It's not really something I would do this year, but I think it was Kathy Johnson (when she was still at Argyle) a few years back had this really incredible presentation about matching up 8th graders with 6th graders to be mentors at the beginning of the year. It helped them have a much better retention going into high school - probably helped some in this case too.
I still remember though like my second or third year in my current district we had these two sixth graders who actively tried to get kids to quit band going into seventh grade. Worst retention probably ever that year since they were popular. They got to watch us go to State though before they graduated, and they certainly didn't do so with their teams!