaders are in place, systems are the next main focus. Marketing administrators, athletic directors and graduate assistants wear many hats and have little bandwidth to give the student section the proper attention it deserves, thus most student sections lack systems.

What do I mean by systems? Having a leadership structure, marketing channels and game day operations in sync so a student or staff member could walk into the student section without previous experience and execute the proper tasks.

So how can I help other schools build out these systems when schools have different budgets, demographics and culture? Systems thinking.

Systems thinking is a way of thinking that looks to continually iterate and optimize a situation or organization. This applies to business, athletics, offensive and defensive schemes and student sections. It reduces wasted time and money on ideas that are ineffective or inefficient. Systems thinking is the reason any school can implement the Biggest Fan system and see results.

To your success!

-- Brandon