Unlike football, volleyball steals a pint-sized significant fan base: the under-10-years-old girls.
Clad in TCU cheer uniforms or oversized volleyball tees, even the smalls of which don’t fit their tiny figures, they’re easy to miss among the crowd. If it weren’t for the excited waving of their TCU poms, you might miss them altogether.
That is, unless you stay for the post-game fun. That’s when these little girls have their time to shine.
A tiny girl dwarfed by the season poster in her hands, no older than six, walks shyly up to right side hitter Stephanie Holland. “Will you sign my poster?” she asks in a timid voice. She’s a miniture image of Stephanie herself: long blonde hair, wearing a TCU shirt. She’s just about 2 feet shorter.
For Holland, the autograph session serves as a reminder of the fans’ support. She said talking with the kids after the game improves her mood, win or loss.
“When young fans ask for my autograph, it reminds me how blessed I am to be in a position where I can be a role model to kids,” Holland said. “It also reminds me that I have a job to work hard and set a good example.”
Along with her teammates, Holland spends each home post-game signing volleyball posters for children, some of whom bounce between players with so much excitement they lap around for autographs a second time.
Chris Perry, the director of media relations for TCU volleyball, said younger fans can collect schedule cards. Each week, fans can pick up a different card with a different player.
Perry said the collectable card tactic draws the younger fans, who try to attend games to complete their collections.
The attendance factor
TCU volleyball boasted quite a few attendance records topping 1,000 this season (see Figure 1).
Perry said the athletic department continually promotes the games through giveaways for TCU students.
And for students like religion doctoral candidate Richard Thomas, attending as many games as possible is all part of the student experience.
“I’ve been attending since my freshman year as an undergrad,” Thomas said. “It’s free, so I try to come out and support the team.”
Since the volleyball student section fills just a small portion of the stands, though, the team relies on outside connections to bring in fans.
“During the summer, our team works volleyball camps,” Holland said. “We build friendships with the kids and they like to come watch us play.”
Coach Prentice Lewis hosts volleyball camps on campus multiple times a year to introduce young players to the sport. From early on, Lewis grooms the next generation of Frog fans.
And on game day, it pays off.
“We have such a fun atmosphere,” Holland said. “Kids love to be part of that.”