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Planning Your Year-End Party

Everyone wants to attend the year–end celebration to blow off a little steam after the season, but no one wants to plan it. However, a little bit of early planning support from the rest of your organization can go a long way to holding a successful event. Here are four steps to keep you on track to have a successful year-end party.

1. Determine Your Budget

Working with the treasurer, determine how much money will be available for the event. Things to consider when putting your budget together are:

  • Food & Beverages
  • Venue Rental
  • Insurance
  • Awards, gifts, and swag bags

If you get creative, you can keep costs down by doing a potluck-style meal and creating handmade gifts and awards. However, don't skimp on your venue. A lot can be done with the outdoor spaces at a park on a shoestring budget. Lastly, if you need insurance, certainly don't skip that.

2. Choose the Date & Venue

Once you have a budget in mind, you can start looking at dates and venues. Since these two are so closely linked, it is best to consider them together. For most teams in the summer of 2021, an outdoor venue is likely the best choice, and what better location is there than a public park. 

Public parks provide a large space where families can gather yet still have space for the kids to be free and play. Many parks also have basic facilities like pavilions, barbecues, bathrooms, and other essential services. In addition, many have playground spaces to keep younger kids entertained. 

As you start determining what amenities the park should have, don't forget to consider the number of family members. Assume that each player will come with at least one and a half parent and one and half-siblings–not really, but for the math. If you have a team of 12 kids, expect around 40 people to show up at the party.

Once you think you have a park in mind, don't forget to check their rules around holding events. Some parks are first come, first serve. Some require free permits, and some have fees. Also, many have restrictions on the kinds of items you can bring to the park, such as beer and wine. Make sure you take care of this, so there are no surprises on the day of your event. 

One last tip, park spaces are limited and with people looking for outdoor spaces this year to use, start your search early to secure the best location.

3. Insurance & Safety

Definitely not the most glamorous part of the planning, but it is essential. No one wants an accident to happen, but if it does, being prepared is key. You should verify that your general liability insurance covers any incidents at the park to either your athletes, parents, family members or other park visitors. Don't assume that the park will have insurance to cover your members. 

Other safety concerns to consider include lighting if it's a night event, the proximity of parking, busy highways or intersections, and weather.

4. Create an Agenda

Now that you have the venue secured, the date selected, insurance in order, and permit in hand, you're ready for your event, right? Well, not quite. But now comes the fun part. What are you going to do at your year-end party? 

Here is a sample schedule to consider

Team welcome and 'chill' time

The beginning of your event is a perfect time for team managers or party coordinators to say hello to parents as they arrive, direct them to tables and point them to refreshments. This is also a great time for a volunteer to take the kids aside to play some games. Active games like a dress-up relay race, an obstacle course, or even a good old-fashion game of tag can help expend some pent-up energy. Once the kids settle down, you can consider sports trivia or something to get the group together. 

Take team photos

Once all the team members have arrived, don't forget to get a year-end photo that you can send out to all of the parents. 

Roll Out the Food

Whether you reserved a food truck, set up catering, or are running a potluck, food is a core component of your event. Make sure there is plenty to go around and something for everyone. Not everyone is a carnivore, so having a vegetarian option or two makes for an inclusive event. 

You may want to consider a special treat like ice cream bars or ice cream cake to finish up the meal. Finally, don't forget things like condiments, utensils, cups, and plates. Consider being Earth-friendly with your disposables. The few bucks you save by getting styrofoam cups or plastic forks don't do the Earth any good.

Season Video Recap

Once everyone has had a chance to get something to eat but hasn't quite finished, start your program. A great way to transition from food is a season recap video. Have a member parent member put together a highlights reel from the season. Make sure you include all of the kids, and don't forget the bloopers!

Hand out the Awards

Team managers, this is where you come in. Individual awards create a special moment for athletes, and don't forget these awards can range from serious to flat out silly. Every team has an MVP award, but does every team also have a "best dancer" in the outfield? Have fun with your awards.

Recognize your coaches

While you drop off your kids for practice or games, your coach has spent time putting together a practice plan, organizing equipment, and then leading a practice. So much time and effort go into being a coach; consider giving them a token of appreciation. Some ideas include restaurant gift cards to mementos, like signed balls or signed team pictures. You may want to consider having all of the kids put together a card with what their coach meant to them. Remember, you may not agree with their every decision, but they are there for the love of the game.

As a way to signal the end of the event, you could consider handing out swag bags at the end as a thank you to all the kids. A small token like a team t-shirt will help the kids remember the event well into the future.

5. Call in the Volunteers

While just one or two people can do much of the planning ahead of time, the day of the event and activities for the day require buy-in from the rest of the families. Make sure to ask for parents to sign up early. Don't forget to take advantage of their skill sets. Do you have a parent who is an accountant? Have them handle the budgeting for the event. A chef? Are they are your cook? A videographer or photographer? Ask if they can be in charge of the season video and team photo.

The end-of-year party is the time to celebrate a great season and to make everyone feel great about their contributions to the team. It may take a village, but your athletes will thank you with smiles and laughter.