Have a network to identify bright, motivated students or those that may not yet have a place to belong. Work through teachers, administrators, counselors and siblings. Get good students to recruit their friends.
Build from the ground up. Build an A+ Program. Recruit high school participants that may have previously participated in middle school and elementary events.
Recruit during open house or parent night activities or during student club or organization showcases.
Distribute invitations. Host a recruiting party. Talk about all the great things that academic competition provides. Have students sign up for events.
Set aside three days about a week into the school year when all students may register by signing up on one of the event posters in the hallway. We make these posters very bright, visible and appealing. After three days of intense promotion and registering, all the posters come down, and dispense the information to each event coach, keeping a master copy on file with the UIL coordinator.
Hold a recruiting fair in the cafeteria to attract new students. UIL academic coaches and last year's UIL students are represented at the table. They promote and encourage students to sign up. Freebies and treats help in promoting the activity.
Hold a pizza lunch at the beginning of school and invite all the students who have been recommended by teachers. Distribute a pamphlet about all the contests and sponsors as well as information about former competitors and what UIL had done for them. Emphasize the number of recent National Merit Scholars, valedictorians and salutatorians who had competed in UIL academic events. Mention the colleges and universities these students have attended, such as Harvard, Rice, Duke Medical, UT, A&M, etc., and that many of them had received scholarships that were probably made available to them because of their UIL participation.
Educate parents, administrators and teachers that the UIL academic program is a reflection and an extension of classroom instruction. Standardized tests and a school accountability rating focuses on reading, math, writing, science and social studies skills. All of these are major areas covered in the UIL Academic Program.
Emphasize that academic competition is fun, stress occasions for travel and scholarship opportunities.
As your program grows, limit the number of events that one student may enter in any year. This seems to add a bit of urgency to kids as they try to get involved in events. As well, it forces the school to dip a little deeper into the talent pool. This is often a way to find kids who are not involved in other things and who can dedicate themselves to their events.
Stress benefits such as out-of-town trips, improved academic achievement, learning to manage time, setting goals, becoming your own advocate, working with teachers, taking notes, learning to study, getting along with students from different schools and just having fun.
Encourage the fun aspects of tournaments and practices. Make practices social as well as work-oriented by ordering pizza or providing snacks. Focus on building a team and guide them into having pride in competition.
Reward all UIL participants, not just the winners, with an awards banquet recognizing their success throughout the year. This could be a simple as an evening in the cafeteria or extravagant as a day-out picnic at the golf club in town, the local park or an administrator’s back yard.
Honor all academic UIL participants with a special certificate and having them all on stage at the school’s awards day ceremony or at a school board meeting, Students who witness this honoring may be drawn to participate the next year, knowing their own potential strength/interest in one of the UIL events.