How to put on an end of the year award ceremony

As you are wrapping up here are some ideas to think about.

We always meet with my seniors and buy them pizza. There is a form that they fill out rating the season and offering ideas of things the coaches should consider changing.

This is also their last chance to tell me if they want to play college. Although we have already put a plan in place their Junior year, some have a change of heart and decide at the last minute that they would like to play at the next level. We followup with these players, along with their parents and give them an honest evaluation of where they should focus…especially if they haven’t met clearinghouse requirements. We might have to tell them that this late in the game, Jr College is their only option.

We also give every senior a letter of reference at this meeting to use for college and job applications.

We also explain that they have to change their schedules and drop zero period weight training to make room for freshman.

The senior questionare and “so you want to play college” checklist are available in my “Worst to First: Building a Program” book.


We quit doing food years ago…we now do our ceremony in the theater so that our highlight video plays on the big screen. It is also really cool to call players up on the stage like the ESPY awards.

We make sure every teacher/admin/alumni/ local paper is invited.

We put all of our remaining inventory (shirts/hats/stickers etc) out in the lobby and sell them at ½ price. We also put out old jerseys for sale.

Our apparel order form is listed in the “Worst to First” book.

Our team photographer has thousands of pictures for sale and we get 20% of all sales. This partnership gives the photographer exclusive rights on sideline, locker room, and at practice. He also sells the pictures all year online and at all home games.

The coaches stand in the lobby and greet everyone at the door while a short highlight DVD plays as people are seating themselves. We try very hard to direct them to our booster table which has a ton of information about how parents can help the program. I also mention how they can help during the ceremony….remember, not everyone wants to be in charge or be an officer, so have avenues that people can just be “worker bees” or simply make donations.

There is an entire chapter in the “Worst to First” book that talks about parent involvement, including complete job descriptions.

When the ceremony starts, the audience has a program so they can follow and there is a power point that helps keep everyone focused.

It is very important that our lower level programs attend the entire ceremony so can see all the cool stuff that we give out to varsity. That means that our lower level coaches have to move very quickly with their awards and we give them a time frame to stay within. If they feel strongly about doing something separate, then we pay for a pizza party on a different date, but their main awards will be passed out at our program ceremony, not the pizza party.

It is important that every coach gets a turn with the mic. I want parents & admin to know that we have outstanding coaches. Additionally, nobody wants to hear the head coaches for the entire two hours.

Our position coaches give out the certificates and letters to their position players, but I have to limit them to 3 sentences per player so things moved quickly. If a player goes both ways, then those coaches decide who speaks about whom.

After participation awards, I take the mic and pass out senior helmets, all-league certificates, captain’s stars, and GPA awards.

We also let our Strength coach give out letterman patches to every player who had 95% attendance in weight room from January – November. No exceptions or excused absences because this is a special award.

We then split up the outstanding awards by the position coach who coached that position. We don’t believe in MVPs, so we give “outstanding” awards.

Editable certificates and a listing of every award is on the CD-Rom that comes with the “Worst to First” book.

The last player awards given out by me are saved for the very end. This is the “Spirit of the Panther” and the “Victory With Honor” awards. The Honor award goes to the most unselfish player who always puts the team ahead of himself. He also represents the program in an exemplary manner in the classroom and in the community. This is the young man who you hope your son ends up like.

The “Spirit of the Panther” goes to the outstanding Scout/Special Teams Player. This cannot be a player who was a starter on O or D. It is easy to choose because we also recognize an outstanding scout team player every week and this player gets to carry the flag out of the tunnel….so the player who got picked the most gets the plaque at the end of the year.

We buy “mini-helmets” for every senior and any senior who played all 4 years also gets a really nice wooden plaque with a mounted helmet on it. It is engraved “Four Years of Panther Brotherhood” and has a 5×7 picture of all the seniors.

We use our rejected helmets to mount on the plaques. We clean and paint them. The players take their game stickers off their game helmets and transfer them to these mounted helmets.

These plaques are a big hit….we always make extra for the outgoing booster president and they sell for $300 at the silent auction dinners. We also make sure admin & VIP teachers get mini-helmets.

Pictures of the helmet plaques are in the “Worst to First” book.

After all awards are done, we play a 45-minute highlight video (every player gets a DVD). Some people will choose to leave & watch the DVD at home…but most stay. While it plays, the coaches stand at the door thanking them for coming.

Our highlight DVD is not just football clips. It includes the weight room, team dinners, team camps, and rallies. We also give every teacher a copy so they can play in class. It is a great recruiter for next year.

REMEMBER: Players want to be part of something bigger than themselves. The awards ceremony needs to make them feel like that.

After the season our coaching staff take the wives out to a really nice dinner and our rule during dinner is to not talk about football strategy or next years lineup. We are allowed to lie about how good we were in HS and tell funny stories that happened during the season….but the message is that this dinner is for the wives, not the coaches. Either the boosters or myself pick up the tab.

The wives enjoyed our end-of-season dinner so much that we started doing them one Saturday a month all year long. Then in year 3, we included the boosters at our end of the year dinner.. We served alcohol, played games, and did gag gifts….It was alot of fun.

How do we pay for all of this? All our fundraisers and budgets are in the “Worst to First” book and on the editable CD-Rom that comes with it.

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