It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
If you think I am celebrating pumpkin spice latte season, that would be incorrect. Nope, not sweater weather either. I mean this is Alabama so we are still far from pulling out sweaters and cute boots.
Fall is college football season, y’all!
When I tell you that I am a professional when it comes to college football I’m not joking. I do game day like it’s my job because it is my job. Literally.
A major part of my job responsibilities as the Associate Athletics Director for Marketing is to oversee the game-day experience for fans who come to sporting events hosting on our campus. This includes working with bands, spirit teams, coaches, athletes, music, announcers, ticketing and more to ensure that you have the best time at the game and come back for more.
I want you to bring your family to the game. To come early and stay late. To cheer loud and celebrate the pageantry and tradition that is unlike anything else.
But its not always a simple thing to do. I have worked at three different NCAA institutions and game day means something different at each of them.
How is the casual fan to know all the tips and tricks to make your game day experience the best it can be for the whole family?
Do your research
Visit the website for the venue or the athletic department to understand the policies and procedures on game day. Every stadium is different so its best to spend little time digging into the details before you even leave the house. The school you are visiting doesn’t necessarily get to make the stadium rules but they do have to ensure fans follow them.
Ease your driveway to driveway experience by looking at important details before you go. Start with the major planning elements such as transportation options, ticket prices, and parking recommendations.
Clear bag policies are common across nearly all event venues around the country. This means that the only bags allowed inside have to be clear and meet certain size restrictions. Be advised that diaper bags do not fit into the clear bag policy and are not allowed. They will not make an exception for you so bring the must-have supplies in the clear bag.
The last thing you want to do is be turned away at the gate because you missed an important detail like the youth ticket policy or brought the wrong bag. Trust me on this one, there are no exceptions when it comes to fan safety and security.
Dress for the weather
I have my hand in a lot of elements of the game day but one thing I have no control over is the weather. Take a look at the full day forecast and pack some extras to bring along. I always have a bag in my van full of raincoats, hand warmers, hats, sunscreen, and other extras we might need when we are out enjoying an unpredictable weather day.
If it’s hot, dress in light clothing and bring lots of sunscreen. If the weather is cooler, plan to layer up. You may not know if your seats will be in the sun or the shade so prep for the worst-case scenario. Also, depending on the game time the sun will shift and you might get both sun and shade during the game. No one wants to be miserably hot or miserably cold on game day.
Keep the stroller in the car
When taking little ones to enjoy the game, baby wearing is one of the keys to success. Strollers are typically not allowed inside meaning if you bring one to the gate you will likely be sent right back to your car to leave it behind.
Carriers and wraps are allowed and free up your hands. They are also a big help when you are seated in the stands. Some can help shield from the elements like the sun and loud noises as well as save your back and arms if the game isn’t enough to keep the little one awake the whole time.
My girls have been going to games since they were six weeks old and believe it or not, the noise never bothered them. They slept most of the time! Wearing them on my front was a lifesaver in the crowds and already uncomfortable bleacher seating.
Find the activities for kids
What is football without the fan gatherings? Saturdays are made for tailgating! The college environment is unique in that almost every single school has its special pre-game traditions and rituals that the whole family can enjoy. You just have to find them.
Kids love playing on inflatable games, visiting with spirit teams, face painting, fun giveaways, and space to run around. There is usually an area for adults to enjoy as well. Use the opportunity to arrive early and let them burn some energy before taking a seat inside.
Expect to not sit in your seat
From the marching band pregame show to the final fight song as the clock winds down to zero, football games are a spectacle. There is so much for the kids to take in and enjoy. You do not need to know a thing about football to appreciate the sights and sounds. If you are serious about your football watching and hate to miss a single down, you might want to bring some extra adult hands with you to help manage the little ones.
While there is a lot to take in, it is a long event. You cannot expect kids to sit in their seat and be happy the whole time. You will be asked for snacks, drinks, pom pons, bathroom breaks, and more snacks. Take a walk around the stadium concourse or spend time in a different area with a new view if they get antsy.
Sports are about so much more than just the game itself. My job is to make your trip to the stadium one you want to experience a second time, regardless of the final score. My family loves football game days. Cheering on our teams on Saturday is part of our family culture. My girls know exactly where the best pre-game spots are, how to navigate concourses, and when to follow along with the band and cheerleaders. They many not know everything (or anything) about the rules of the game but they know how to do game day right.
If you have never taken your family to experience football live, I encourage you to give it a try. It doesn’t have to be expensive or even an all-day commitment. Start with a high school game. Support a team in your local community or your alma mater if it’s nearby. The kids will make great memories and be exhausted when the day is done.