A user asked me to do a piece on what all entails in running the student fan section known as the Dawg Pack. Of the past 4 years that I have been shouting and yelling on the basketball court, I have spent the past 2 seasons “leading” the student section at every home game. I have been asked several times what it means to be the leader and what that “title” means in terms of time and effort investment. I’m hoping this article can answer some of the various questions I have been asked over the years and maybe inspire some young, new student to take over in the coming years.
I inherited the title of Dawg Pack Leader after a good friend of mine left mid-season for a study abroad down under in Australia. I enjoyed doing what needed to be done and no one else seemed interested in taking over so I kept at it until the day I graduated. In all honesty, “leading” the Dawg Pack was an extremely educational experience and helped me get over my fear of public speaking and I’m glad I had the opportunity to stick with it for as long as I did. If you are a student at the UW and love basketball I highly encourage making your way towards the middle of the Pack and get involved with whoever seems to be leading. Make friends, ask questions, find out how you can help improve the home court advantage, and maybe even offer to lead the game’s chants.
Before going on much further I should make one thing clear, leading the Dawg Pack is by no means a solo operation. It takes the commitment of dozens of students to make any efforts seen and hundreds more to make it effective. One person yelling has zero effect on the game, dozens allows for a buzz to fill the arena, but hundreds of coordinated students makes for a very loud, tough environment to battle through and is the reason why places like Duke have such a strong home court advantage. The Huskies have been known for having a solid home count advantage and this is due to strong student engagement coupled with a robust group of alumni who are more than willing to get rowdy at the right times (albeit with a little encouragement from the students).
As the Leader of the Pack, the main job is to be as loud and obnoxious to the other team as possible. It means getting to the stadium 8 or 10 hours before the game to get the middle seats necessary in running the rest of the day’s activities. Once there it is imperative to let go of any silly notions of embarrassment and nervousness. As a fan, the whole point of attending a sporting event is to have fun and, in my mind, nothing is more fun than interacting with the players as much as possible. Personally, I like to leave my team alone to concentrate on pregame warm-ups and instead focus my efforts on getting into the heads and under the skin of the opposing players and coaches. The only way to do exactly that is to be louder and more creative than anyone else in the stadium. Pregame music pumped through the stadium speakers is loud. Add in the fact that most players are allowed to wear their own personal headphones and the task to be heard is a lot more difficult. This is where weekly preparation, in the form of the Dawg Pack Dirt and various hand-made signs, comes in quite handy. Our motto is “If you can’t be heard, make yourself seen.”
For those who don’t know, the Dawg Pack Dirt is a double sided piece of paper filled with material gathered on the opposing players and the occasional coach. It usually contains a few phone numbers, questionable pictures of the athletes, and various embarrassing or illegal things the players have been caught doing. The best of the Dirt is transformed into signs or blown-up images to spread throughout the student section for maximum visibility. As a leader for the Pack, I help make signs and organize efforts creating whatever is needed for the next game to add to the ridiculousness of the heckling. I have an old projector in my room that I hook up to my laptop and shoot onto a wall to help aid in the sign making process. For the big time games, my friends and I will spend several hours digging through the Dirt, brainstorming ideas, and turning them into signs and props. We also try to organize a different theme for each major game and have been able to obtain moderate success through the use of a hand gathered email list and the occasional email blast sent out by the UW Marketing Department.
A great example comes from the 2009-2010 season when Derek Glasser of Arizona State rolled into town. We found a hilarious image of him at what appears to be a party, smacking another man’s bare butt (seen here in the Dirt). I capitalized on this image, blew it up to the size of small poster and waited for Glasser to step on the court. I asked Glasser if he at least took the nice looking man out for dinner before this picture occurred. After that he couldn’t stop laughing every time he looked at the Dawg Pack and saw at least 10 of the poster-sized pictures staring right back at him. His teammates were obviously rattled as well, cracking jokes, and generally not focusing on playing basketball. Other students kept at it and by the end of the game, Glasser had tallied only 3 points in 22 minutes on top of 5 turnovers. I’m not saying the students alone are responsible, but we certainly had some effect on him.
Besides making signs and harassing our opponents before the game begins, the Dawg Pack leader must stay loud the entire game (even during timeouts if the vocal cords allow for it). No breaks are allowed. The “job” is a tad more involved on offense where you have to keep a steady stream of rotating chants and clap patterns going. This is where having a great group of friends comes in handy. Due to the stadium noise, it is near impossible for one person to be heard throughout the entire Dawg Pack. With a solid core in the middle, the chant volume can grow and spread throughout the 800 seats to achievement maximum volume. On defense, all that matters is yelling as loud as possible until the Huskies recover the ball. Hardly a game went by where I didn’t wake up with half a voice the next day.
I was able to use my connections with the Washington Marketing and Athletic Department to help turn student ideas into actual events (“Dunks and Dinner”) as well as convince the department to supply us with additional materials that tended to be too cost expensive for us jobless students. It worked out well in the end and allowed us to do some of the silly things we wanted to experiment with, such as the “Roller coaster” chant.