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. Read about his takeaways here (part 2).
Middle school is when I first got involved in an organized student section and my passion was ignited. My principal was very competitive and encouraged all the students to stand together in the student section to cheer. Although we only had maybe 25-30 kids at a game, the environment was something special in my eyes. We would come up with our own cheers and celebrate with the team after big victories. I felt a sense of community and realized this was something I wanted to be a part of as I got older.
In high school the student section was more organized, and was much larger. For a big football or basketball game we would have 250-300 kids cheering in the section, which was a good turnout for a school of our size. Opposing teams hated coming to play at our school because of the “South Side Psychos” as we were called. We had themed games, a Twitter account that had a large following, and open communication with the principals. We had tremendous support all around. However, that sense of community was still the one aspect I felt most important to uphold. Sure cheering at games was a blast, but what I am most proud of is bringing the community together for more important issues. One of our classmates was diagnosed with a rare disease and the South Side Psychos took action. We helped raise money and awareness about the disease, helping out however we could. Even opposing teams and fans were coming together to support the cause. The student section was my way of finding a voice and platform to make a positive impact.
When I arrived on campus at West Virginia University in 2015 I immediately joined the Mountaineer Maniacs, the official student section. The student section at WVU was 12,000 strong at football games and over 3,000 at basketball games. It was loud, rowdy, passionate, and I wanted to get involved even further. I joined the executive board my sophomore year and went on to serve as executive director of the Maniacs this past academic year while completing my master’s degree. Leading such a large student section was an amazing opportunity. I truly believe we made an impact on the outcome of games. However, I am still most proud of the things we accomplished outside of the student section and in the community. We lead multiple community service projects throughout the year that again showed me what a well-rounded student section is all about.
I have witnessed first hand how much influence student sections can have on not only students, but alumni, staff, coaches, kids, and the community as a whole. Student sections offer young people a platform to have a voice and make a positive impact on the people around them.