Is it just us, or is fan behavior worse than ever across the US? Due to COVID restrictions over the past 2 years, fans were not allowed to attend games in many states, and it seems that the built-up energy has caused many unfortunate instances of negative fan behavior to come to the surface.
Let’s take a step back to look at what it takes to ensure you’re creating a positive culture in your organization and to remind fans of the importance of good behavior. Below are some pillars of a positive culture and fan base which we hope will offer some helpful guidance to keep your events safe and positive.
1) Build a Positive Foundation - Schedule pre-season meetings to go over spectator behavior and set expectations. Build an identity for your program that fans will aspire to be a part of.
2) Define Roles - Make sure fans know that they are not players, coaches, or officials. They are fans, and fans support the players, coaches, officials, and the game.
3) Intervene When Necessary - Correct supervision is the key to keeping fans focused on their role. Have culture keepers in place who recognize and reward positive behavior from fans. Alternatively, have a plan in place to handle disruptions, inappropriate behavior, and negativity.
Culture shaping means that everyone has a level of accountability.
Athletic Directors: Set codes of conduct at athletic events and be visible at both home and away games with a willingness to intervene, if necessary.
Parents: Leadership should have meetings to discuss and go over appropriate behavior from parents and other supporters.
Faculty/Administrators: Train school personnel on how they can help with correct behavior and be proactive in the stands.
Student-Athletes: Form leadership committees and have them set standards. Their behavior is modeled and sets a high expectation for others.
Remember what the Principal said at Back-To- School-Night? The game is about the student-athletes, and the more we cheer for great plays, the better we can build community.” This is what my friend said to me after I blurted out an emotional diatribe aimed at one of the officials for missing a violation. In the heat of the moment, I was not focused on cheerfully rooting for my daughter, but booing a call. My own daughter let the call go in a nano-second and was ready for the next play which gave our team the side-out.
I’ve learned to be a better supporter by not letting my emotions get the better of me and cheering the great plays, even by our opponents. This hasn’t been easy all the time. But when we have a goal that is kid-focused, it’s easier to cheer positively. We’re all part of the same community after all. Why not make it an uplifting experience for everyone and just enjoy the fact that our kids are able to play.
By supporting and uplifting, everyone feels good about being at the game.
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