High school football dominates the fall sports scene from rural towns to big cities across America. These new traditions will help your favorite school build team unity and support the success of student athletes!
1. New Takes on Team T-Shirts
An aerial view of the 107,000 seat UM “Big House” stadium.
Team t-shirts are old-school, but there are some cool new themes to show your love for your local, favorite team.
For example, the University of Michigan football team has given every player t-shirts that read “Team 134” in honor of this being the 134th year of football played at that revered football powerhouse, and with changing personnel from year to year, no two teams have ever been the same.
Shirts like that, or one that reads “2013 Decatur Bulldogs Team Pride” instead of saying something generic like “Property of De La Salle Football,” give each team a completely unique identity that builds unity while also tying into the tradition the school has developed.
2. Choose Your Own Handsome Dan
In 1892, a Yale University student bought a bulldog from a local blacksmith and renamed the rugged-looking beast Handsome Dan. It became the Yale Bulldog’s team mascot to keep pace with chief rival Princeton’s live tiger. The square-jawed canine mascot has stood the test of time! The current Handsome Dan is number 17 replacing number 16, a dog with the home name of Mugsy that remains in good health while enjoying retirement.
Think of the Colorado buffalo, the USC Trojan horse, the Notre Dame Leprechaun, Bevo the Texas longhorn, the Arkansas hog, the LSU tiger or Reveille the Texas A&M collie. What live mascot can you come up with for your school? Keep in mind it doesn’t have to coincide with the team’s name. After all, the Texas A&M nickname is Aggies, not Collies, and Notre Dame goes by Fighting Irish, not Little Green Men in Pointy Shoes!
3. Honor Patches on Jerseys
Student athlete: Student first. Athlete second. Stress the importance of academics by awarding jersey patches to players who are achieving B-level or better grades.
4. Weekly Halftime Academic Honorees
Leading edge high schools are putting academics in their proper place by recognizing high achievers during halftime of home games. Players on the Honor Roll are introduced at halftime and given certificates, plaques or other commemorative awards. Plenty of high schools are also awarding academic excellence at end-of-the-year banquets.
5. Coupons to Local Business for Attending the Study Hall
Football practice, watching tape of upcoming opponents and spending time in the weight room take up a good chunk of the student athletes’ week. Schools that put academics first offer study hall periods after practice or on weekends to provide tutoring and support so student athletes can meet their academic goals. Many coaches make attending these sessions a mandatory part of being on the team. Regardless of whether or not it’s mandatory, consider rewarding players for participating.
Coupons to local ice cream or pizza shops, sporting goods stores and movie theaters can be given as inducements to remain faithful to the study hall periods.
NOTE: Check with your athletic director about league and/or state rules about these types of gifts for student athletes. Some leagues and states may view them as inappropriate benefits, as misguided as such rules may be! It’s not like their signing autographs for pay, right?
6. Personalized Ornaments to Build Team Spirit
You’re the head football coach, and it’s the end of your last practice before the season’s
This athletically designed football ornament is available in several different “looks” to reflect all the players on your team.
first game. You handed out the “Team 72” t-shirts at the summer’s first two-a-day and now you want to galvanize team spirit with the season’s first kickoff a day away.
One great way to unify your team is by handing out Christmas ornaments personalized with each player’s name and number. Dozens of football ornament are offered. Many feature figures of players, and most series include Caucasian and African American versions. While technically Christmas ornaments, many look like charms that are often displayed in lockers or attached to book bags.
7. Players Becoming Mentors
It’s been said that the reward for success is the opportunity to do more. Many high school coaches are taking this to heart, giving student athletes who are maintaining good grades the chance to tutor younger student athletes in subjects such as reading, writing, science and math. The overwhelming majority of players in these programs state that their involvement is very rewarding and has spurred them on to greater effort and success in their own academic pursuits.
We hope these suggestions will help you honor student athletes this season and beyond. Have a great year on and off the field!