The Secret Sauce - Student Section Rebuild Part 2
Ever wonder what the secret sauce was behind how we successfully built the GCU Havocs?
I’m going to tell you.
Why? Because it’s available for every school, and maybe not so secret.
A quick disclaimer though, it needs more than an email to explain.
So I’m going to reveal the secret here in this blog.
But BEFORE you read the blog.
I’d rather you learn from someone who has experienced how this secret completely transformed their student section.
Watch how Robbie implemented the sauce here.
(Jump to the 9:45 mark for the secret sauce, but the whole thing is gold)
Did you watch it?
Seriously, take five minutes to click the link above and watch it.
Here’s the truth about student section development.
There’s no magic pill.
No silver bullet.
No quick fix.
But there is a proven method and I'm going to break it down.
Very few people know what it was like the first year building the Havocs.
The times when we were grinding on campus working 20-30 hours per week out of passion.
The times when we’d plan for 500 students and only 75 showed up.
Most people just see the Havocs today and say “I want THAT”...
But then immediately go back to handing out free t-shirts and pizza…
And using reward systems to incentivize students to come to games…
Only for them to come pick up a t-shirt, check-in and then leave or sit down the whole time.
Frustrating and exhausting, right?
Well it doesn’t have to be this way.
The secret formula and single most important ingredient to a robust new-age student section is:
Top 1% Student Leadership.
I mentioned earlier how it’s available for every school and maybe not so secret.
How I know this is the only reason I was brought on as a student leader at GCU was some staff visited and observed one of the top student sections in the country (Shoutout GU Kennel Club).
Guess what their single most important takeaway was?
No, not the branding and marketing.
No, not the awesome game day traditions.
Top 1% student leadership.
What do I mean by this?
There are two parts:
Part 1 — Top 1% Leaders:
The first (and most important) step to top 1% student leadership is actually finding top 1% student leaders.
These are not just students who want a leadership role on their resume.
These are not just students who believe in ‘school spirit’.
These are the students who are at games, standing up and yelling even if no one else is…
Their primary responsibility is attending games, standing, yelling and leading other students with energy.
If a student can’t or is not willing to do this – they're not a top 1% leader, because those are the characteristics you can’t teach.
You can have the most organized, creative and spirited student, but if they’re not willing to put themselves out there on game day, culture will never change.
Their secondary responsibility is everything that takes place behind the scenes.
You can teach the most unorganized energetic student HOW to do these things.
Things like planning, branding, marketing, game day experience, organization, systems, leadership development etc.
Which brings us to part two.
Part 2 — Top 1% Structure:
This second part is typically what keeps most GOOD student sections from becoming GREAT.
A group of friends can rally students and build student section momentum by themselves, but without structure it can fall apart.
This is why I’ve heard countless stories sound like this:
‘The student section was awesome a few years ago. We had this rockstar student who was so energetic and recruited a bunch of students. But unfortunately, he/she graduated a few years ago and the student section lost all of its momentum and crumbled.’
Why? No structure.
Not only did we recruit awesome students while building the Havocs, we were obsessive about structure.
I ran it like a business.
We made sure everything was organized, labeled correctly and had a system.
I knew I would be gone in three years and wanted the student section to last longer than myself.
This meant we built a team, delegated, assigned roles, documented, created SOPs and systemized the whole thing.
My goal was to build a well-oiled machine that any staff admin or student leader could walk into and know EXACTLY what to do…
Which we did, while continually innovating.
Can you say the same for your student section?
What is your student leadership team going to look like when we come out of the pandemic?
Will it be full of energy, systems and planning like USD?
Or will you be picking up the pieces overwhelmed on how to capitalize on the pent up demand and energy?
Some of you with established student sections might be thinking:
‘This sounds good, but we can do this on our own’
Or ‘How affirming, we already have student leaders’
And if that’s the case, fantastic.
But I’d ask what are your goals and how are you going to take the student section to the next level?
How are you going to innovate and not get stuck in what you’ve already done?
How are your leaders going to get an outside perspective and not just do what they know, because that’s what they learned?
Complacency can lead to a serious lack of innovation and stagnation, and therefore a decline.
I’ve talked to dozens of student leaders of established student sections (Gonzaga, GCU, Michigan State, Duke, Arizona etc) and even THOSE leaders think continual innovation and leadership development is vital for growth.
New student leaders rarely know what it actually takes to run a top tier student section (even at those top schools).
Now others of you might be thinking:
‘Where do we even begin?’
Or ‘This will never work’
Or ‘Our students don’t care’.
To that, I’m going to challenge you to look internally at your own belief.
Are you doubting your own ability to make this happen?
Are you letting old memories or experiences dictate the future?
Unfortunately, I can’t 100% guarantee you’ll be able to implement this secret formula and wake up next year with a robust student section…
But here’s my hunch…
Heck, here’s my bet…
There is ONE student at your school who…
...loves sports and people
...is passionate about your school and spirit
...is energetic and willing to ‘put themselves out there’
...is a hard-worker and willing to grind
...just needs the opportunity and vision to be presented to them that they can transform the student section culture forever...
It only takes ONE.
YOU just need to find and recruit them.
Just like GCU found and recruited me.
So if you need help finding and onboarding leaders or building out your leadership structure…
Or maybe you have leaders but are just looking to elevate your student section to new levels...
Founder & President
Biggest Fan Consulting