By: Casey Blades, High School Advocacy Committee Member

In my 10 years of coaching at the high school level, my team hasn’t always celebrated a winning season, but we always come together at the end of the year to celebrate the team’s successes. Even a losing season produces accomplishments!

Over the years, we have had banquets in restaurants, catered dinners in the school cafeteria, and even a pot-luck in the school gym. The important thing is to find a place to come together. Restaurants will often reserve a room without a deposit, and a pre-fixed menu can also bring down the cost. I personally make an effort to pay for the meals of my players and managers with fundraising profits. This rewards their hard work both on the field and on the fundraiser.

I enlist the help of my players’ parents to set up decorations. Simple balloons and plastic table cloths can go a long way! I have also re-used the outdoor vinyl senior banners as decorations and spruced up the podium with newly acquired letter jackets resting on chair backs.

When short on parent volunteers, I have asked a service organization at my school to provide the needed help. National Honor Society members have decorated tables, served food, and even cleaned up at the end!

I like to use the available technology at my school and rent a projector and screen from the school library. I advertise on the big screen all of the successes of the season. I have also recruited a tech-savvy player and my assistant coach to compile a video slideshow of pictures and game film highlights.

For my team, one of the highlights is the presentation of certificates and awards. In addition to the usual soccer awards (MVP, Most-Improved, etc.), I make sure to recognize students who maintained good grades during the season. I also have the team vote on funny awards, such as Best Laugh or even Best Burp. This shows that my program is more than a team that competes — it’s a family that loves each other.

Lastly, I recognize my seniors. I clandestinely ask the seniors’ parents for their children’s baby photos and make a quick slideshow. I personally love to scrapbook, so I require every player to make one scrapbook page for each of the graduating seniors. I also email the teachers the seniors have had over the previous four years and ask them to write a quick note to each graduate. I compile the pages and notes into a scrapbook that my seniors will hopefully cherish forever (I still have mine!). Not a crafty person? Handwritten notes on index cards and slid into an inexpensive photo album will work, too.

Your kids have earned this night to celebrate. Plus, they just might surprise you with how nice they look all dressed up!

Casey Blades, MAE, is the Head Girls’ Soccer and Cross Country Coach at Cypress Lakes High School in Katy, Texas.