Whether you believe your student section is lacking or you think it's the best, this blog will analyze the most frequent reasons why student sections struggle to grow. But don't stop reading yet, as we will also provide a solution.
Everyone wants the outcome, the final result. People see a successful student section like the GCU Havocs and think "I want that too." However, the problem lies in focusing solely on the result and not the process. To achieve the result, you need to address the root cause and build a strong culture from the ground up.
One of the most common mistakes that hinder growth is relying on quick fixes, such as giving away free t-shirts, pizza, hiring a DJ, and putting all the responsibility on administrators. While these may seem like good ideas, they actually work against building a strong culture.
This is why many student sections never reach their full potential and become packed, enthusiastic, and lively at every game. The presence of too many adults and administrators making decisions for the students, without empowering student leaders, is the root of the problem. Administrators resort to shortcuts such as freebies and incentive programs, but these do not create a genuine, intrinsic motivation for students to participate.
So, how do we build a strong culture?
The key is people and process.
01. Step one is to identify top student leaders.
These are the students who are already active, enthusiastic, and bring friends to games. They should have strong communication skills and the time and willingness to commit to the hard work required to build a student section.
02. Step two is to get buy-in from administrators.
Administrators need to be open to empowering student leaders and allowing them to take charge. High school and college students are capable and responsible when given the right support and accountability.
03. Next, everyone involved needs to be aligned with the vision for the student section.
To do this, ask questions such as: where is the student section now, where do we want it to be, how is it currently structured, what needs to change, etc. Everyone involved must believe that change is possible and see the potential.
Once you have the right people on board, it's time to get to work. There is no overnight solution to building a successful student section. Culture takes time and effort to build.
We use an acronym called IPAF (Idea, Plan, Action, Feedback) at Biggest Fan to guide the process. Students need to come up with new ideas, establish plans, execute, and then reflect on the results. Continuously do more of what works and less of what doesn't.
By following this process for a few years, you'll go from saying "my student section sucks" to "our student section is alive and thriving, and only getting better." With a growth mindset, you'll always believe that there is room for improvement, no matter the attention or recognition received.