Honoring Your Athletes from the Outstanding to the Average

Today’s post come to us from TheAthleticDirectors.com contributor Josh Gillespie. Josh is the AD at Old Suwanee Christian School in Buford, GA. You can read some more of his work by clicking here. You can also follow him on twitter. Josh is a specialist in developing culture and rebuilding athletic departments. Check out what he has to say about honoring athletes.

Who do I pick for that award?

How do I honor that senior that has elevated the entire sports program?

How do I keep all of my players encouraged without giving them all a trophy at the end?

One of the hardest decisions in coaching may not occur during the season, but rather after the season has ended.

Choosing awards for team parties and/or sports banquets is a sticky situation.

Here are a few helpful guidelines for honoring athletes that I have collected over the years.


Strive for Equality

It is very difficult to judge all sports equally. Some sports like basketball and soccer are very team oriented, on the other hand some sports like cross country and golf are individualized but lead to a team score.

I find it helpful to set the number of awards for all sports equally.

Although not all the awards have to have the same name (cross country may have a most outstanding runner while basketball may be called best offensive player) the number of awards given out to each team should be equal.


Set a General Standard

Many times small schools do not know how to honor exceptional athletes. When they get that truly outstanding athlete they use them as the bar on which other athletes most meet in order to get that school’s top athlete honor.

  • Student A had 1,252 point, 812 rebounds and 247 career assists
  • Student B had 1,248 points, 717 rebounds, and 351 career assists

Many athletic directors set the bar after Student A graduated at 1,250 points, 800 rebounds, and 200 career assist in order to qualify for the top honor in basketball leaving player B out of consideration for the top award.

Be sure to set a general standard from the start. If you don’t have one now; now is the time to make one. Talk to the varsity coaches of all your teams. Agree upon what it takes to do the following:

  • retire a player’s number
  • induct into school hall of fame
  • award scholarships

The worst thing to do is to make it up as you go along.


Simple Complements

One of the easiest way to avoid hurt feelings at your athletic awards program is to give complements to all your athletes throughout the season.

I can live for two months on a simple compliment.” – Mark Twain

This can be done many ways:

  • giving them the player of the game award on Maxpreps
  • honor a hardest working athlete award every week
  • allowing special privileges to outstanding achievement week.

I had a coach in high school who allowed the player of the game the week before in soccer to wear different color tape than everyone else around their shin guards at the next game.

Any little thing you can do to encourage your athletes will help keep spirits high.


Silly Awards that Enforce and Create Culture

One of our athletes favorite events of the year is the Mr. P. Awards Day. After our official awards night is over and before the end of the school year we have a silly award ceremony. We give awards such as:

  • the MULE (made us laugh everyday)
  • the much in the clutch
  • newcomer of the year
  • my game is money award.

This award ceremony is for all athletes in any sport, we have a fun time eating pizza and afterwards we go to a baseball game or something like that.

The point is to make sure that everyone feels a part of the Old Suwanee family. All of these things can help.

It’s a fine line that the athletic director has to toe between honoring those who truly deserve and also recognizing the contributions of the average athletes. Hopefully, in reading this article, you’ve thought of a few ways to honor all your athletes from the outstanding to the average.

Jeff is the athletic director at Victory Baptist Academy. He is also the founder and administrator of TheAthleticDirectors.com.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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