#FinalFour is a wrap and all the #StateTournaments have crowned champions. There is likely one more opportunity where that particular team can get together as a group for the final time.
#TeamBanquets are an opportunity for everyone involved in the program to reflect on the season. Some schools create a mini-awards ceremony on campus to celebrate all of the athletes from their respective teams. Other programs may keep it simple with dinner at a local restaurant in a private space to enjoy each other’s company. In any capacity, it is often a part of every coach’s calendar. With the help of a couple coaches sharing from their experiences we will cover some talking points about putting a bow on the end of the season. But what happens if the season didn’t go as planned? Yeah, we can talk about that too.
Long-time Head Coach Terry Battenberg contributed to the conversation with the general end-of-season banquet within his program. The help from parents, staff, and administration can mitigate the amount of stress involved to organize these events. Budgets will vary, but through fundraising or creativity things that can create a special banquet can come at the most inexpensive price-point (e.g. highlight films, decorative cupcakes, or photo collages).
From my time as a player to coaching the itinerary was often similar. My favorite banquets during my playing days often were the most casual environments; I think I have replicated that philosophy as a coach focusing on the food and room to hang out. Each banquet has been players-only (following a vote from captains) where we look to accomplish the following:
- We often rent out a room or a section of a restaurant/hotel room to let guys just hang out, relax, and get some food in them.
- We try to schedule it around the same time as another sporting event – NCAA Tournament, MLB game, or NBA Game – to possibly generate conversation, clump them in groups, or keep them off their phones.
- After the food has been served we have a couple traditions:
- Each senior gets a regulation-size basketball that is signed by every teammate to take home
- They are given their backpacks (sometimes apparel if new gear is in the budget for next year)
- Each senior has an opportunity to speak to the team – talk about their experience, how quick it goes by, or whatever comes to mind.
- Finally, the staff hands out spring packouts with workouts to leave it with a focus on next season starts now
Our school has since applied a banquet for all athletes following a particular season where all parents/family are invited to support the student-athletes with dessert or dinner buffet provided. The coaches briefly speak about the team and the season with a small awards ceremony to follow. The four awards are always the same:
- Most Improved
- Unsung Award
- Coaches Award
- Most Valuable Player
This has provided a good complement to what we offer as a team because it allows us to do something a little bit more personal with the players only while giving the parents the opportunity to see their kids recognized for their accomplishments and participation.
Sometimes things don’t always work out according to plan. This year is a prime example of circumstances being out of our control. While the season performance is attributed to what we could have controlled as players and staff, not every season meets program standards. The banquet following the year doesn’t get canceled simply because of underachieving. The objective remains the same, but there may be a little bit more effort to simply focus on the positives. Our past two seasons have not been acceptable to program standards; however, it does not change my appreciation and investment into my student-athletes who pushed themselves on a daily basis. Having things like routine and tradition can ease the tension a bit because everything can function as normal as possible. We haven’t had a year where everyone who was expected to come showed up and we made the most of our time together.
There are a ton of different ways to close the books on a season, but the objective seems to be universal: creating an atmosphere where everyone involved can be together again for one last time emphasizing a positive perspective on their development and experience.