Student section leaders find breakthrough with crowd engagement

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After two years of leading cheers, student section leaders say the last home game against SMU may have been their breakthrough moment with crowd engagement.

Kate Colley and Jad Chatila, two student section leaders, described the game and crowd interaction, especially during the fourth quarter, as ideal.

“I really like when we do chants and everyone gets excited,” Chatila said. “It’s kind of like you’re not just getting a kind of half-response, but you’re getting a full-out response from everyone.”

First-year student Emily Ernst said the energy the student section leaders brought got everyone pumped up.

“The momentum helped the team,” Ernst said. “I could feel it.”

Junior Abby Gardner said the leaders’ work and commitment are worth it.

“I think it’s so special that we have people leading us in the cheers,” Gardner said.

But to the section leaders, crowd involvement is a two-way street. Colley and Chatila said they love it when the student section gets behind the team.

Having student section leaders began at TCU two years ago, and it was a much needed overhaul, said Jackie Torda, the assistant director of athletic marketing.

“We wanted high energy, high pace, music and excitement,” Torda said. “We know that a big part of a college environment is driven by the student section, and they have been an integral part of our atmosphere and changing that culture.”

Colley says even though they are new, student section leaders are becoming more prominent.

“It’s a lot of effort,” Colley said. “But we’ve put a lot of work into this.”

Chatila describes it as a process.

“The first game there was stuff we had to work on for the second game, and now there are things we have to work on for the third game,” Chatila said. “There are still ways that we want to communicate better what we’re doing.”

Torda describes being a student section leader as fun and exciting but also as a commitment.

The leaders are required to be there two and a half hours early to games to set up towels and to do other tasks, Torda said.

“It’s challenging, I would say a little bit physically,” Torda said. “Then also emotionally when trying to keep a positive attitude even when things couldn’t be going your way.”

Colley also agreed it was challenging, but rewarding.

“You get really hungry and tired,” Colley said. “But, it’s a lot of fun.”