Thursday, July 1, 2010

Youth Sports: Five Tips for the End of the Sports Season Party

My daughter recently went to an end of the season pool party for softball. The end of the season party for any sport is an expected tradition. Some coaches do it right and others do not. I have been a coach and can honestly say I did not do a great job of it in the beginning, but learned what worked and what did not over time.

Here are my tips for the end of the season sports parties.

1) Pick a location that is big enough for the group. Typically the player will come with their parents and some siblings. If you have a team of 12 kids expect 40-50 people to show up at the party.

2) There are several options for the location of the event. Each has its pros and cons.
  • Your house. Pros: this is the inexpensive option for the families of the players. You can control the entire event. Cons: This is the most expensive option for the coach. It would be difficult to ask for money so likely you will be the one footing the bill for all the food and drinks. By the way, I would not serve alcohol at the end of the season party at my own house. You do not want a parent drinking at your house and then getting in the car with kids. Finally, you and your spouse will also have to clean the house before and after. I think that the negatives out weigh the positives which brings us to option two.
  • A pavilion at a park. Pros: Lots of room for a big group.  The kids have plenty of space to run around. You can have a parents vs kids game in a park. These always go over well until some out of control dad takes out a kid. It happens every time. The park option can be inexpensive, if you have everyone bring their own food. When I have done this, I usually provide the hamburgers, hot dogs, ketchup / mustard / relish and charcoal. I have had the parents bring cups, dishes, a side dish, dessert or chips and their own drinks. They can decide to bring alcoholic beverages or not. Again, I would not buy and serve alcohol to parents who are going to be driving their kids home. Cons: This can be an expensive option if you foot the bill for the food and drinks.  The weather is unpredictable. You might need to coordinate permits to use the park.
  • A restaurant. Pros. The least expensive option if you have the parents pay for their own meals. If you want to be generous, buy the pizzas for the kids and let the parents buy their own food. Find a restaurant with a party room that can be closed off for a trophy ceremony. You are not responsible for parents that drink and drive. Cons: Is there is not a party room you may find that it is too loud to do the player speeches (see Tip #4 below) with any effect.
  • Neighborhood Pool - same as Park Pavillion except you have the added stress of watching your kid in the pool.
3) Have your spouse take pictures of the kids through out the year and have these pictures projected on to a screen during the party. Many parents do not take pictures of their kids during the games. These are the parents who love to see their kids in action shots most. This is always a hit at my end of season parties.

4)  Prepare a speech. Notes for each player should be written prior to the event. You do not want to forget a player. Talk about the great things that each player has done. It is not hard to find the positive contributions of each kid, even the ones who struggled compared to the studs. Again preparing notes will help make each kid sound special. I do a recap of every game throughout the year and send the recaps to parents every Monday. I reread these recaps to remind me of the great things that happened on the field during the year as I prepare my speech notes. One of my son's soccer coaches had a powerpoint presentation with highlights, stats and pictures for each kid. The kids and the parents loved it.

At the end softball season party, my daughter's coach gave a little prepared speech about each kid. He call my girl CC a natural. I sadly did not attend the party due to work, but when I got home my daughter ran up to me and said, "Hey dad, coach Geoff called me a natural. Mom said that means that I was born with mad skills. He also announced that I made the All Star team."

5) Buy your kids trophies if they finished 3rd or better in the league. I do not believe in giving kids trophies for mediocre performance. At the beginning of the year, I collect $10 per player to buy end of season trophies and to put the names on the back of the jerseys. Trophies cost anywhere from $4 to $10. If they win a league trophy or finish below 3rd, put the trophy money toward the party.

The Main Point

The end of year party is a time to celebrate a great season and to make each player feel great about their contributions to the team. The impact of your words will last a long time.

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