You can sense the change in them on every team. The season is underway. The uniforms were in on time. All the registration fees and paperwork are in. The team manager should be relaxed and enjoying their kids performances on the field. But they aren’t. They’re uptight. Testy. When the word ‘party’ is said somewhere on the sidelines they develop a tic. That’s right – they have one critical job left to do and that is plan the end of season party! (cue climactic musical score…)

I’ve only been coaching for 7 seasons now, so I’m still what many (including myself) would call inexperienced. However, I’ve still watched our team managers plan and stress over the end of season parties for all the teams I’m involved with and it got me thinking what other team managers and parents have done for their end of the season party.

Most teams in our league have basic requirements for the party. It has to have enough space to handle the team, siblings, and parents. A table for the trophies and cake is a plus and it can’t be too loud where the coach has trouble being heard. Some type of food (at least cake) is required. Here is a sampling of parties we’ve either had ourselves or known other teams to do:

  • Pizza Buffet – always popular with the kids, relatively inexpensive. But depending on the restaurant and night, not very conducive to handing out trophies and the like.
  • Meeting room at the local community center – what it lacks in decor and ambiance, it makes up for in utility. Ours has a small kitchen with a serving window (we serve drinks here), an ice-maker, and LONG counters to serve food from. Tiled floors make for an easy cleanup. We usually will do pizza or have a local restaurant cater it (BBQ, fried chicken, etc) Plus lots of long meeting tables for everyone to sit at. Overall these have been nice gatherings, with the only downside being the kids get pretty wired up on carbs and soda so by the end of the evening we’re retrieving soccer balls from the light fixtures.
  • Swimming Pool – A larger city nearby has a municipal pool which they cover with an inflatable roof for use in the winter time. You can rent it out on off-peak nights for a small amount and have a nice party. They have lifeguards, tables grouped together, etc. The parents can sit at the tables and the kids swim until award time. Food is usually pizza or party subs. Not the cheapest party to have given the added rental fee, but usually popular with the parents and kids.
  • Laser Tag – The kids love this. The parents, maybe not so much. But its all about the kids! We have a local laser tag business which has a few small party rooms. You can rent the room and in between awards and food (chips and cake), the kids play laser tag or video games. The parents, however, don’t have much to do except play video games as well while the kids shot lasers at each other. But that’s OK – they have an air hockey table which the Dad’s tend to use all afternoon. The only downside really is the expense (a little bit more than your average party, though often offset by not having it at dinner time and thus not needing a meal) and the rooms which are small. But other places may have bigger rooms. Considering the rooms are only used to hand out awards and eat a piece of cake – this isn’t a huge deal. And the kids LOVE it.
  • Local Park – This year we’re having our party at a local lake’s recreation area. A shelter, playground, etc. should be all that is needed to have a nice party if the weather holds. We’ll have party subs for food. The combination of the lack of any sizable use fee and inexpensive party subs from Wal-Mart (yes Wal-Mart) makes this one of the more inexpensive parties we’ve had.
  • No Party – We’ve never done this, but some teams do. Just can imagine ending a season without one.
  • Ice Skating – We have a local ice rink and some teams have gone there to ice skate and have their party in special party rooms at the complex.
  • Bowling – Our local YMCA has a mini-bowling alley that the kids love to play at. Small balls and pins make it fun for the kids and they have a small party area to do cake and awards.
  • The Zoo – I’ve heard of a team that went to the local state zoo for the day and had their party as part of that over lunch.

That’s not exactly an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. I’m curious what other types of parties you all have had for your teams. What worked? What didn’t? What was the basis for a story you’ll tell your grand kids?