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Getting More Fans in the Stands

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA, CIC

With everything else that’s on your plate as a coach, you may not have thought a lot about how to increase attendance at your games. And in all reality, recruiting fans probably shouldn’t be at the very top of your list of most important things to do.

However, getting more bodies in the stands should be on your list somewhere. It’s important to build support for your team within the community. For one thing, connecting with more fans could eventually develop into financial help, either through a larger budget or fundraising. But the biggest reason to work on game attendance is that a good, enthusiastic crowd creates a great environment for your players.

Obviously, a winning season creates interest, and this alone normally attracts more fans. But not every season is a winning one. The good news is, there are concrete steps you can take to encourage fans to attend your games, whether your team is having a stellar season or not. Try the following ideas. 

Invite younger players. Ask middle school or youth teams to attend a game. This has the dual benefit of engaging future players. However, don’t undertake this initiative without the approval of your athletic administrator, and be sure to require parents or coaches to accompany the younger players. One adult for every three to four young people would be suitable.

Honor specific groups. Designate an armed service evening in which any current or former service members will be recognized. With your athletic administrator’s approval, wave the cost of the ticket and ask military members to attend as guests. You could make the game even more inclusive by including first-responders such as police, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel. If hosting both groups together might be too large, hold a separate, additional evening.

Involve cheerleaders. Enlist the help of your school’s cheerleaders. Have them create and hang posters around the school promoting upcoming games. If your school allows it, these young people can also go into lunch periods in uniform to promote that evening’s contest.

Use daily announcements. Write a message encouraging students to attend the game and have it read during your school’s daily announcements. If your school has an in-school television station to broadcast the day’s news and activities, star in a brief spot to promote the game. Include a minute or two of filmed game highlights in the broadcast to really make it shine.

Go into the community. Ask to visit monthly meetings of your town’s Chamber of Commerce and community service organizations to update them on the progress of your team. Any time you can positively promote your team, take advantage of it.

Work with the media. Always call in game results and provide statistics and comments for your local newspapers and radio stations. This step is important in order to create a good working relationship with the media. Once they know you, your team will be more likely to get promotional coverage of upcoming contests.

Play for a cause. Designate a game in which you raise money for a charity such as the American Cancer Society. Not only will you be teaching your athletes the importance of good deeds, you will attract more fans. This becomes a win-win situation for your team, the community, and the charity. I highly recommend making this an annual event.

Increasing attendance has real value. It takes time and effort, but it can be done. By starting with these steps, you will be on your way to making game night a great environment for your players.

 

David Hoch retired in 2010 after a 41-year career as a high school athletic director and coach. In 2009, Dr. Hoch was honored as the Eastern District Athletic Director of the Year by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. He was also presented with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Distinguished Service Award, and in 2000 he was named the Maryland State Athletic Director Association’s Athletic Director of the Year. Dr. Hoch has authored over 460 professional articles and made more than 70 presentations around the country. He welcomes comments and questions and can be reached at: davidhochretad@gmail.com.

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