Youth Football- Planning For the End

Written by Dave on November 2nd, 2008

Youth Football Banquets

For most of us coaching youth football, our seasons are over or at least ending in the near future (minus our friends in JF). One way to top things off and build momentum for next season is to have a great “banquet”. Now don’t get all uptight about the word banquet, The mere word conjures up thoughts of fancy well planned-out expensive catered affairs. We’ve done those also, but most of our “banquets” have been simple pot luck affairs in school cafeterias or pizza parlor party rooms.  

Here are some ideas you can use when planning a simple and inexpensive “banquet”, it is what we did this year for my three youth football teams:

About 2 weeks before you set the date, e-mail all the parents letting them know you do not want any gifts for the coaching staff, Most of us get things we can never use, I still have gift certificates I haven’t used from last years banquet to restaurants I never eat at. It puts parents into an uncomfortable situation. We let the parents know if they felt strongly about a particular coach, to write them a note. I for one like that “gift” more than any trinket that’s going to end up in the garbage. I actually have kept a number of the more compelling notes from players and parents.

Most local family restaurants have “party” rooms they will let you use if you agree to buy a certain dollar amount of food. We have done  that a number of times as well as rented out Halls and either catered our food in or done pot luck. One event in Omaha I did we had to do it in shifts. The hall only seated 1,000 people so we split up the teams and did two banquets back to back to help keep our costs down.

You can have a big catered affair or simple pizza and salads brought in or even pot luck,  This year we did it at the local Junior Highs assemby area, which has about 250 seats. In an effort to keep the “banquet” short, we just had a desert bar and soft drinks set out. It was much simpler, much tidier and much shorter than any previous method we tried, I’m sold on it.

Keep the timing to 90 minutes or less, any longer and the natives get restless. This year we did 3 teams, 70 players in 90 minutes.

If you aren’t a comfortable speaker, get one of your outgoing coaches or parents to MC the event.

Have a slide show or game footage playing on a screen or wall. Play it continuously and start it before anyone arrives. Someone on your team will have a projector or you can rent one. This is a great ice breaker and helps get the kids get focused and settled down.

Have a guest speaker if possible. We have had ex-NFL players, Inspirational ex-College players, this year we had the local High School head football coach. He spoke for 9 minutes on the 5 things football players should take from the game for life. Call the local University Football teams outreach director, they will almost always accommodate you with an accomplished speaker, for free.

Remember to thank everyone, coaches, parents, volunteers, facilities providers and players.  My wife did the gift shopping for the 3 team moms, $35 gift bags for each is a pittance for all the effort they put in. We did a nice plaque for one coach who was with us for 5 years and whose kids are aging out this year.

A very inexpensive but well accepted award is a Certificate in a frame. There are plenty of free sites on the internet where you can download a Certificate Award Template and put your own text in. I like to Insert a Team photo electronically into the template and then personalize the award to the player.  We have awards for: Most Valuable Player, Most Valuable Offensive Player, Most Valuable Back,  Most Improved Defensive End, Most Valuable Utility Player, Hustle Award, Spirit Award etc etc. You have to get a little creative there. We buy the frames at Walmart for $2 each or you can even just laminate them if you are trying to save a few bucks.

We always bring all of our team trophies and put them on display at these events, This group has earned 11 Team Trophies over the last 5 years. Try to make is as special as you can. We also hand out individual trophies with the players name, team name and the teams accomplishments engraved on the display plate, This years 14” trophies cost about $9 each.

We also hand out season DVDs at this event with a very nice team photo on the DVD cover. We film every game, the parents love this and so do the kids, It is a permanent keepsake they can share with their kids 30 years from now. We have done real fancy ones set to music and special effects as well as simple ones, with nothing but the game footage. Either are very well received.

Just like your youth football practices, have a detailed agenda for the banquet and note cards for your part of the banquet as well, You don’t want to leave anything out when you are in front of the whole group with the spotlight on you. Your “talk” which follows the initial  instructions, plate filling and guest speaker, should probably focus on the season as well as plans for next season, If you have a funny story about one of your players, early on in your talk is a good place to bring it up. We have one player on our team that is always good for a story or two, it loosens up you and the crowd.

Bring each player up one by one and make sure to be very personal when discussing each. The little intro for each player usually includes the position he played, his accomplishments and a little tidbit of what that player is all about. It’s good to start coming up with golden little nuggets for this in the weeks prior to the event. Having your assistant coaches up on stage to help you here is a big help. Let them jump in with their own stories as well as hand out the trophies and awards. We pumped up our minimum play kids as much as the two way starters during this segment.

We give out special “Complete Player” awards to the top 3 academic performers of each team. As stated in my book “Winning Youth Football a Step-by-Step Plan” we have a complete “Academic Accountability” program that encourages and requires academic effort and achievement from each of our players.  Our teams compete against each other on this as well as individually, These awards are the best and most coveted in our program, In the past we have done very cool team jackets, this year we did a “Fathead” type award, We had a professional photographer come in and shoot action shots during our games. She does it for free, but has a web site where the photos are posted and the parents are then given the chance to buy the photos. The top 3 Academic Performers on each team won an action shot of themselves blown up into a 5 foot “Fathead” type wall sticky of themselves. To say these awards were a huge success would be a HUGE understatement.

We used the banquet time to also pick up equipment and of course recruit players for next season, We let every player know, that regardless of who they are or what position they played we wanted every player to return next season. We shared stories of several second or third year players who struggled early on, then blossomed into starters. We also shared stories about kids that never started but gained from the experience of playing youth football. We made it VERY clear to everyone, each player was wanted back and had a part to play in our program.

When the banquet is over all of us youth football coaches are a little relieved, others like me are already trying to figure out how to get better for the 2009 season. We will certainly miss the players aging out of the program, but feel a bit smug that we helped lay the foundation for some of that players success that will be reaped 10-20 years from now.

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