Street Team member Matt Harvey records a video of cheering fans during a soccer match.
Photo and story by Micah Rhodes, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Fans were in “full-support” mode during the first day of competition on the soccer field sidelines at Abbott Sports Complex. Crowds of parents, siblings, friends and other spectators waved yellow, orange and red pom-poms and flapped hand clappers in encouragement for the 295 athletes participating in the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games’ soccer events.
“This is like the World Cup,” one Special Olympics athlete proclaimed after a soccer match. “But better,” he added with a beaming smile.
Matt Harvey and Holly Milburn, both University of Nebraska-Lincoln students, distributed boxes of pom-poms and noisemakers to anyone with a free hand and challenged the fans to be louder than the person seated next to them.
“Who is the biggest fan in the stands today?” Harvey yelled, his fingers gripping a video recorder. “Let’s hear your best cheering voices.”
Harvey and Milburn belong to the “Street Team,” a group created and put in motion by the USA National Games. Their main focus remains volunteer recruitment and education. The team helped with the volunteer recruitment in February, March and April by attending elementary and high school lunches and talking with students to better inform them about the games. As the push to enlist volunteers gradually slowed, the focus shifted more to educating local youth about Special Olympics and people with intellectual disabilities. The Street Team attended elementary school and youth events to talk to and interact with students.
Milburn said, “Basically, what we’ve done is encourage the city of Lincoln to volunteer, as well as work to instill the core values of Special Olympics in everyone.”
So why the pom-poms, hand clappers and video recorders?
A Lincoln radio station, 106.3 KFRX, is searching for “Super Fans” at different venues throughout the games. The Street Team, Harvey and Milburn included, is leading the hunt. They motivate the fans in the stands, using flip cameras to document cheers and screams—the crazier the better.
KFRX for almost two years stood as a proud partner to the Games, according to Sarah Leeth, vice president marketing and communications. However, the search for a super fan started only about two weeks ago.
“We’ve been talking and wanting to promote this idea for a long time, but it never really became a reality until recently,” Leeth said. “We are thrilled to have KFRX as a partner to help endorse the games. With their energy and enthusiasm, it is a perfect fit for us to have them get our ‘Be a Fan’ message out to the public.”
Leeth and the games work with Matt McKay of KFRX, and several live radio broadcasts are planned for the week. The station is also helping to promote the Youth Rally Closing Ceremony that will take place on Friday from 7-9 p.m.
At the end of the week, the Games and KFRX plan to only recognize a scant few as super fans. But anyone can be a super fan in the eyes and hearts of competing Special Olympics athletes.
“Someone who goes above and beyond to let the athletes know they are supported 100 percent, and then some,” Milburn said when asked to describe a super fan. “They [the athletes] feed from the crowd’s energy, so the fans are more important than they might think.”
Harvey said, “My idea of a super fan is the person who can add excitement to the games by cheering on the athletes. It is important that their cheering bring out the most sought after prize of the week—the athlete’s smile.”
“Whether that fan is dressed up for their state, wearing the colors of the Games or simply cheering for an athlete that needs some support, the super fan can be any number of people. If you get the athlete to smile, you win in my book. But adding a little flare to your cheering never hurts.”
Tags: Holly Milburn
, Matt Harvey
, Street Team
, Super Fan