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Game Day the DIII Way

Division partners with Disney Institute to tackle fan behavior issues

Division III sporting events may soon have a Disney touch. No, competitors shouldn’t expect to see fans wearing Mickey Mouse ears or find Donald Duck or Pluto patrolling the bleachers. The projected impact will be subtle, but vital: a more positive game environment brought about by the division’s partnership with the Disney Institute, the company’s professional development and leadership training wing.

After nearly 80 percent of respondents to a 2015 NCAA Convention straw poll identified fans and parents as the cause of most behavioral problems at games, the Division III Sportsmanship and Game Environment Working Group was charged with finding a solution for disruptions caused by fans and parents at sporting events. The working group’s efforts led to a roughly $600,000 investment in a three-year partnership with the Disney Institute.

Together, the working group and representatives from Disney have spent nearly a year forging a plan — known as “Game Day the DIII Way” — to help administrators and game managers ensure appropriate fan behavior at Division III contests across the country.

“We’ve made huge strides in terms of identifying what we think is an overarching model for us to be able to give our membership a very practical tool,” says Gary Williams, working group chair and director of athletics at Wittenberg. “They can create winning moments at all times, not just when it’s a championship game. Not when the NCAA comes to town. Just every day.”

Sixty Division III administrators and coaches received facilitator training in June in Orlando, Florida, and many more will attend similar sessions that will be conducted over the next two years. Those who receive facilitator training are expected to train their peers in their conferences and on their campuses with 90-minute sessions crafted by Disney and the working group. The session also will be held at the 2018 Convention. Materials, including handouts and online training modules, will be made available, too.

While schools can adapt the training to fit the needs of their sports, venues and personnel, core messages remain consistent. The working group hopes the effort will create common game environments across Division III akin to the expected behavior and experience at NCAA championship events.

“I think that’s going to be the key,” Williams says. “Knowing no matter where you go there are going to be people who have heard this message, and that we are starting to get on the same page.”

Behavior modification

The training is built around four key service standards and behaviors.

Safety: Ensuring the game environment accounts for the health and well-being of all in attendance. Administrators should understand relevant safety procedures, correct any safety concerns and address situations that could cause harm.

Responsiveness: Anticipating and addressing situations as they arise by initiating interventions in a welcoming, informative and timely manner. Formulating plans to ensure event staff are prepared for any incidents.

Dignity: Demonstrating respect and value for others, even those who may be causing problems. Listening actively while keeping conversations positive and remaining confident when addressing any situation. Taking immediate action to eliminate inappropriate fan behavior.

Experience: Ensuring the game environment is hospitable by delivering a clean and presentable appearance and proactively addressing fan behavior. Ensuring communications are practiced, well-organized and accurate.

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.