I “missed the boat” on this one… by about 3 months! Sorrrrrry. But, you can put this one in your Off-season File that you’re starting on “things to do/explore” for next year. I want to share an idea that really came out of desperation and ended up being one of THE best things I ever did as a 31-year head coach. It involves our Senior Day activities. There are several things that you can do to recognize and honor your seniors at their last home game but what we did at our pre-game meal came to be an event that resonated with players and parents for months after its conclusion.
The school I had just started coaching at had previously had a dad/son dinner the week of the last home game. I thought it sounded like a good idea and was willing to continue the tradition… until a mom of one of the players stepped in. She was upset that the mom’s were being excluded! When I found out that she had basically raised the boy by herself and the boy wouldn’t have his dad there at the dinner nor was she allowed to attend, I knew we were in a quandry. I completely understood her feelings. The first thing I did was consult our AD. (*THIS is always the best first move any HC can make when faced with a situation that spills over to either the parents or the school— not just the football team!!!) Our AD admitted that it was a problem and (didn’t “tell” me, but) recommended we try to rectify the situation. I prayed about it. I talked to my wife about it. (*THIS is also something that those of you who are married should always do!) We came up with an idea of how to continue the dinner but include all parents.
During the pregame meal for the team on Senior Day, the parents and family would also be invited to the meal. At the conclusion of the meal, I called each senior up to the podium, said a few positive things about him and presented him with a small gift that was a token of my appreciation for him. *Now, the key! I had met with the seniors after practice on Monday and reminded them of the ceremony after our team meal on Friday. I also reminded them that each of them would be expected/required! to take 60-90 seconds to talk about his experience in our program AND… to be absolutely, positively sure that he publicly thanked his parents for all that they’d done for him. (I might add that this was a private academy that I was coaching at and the parents paid big bucks for their son to attend there! Soooooo… those boys especially had something to be thankful for.)
With an average of 12 seniors a year (small school), the ceremony took an additional 15-20 minutes. I always had prepared remarks about each senior that took less than a minute (*another key point coaches. Don’t ever get up and try to “wing it” in front of parents… no matter how great a public speaker you think you are! Most coaches don’t know HOW or WHEN to quit! Make it short and to the point and SIT DOWN!) It constrained some of our pregame agenda that always occurred after our meal was finished but, trust me, it was worth it! The seniors got recognized individually so they loved it. The parents heard the HC say something positive about their son. Most importantly, each senior had a chance to speak! Some did better than others but… it was always emotional and powerfully motivating for the folks in attendance.