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Student Section Secrets: Unicorn Leadership

Student sections are an essential part of any school’s spirit and athletic culture. However, they can only thrive under the leadership of exceptional student leaders, or what we call “unicorn leaders”. These magical creatures possess the unique combination of qualities necessary to make or break a student section. In this blog, we’ll explore why student section leaders are like unicorns, the qualities of unicorn leaders, their primary responsibilities, and the common problem hindering student section growth.

Why are unicorn student leaders essential for a thriving student section?

Student sections are created by and for students, not administrators or coaches. Thus, the values, goals, and practices of a particular student body define the culture of a student section. If students believe the student section is worth their time and will be enjoyable, they will show up in droves. Conversely, if they think it’s boring, uncool, or not worth their time, they will not participate. Only students, specifically unicorn student leaders, can drive the culture and behavior of their peers.

What are the qualities of unicorn student leaders?

Unicorn student leaders have a unique set of qualities that make them stand out. They are passionate, enthusiastic, outgoing, charismatic, competitive, loud, collaborative, responsible, and ambitious. They understand the essence of a great student section and have the “it factor” to make it happen. When you meet one, you’ll know.

What are the primary responsibilities of unicorn student leaders?

Unicorn student leaders have two main responsibilities: in-game leadership and behind-the-scenes operations.

In-game leadership requires the ability to lead by example and to create a fun and engaging atmosphere for all students. Unicorn student leaders should be easy to see and follow, project their voice to the students, stand in a visible location, and make big motions. They must also be willing to sacrifice their personal preferences for the benefit of the general student experience. If they want a culture of crazy outfits and “getting weird,” they must lead by example.

Behind-the-scenes operations are equally important. Student sections are like startups, and their leaders need to be entrepreneurial and hands-on until the student section is at scale. They must organize everything and plan for succession. The three systems that make up a student section are marketing, game day, and operations. Unicorn leaders must work on these three systems year-round to ensure the success of the student section.

What is the most common problem limiting student section growth?

The administrative bottleneck is the primary obstacle to the growth of student sections. Many schools lack student leaders, while others have only average leaders. Few have elite unicorn leaders. However, the larger issue is the reluctance of administrators to surrender control and empower student leaders. Empowering student section leaders means handing over the authority and autonomy to plan, create, and execute the plans of the student section to the students. While there is risk involved, it is the only way for a student section to become elite. Unfortunately, administrators often believe that the student section is theirs, and they are responsible for it. They fail to recognize that only the students can create a great student section.

How do you empower unicorn student leaders?

The irony is that if schools find unicorn student leaders and fully empower them, the student section becomes easy to manage. Unicorn leaders care about the student experience, and they will work tirelessly to improve it. Therefore, administrators must let unicorn leaders run free to create an exceptional student section.

Ready to create the ultimate student section experience at your college or high school? Schedule a discovery call with our team to get started.


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