As AYSO does not officially condone team parties, having a celebration during “last practice” will be the focus here. This event culminates your team communications plan. This is the chance for the team parent to shine. You want to provide some specific guidelines, get out of the way, then verify everything is in place prior to the event. After hosting over a dozen of these, here’s what I learned:
- Noise – Don’t go somewhere where it’s really loud or there a ton of distractions nearby. You want the players and parents to be able to hear and for the kids to not be distracted by things around them
- Food – Whatever’s simple e.g. pizza and soda for the players. Adults/siblings are welcome but need to pay for themselves
- Awards – I’ve always passed out custom certificates with the team name and their nicknames on them. I always like to pick some type of specific theme for the player and build recognition around that. See next section below
- Speech – Less is more. This is the time to recognize the efforts of individual players and volunteers (see below). General soccer comments and observations will just prolong the speech without much impact, even if you had a great season
Your speech is all about individual recognition. I like to go in the order but whatever works for you:
- Team parent – Thank them for their help for the year and especially for putting together this great party
- Parents – Thank the parents for getting the kids there on time and providing a positive environment. I like to have the players stand up and thank their parents and give them a hug for letting them play this great game
- Referees – Make a big deal about these fine folks. Without them you wouldn’t be playing. NOTE – Make a special call out for any youth refs. I like to get them a little something like a $5 gift card for ice cream
- Team photographer
- Any other roles like banner parents, field setup, etc
- Assistant coach – A couple personal/funny anecdotes go a long way
Here’s the time to call them to the “stage” and present any trophies, certificates, or other awards you’ve come up with. Take the time to make this unique and special for them. You will have video cameras on you the whole time so you might as well make it a memorable performance.
I like to find one unique theme per player that I can build off of–it has the side benefits of preventing you from sounding redundant between players and simply looking at the award queues your memory about the player. The more players you have the tougher it is to keep everything straight!
Some examples of themes/awards I’ve given out:
- Defensive player of the year; offensive player of the year
- Rookie of the year – For new players to the game
- Dominator award – For amazing field presence
- Coaches choice – For the players that always helped you out in some way or were especially coachable
- No fear – For the player that would never shy away from a ball coming at them
- Swiss army – For the player that can play (or needed to play) many positions
- Unsung hero – For the player that may have been shy but would come through when you needed them
- Captains award – For the player that would be vocal on the field and lead the team
- Frosty award – For freezing the other team or stopping shots, great for goal keepers
- Magician – For making amazing key plays
- Sniper – For great finishers
- Skill awards – If you’re struggling for other awards, you can always highlight their best attribute like speed (lightning award), strong kick (cannon award), etc. These should be a last resort though, as ideally you want to reward them based on a skill they’ve learned, not just on physical ability
For the youngers you can go the extra mile and tie a little candy gift to each certificate/award. E.g. Gobstoppers for goal stoppers, Now and Laters for Stop You Now and Later (defenders), etc.
Attached is an example of one I did for my daughter one season.
Lastly mention to your team parent and assistant that if (don’t assume) there was a coach gift/presentation it should follow the player awards. It puts a nice bookend on the evening and you can conclude with any closing remarks.