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A wave of black shirts, white slam sticks and red face paint poured into Citrus Stadium as the band and DJ took turns blasting music for the first home football game of the year, Saturday, Sept. 21.

All this spirit and raucous fandom, however, will die down over the next couple of weeks. Year after year, fewer students show up with each passing week until only the handful of devout remain.

Now that APU is just one year away from full-fledged NCAA Division II membership, it is imperative for students to be more involved in and encouraging of athletics.

(VIDEO: APU welcomes students to the NCAA)

The best way to be an encouraging asset to the Athletics Department is to consistently participate in the student section known now as the “Zu.” The newly revamped effort started with a bang at the football home opener, but consistency throughout the season is key.

“First of all, being an athlete, I love having people come to support me in games,” said junior international business major Jared Zoller, a well-known “Zukeeper” and basketball player, who helps to facilitate the student section. I want all the other athletes in the school to feel that way too. To kind of support a collegiate environment, like you see [at] Duke or Oregon, everyone going crazy and it’s just a lot of fun to cheer, it’s a lot of fun to play with a huge crowd. I just want to step it up.”

The self-proclaimed “Zuologist” thought the Zu’s presence at the first football game was the example of what a great student section could be.

“I think crowd participation was much greater with the Zu,” said senior international business major and APU cheerleader Karli Timberlake. “The new rebranding of the student section has really made students more excited about it, and a lot more students have rallied around it and believed in it and been way more supportive this year.”

Especially now that the level of play in athletics has taken a leap forward, it is time for the student body to make the jump with the athletes. Attendance at university athletic events fosters community. Celebrating a victory, supporting through a loss and encouraging the players on the field or the court brings students from varying majors, ages and interests together in a way that is not otherwise possible.

Zukeeper and senior communication studies major Jon Root is not even attending APU this semester. Root is taking a semester off to attend Citrus Community College, but he has a heart for cheering on our athletes through the Zu.

“I think it’s been important ever since I’ve gotten here, especially in sports,” Root said. “I feel like it brings a lot of big universities together, and it’s just a way to get all the students together and collectively get rowdy for something and get excited for something. I think it’s just important for morale.”

The biggest obstacle in becoming a great student section is keeping students informed, which Zoller, Timberlake and Root all agreed upon. However, students no longer have any excuse to claim they did not know something was happening. Dates, events and times of games can be found on the APU mobile app, Facebook and even Instagram.

So students, put forth the effort and the consistency. It’s time to put our game faces on and make it out to the games not just the popular ones. Be a part of something bigger than yourself.