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Author: Jeff Walrich

How to increase student attendance at school activities? There is an App for that!

One issue facing every athletic director is finding ways to have students attend sports events on campus. The same holds true here at Gilmour Academy, plus we want to be able to “reward” our super fans. How can we do this? Since our school is heavily involved in social media, we first thought about foursquare. It seemed like a promising option, however this platform came with issues and things we had no control over, like data collection, engagement and control of the app itself. We quickly learned this was not the best way to go for our school.

So during the summer of 2014, I did a search for a product that could fit our needs without giving us the hassles we had come across previously. Enter SuperFan U.

College Website:

High School Website:

It was exactly what we were looking for! I began by connecting with co-founder, Kayla Mount, and instantly became a huge fan. She answered all of my questions and I knew I wanted to bring this product to our Gilmour Academy students. At that time in 2014, we were going to be the first high school in Ohio, and only the third nationally, to have the app – very exciting!

My Associate Athletic Director/Middle School Director of Athletics, Kristy Booher, and I jumped right in and started to load up the calendar with check-in dates. We would look at the month’s schedule and add a selection of dates in our SuperFan U app and assign a certain number of points to each event. As students attend those particular events and “check in,” their accounts accumulate points. Anyone signed up for the app can then view a leader board and follow the standings throughout the school year. The idea is to get the highest number of points in order to earn prizes.

We introduced the concept to our students through a creative video we wrote, produced, filmed and edited. The “actors” in the video were current coaches and athletic department members, ensuring a certain level of familiarity for the majority of our students. We showed the video at an assembly and it immediately got the students talking.  If you want a good laugh, you can watch the video here:  (first 5 minutes is about our social media sites and the second 5 minutes is about the app and prizes) 

It did take the students a couple of times to get used to it, but before you knew it, they were coming to us asking, “Why is this event not listed,” or “are you going to list this event in the app?” This is exactly what we wanted – student engagement with the app. We would set the points higher for big rivalry games or road games so we could attract more students. We even did some in-game giveaways to help create a buzz.

Our LancerNation app was featured on High School Sports Insider in the fall of 2014. Please watch this short video explaining more about what we do with our app.

The app uses geofencing to set the check-in area and once the students cross it, they are able to check-in and earn their points. We often hold contests during halftimes for a chance to win Nike gear or gift cards. The app lists everyone who has checked-in to the event and we can randomly pick someone out of the list to win a prize.

As you can see, we have a lot of fun with the app and we have seen attendance increases at our events. But, we don’t just use this app for athletics. We also use it across the entire school for events such as plays, speech and debate, blood drives, college counseling sessions and any other school events we want the students to attend.

I get calls from other athletic directors across the country asking about the app, how we use it and what prizes we give away. Here is an example of the prizes we gave away during our first year:

Overall student point winner          iPad

2nd and 3rd place overall                   Custom Gilmour Academy wrapped Flips Headphones

Each grade level winner                  $20.00 gift card to Chipotle (6th – 12th)

Faculty overall winner                      $40.00 gift card to Chipotle

2nd and 3rd place overall                   $20.00 gift card to Chipotle

In game giveaways                           Nike gear (Custom hats with #LANCERNATION embroidered on the back), sweatshirts, socks, backpacks

ITunes gift cards

Promotion                                          First 75 students at a particular event received a custom #LANCERNATION foam sword (Mascot is the Lancers)

10 check-ins received a custom LANCER NATION T-shirt

Digital Badges                                    Made a bunch of badges, Road Warrior, ones for 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50 check-ins, 100 check-ins resulted in a SuperFan badge, sport specific badges, and playoff badges.

Now, by no means do we have an endorsement deal with SuperFan U. We are just huge fans for what this product has allowed us to accomplish with our fan base. As an athletic department, we still need to put in some work to achieve success with this app; however, SuperFan U is a great set-up for us. If you are willing to put in some time and effort, we definitely recommend taking a look at this option. We’ve seen an increase in our attendance so perhaps you will too.

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Jeff Walrich

Jeff Walrich

Director of Athletics at Gilmour Academy

Jeff Walrich is in his fourth year as the director of athletics for Gilmour Academy and his 15th year overall in K-12 independent schools. Since his arrival at Gilmour, he has been instrumental in developing the athletic program’s presence in social media, establishing its relationship with Nike, creating professional development opportunities for the coaching staff and kicking off a plan to make Gilmour athletics more recognizable on campus and throughout the community.

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