5 tips to make your team banquet pop
Whether your team wins a championship or struggles mightily, the postseason banquet is extremely important to those within your program. That’s why coaches must carefully plan and execute the event to make sure the season officially ends on a positive note.
It sounds simple — call the team together, serve some food, reminisce about the season’s best moments — but this event must be much more than that. It makes a statement about your program and how it values those who are involved. And because all coaches want to develop a good reputation and maintain lasting relationships with those who may be moving on, it’s best to end the season with a bang.
To achieve the best results, your program may have to spend a little money. If it wasn’t worked into your budget, hopefully you held a fundraiser or two with this moment in mind. It’s a graduation of sorts for some players, and for others, it’s the culmination of all their hard work.
Here are five things to consider for your year-end banquet.
1. Go all out.
This is it. Seniors are moving on, and in some cases, players may be considering whether they want to play next year. Perhaps they’re leaning toward a different sport or just didn’t have fun. That’s why it’s important to make this event something more than just a pizza party at a local eatery.
Show your players that they mean more than that, and show them the value of being part of this team. Rent out a banquet room at a local hotel or other establishment and have it catered. This is about the team, and having a noisy restaurant host this event won’t do you any favors. Make this event as special as possible, and doing that is going to require some planning amongst your staff.
2. Invite family.
This moment is about your team, but the parents are part of what make it all happen. Not only that, the athletes want their moms and dads to see all that they’ve done and be proud of their achievements. It might even help smooth over some of those rocky relationships coaches have with parents.
3. Identify the good.
Regardless of your record, good things happened this year — I promise. In some cases they may be small, but focus on what you accomplished this season and deliver that message in a speech to the team. This is not a time to dwell on anything that may have gone awry.
The idea is to give your players a sense of achievement and provide them with hope that things are moving in a positive direction. All teams have areas where improvement is needed, but that can be addressed at another time during the offseason (and discussed thoroughly in your staff meetings). Now is a time to reflect on all that went well.
If at all possible, work with someone in your school to create a highlight video that can be revealed during the banquet. Try to include all players so each one of your kids has a reason to hold their head high.
4. Recognize more than stats.
You’re going to have your usual awards — most valuable player, most points, leading rebounder. But make sure you also create awards for attributes that don’t show up in the box score, like most effort, sportsmanship or team leader. After all, these qualities are the backbone of your team.
Get creative here with the underlying message being you want to show your players what sorts of things the program cares about. This is your opportunity to reinforce that, letting your players know the coaches have taken notice of their actions. For example, creating an award for best communicator shows players how much you value them talking to one another on the court. They’ll make a point to do more of it in the future.
5. Hardware matters.
Honoring your players with awards means little if you don’t give them something tangible to remember it by.
Whether it’s a trophy, plaque or a medal, get something to let your players walk away with. Plaques are popular because they can hang on walls, and as time goes on, trophies tend to end up in boxes inside a closet. Make sure you also get their names along with the team name and year on it. This group is one of a kind, and some of them will remain friends for the rest of their lives. It’ll be nice 10 years from now when they see it and think back to all the great memories they took away from their time on your team.
It also lights a fire under players who maybe want to get their hands on that nice, big MVP trophy. There is no harm in using awards and recognition as a carrot to inspire everyone involved.
The idea with all these suggestions is to show players, parents and other students that these kids matter. And whether you achieved great things or fell flat, each person should have something to be proud of.