Featured Stories


Howard: Success is about the quality of leadership

The best programs keep fans coming back for more, regardless of record.


As a sports fan in Portland, I oftentimes find myself saddened by the fact that the quality (or quantity) of the fans doesn’t seem to have a real effect on whether a team wins a championship or not. Sure, places like the Moda Center and JELD-Wen Field are difficult places for opponents to win, but at the end of the day, the fans don’t get anything other than kudos for their efforts.

Or do they?

   To head down a quick rabbit trail, I attempted to buy a new vehicle this week. I liked the people, the selection and I liked the general feel of the place, but I wasn’t convinced until I went to leave. My car, my dear old jalopy, finally called it quits in the parking lot. Seemingly half of the staff gathered around, and through their efforts, they found the part I needed and agreed to get the vehicle fixed and back on the road the very next day.

While buying a car is mostly about the hardware and the amount you pay for it, there’s an immeasurable component in the decision to spend a few thousand bucks, and that is the quality of the people you work with. The character they showed has a huge play toward their success as a business, and the concept extends far beyond a car dealership.

Last Friday, the St. Helens volleyball team lost 3-1 in the quarterfinals at the Class 5A volleyball championships. The support from the fans was absolutely incredible. They filled the entire section of the stands allotted to them, spilled on to the balcony above the court and down into the section of stands on the other side.

And while they made a wild ruckus, the real show of sportsmanship went on display after the Lions lost. The group of students hurried to the other side of the gym to stand with and support a completely different school, just because they’re great fans.

St. Helens was awarded with a trophy for sportsmanship, largely due to the character of the students, but their heart didn’t simply appear from thin air. It has to do with a program, a school and an area – this includes you too, Scappoose – that gets it.

In order to foster such an attitude, a host of things have to fall into place. It’s not about winning a ton of games, or taking home a state championship. I get the feeling the fans would have shown up regardless of the Lions’ record, and it’s not just St. Helens volleyball the fans show up to see.

Having 600 people attend a Scappoose girls’ soccer match at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon speaks volumes about where the values of the contest-goers lie, but it doesn’t stop there. The appearance of fans in droves sends a message to the school that says – in a loud voice – you are invested in the success of the kids on the field, and you’re willing to appreciate when someone is doing a good job.

The role of the administration is to keep things rolling. In business, they say it’s far easier to keep a customer than find a new one, and the same strategy applies to fans. Having good people in place, challenging the student-athletes to do their best are important, but they are the basic building blocks of an athletic program. The programs who go above and beyond are the ones who continually push the envelope and look for new ways to keep their fans coming back time and again.

Getting things done the right way might not always bring about success on the field, but it will garner the goodwill and support of the people in the community. Just as the dealership earned my business by their character, so too will a solid athletic program capture the hearts of the fans. It goes far deeper than a simple check to sponsor the booster club. Even a short email with a complement on a job well done goes a long way.