If you’re reading this, I don’t need to tell you that Senior Night is a big deal.
Traditionally the final home match of a volleyball season, Senior Night carries significance not only for your senior players, but for parents, the coaching staff, and for the rest of your program as well.
With volleyball being a fall sport in most areas in the US, this might also be on of the first times it really hits your players that they’re graduating and leaving high school life. Practically every senior night in my memory (either as a coach or as a player) involves tears.
Lots and lots of tears.
So what’s a coach to do to honor their seniors the right way? You want to make sure that they feel valued by the school and community, but let’s be real… we also have a budget to follow. Here are five ideas for you to consider if they are right for your program. Use them all, or combine them in a new way!
Senior Night Idea #1: Make Posters for Each Senior
Make this a team function after practice one day after you dismiss your seniors. Get out the poster board, consider doing printouts of your seniors and sticking their picture on the paper, and just go to town with paint or markers.
Go as crazy as you want at a store like Hobby Lobby or Joanne Fabrics and get glitter, feathers, pom-poms, you name it!
Get to the gym early on Senior Night and hang up posters in a prominent spot in your gym. You may get a preview of the waterworks about to ensue if you catch the moment the seniors spot your team’s artwork.
Tips: Markers usually do not work well or will run out quickly. Make sure to use specific “poster paper” markers. Markers are better last minute and do not require dry-time like paint does. Paint is probably preferred if you can keep your work area clean and have a place for the posters to dry.
Senior Night Idea #2: Give Each Senior 1-2 Minutes of Air Time
One of the biggest contributors to a weepy farewell is giving your seniors the chance to write a bio. Have a questionnaire for your players to fill out with basic questions (i.e., name, daughter of, where going to college (if decided and/or if playing), when she started playing volleyball, etc.) and then give them fun questions like, “What was your favorite volleyball memory while in high school?” “What advice do you have for the freshman?” “What do you love about this year’s team?”
Everyone will love their short time in the spotlight, and everyone gets to learn a little more about your seniors. Hearing your tough middle blocker tell her freshman sister that she’s going to do great things if she keeps up the hard work will be adorable and will be a fun memory for the family.
Tips: There’s a few ways you could do this. First, you could have your players type out their answers and send it to you (most likely their handwriting is awful, make them send it to you or type it up yourself afterwards!) and you’ll give it to your school’s announcer to read that night. Give it to them a day or two ahead of time so they have time to review and get the presentation right.
OR, if you have the right equipment, you could have your seniors read their own bios and record them doing so. This makes it even more personal, and nothing gets lost in the way it is read out loud.
Last tip, but definitely important: Check them first. High schoolers try to be sneaky and might share information which they THINK is coded and no one will understand, but really everyone will probably know what they’re trying to say and it’ll be embracing for everyone. If something seems like an inside joke, have it explained to you. You want to honor your seniors, not have them share information which might actually get them in trouble.
Senior Night Idea #3: Prepare a Slideshow
You can show this before the game if it’s short enough, or save it for after the game and have a small meeting/party once the match is over.
If you’ve been with a program for a while, you might be able to share pictures of your seniors as freshman or even middle school players!
Ask the parents to share baby pictures with you, or get pictures from when they first started playing volleyball.
You can either make the slideshow specifically about the seniors, about the team as a whole, or do a combination of both.
If you save this until the end, it’ll give your team time to reminisce about the season before it’s officially over. Unless of course, senior night IS your last match! You’ll still want to do an end of the season party later on, but you can give out information here and let your team know what to expect next.
Tips: If you’re going to do a party, make sure that you have some food/refreshments and a small speech prepared. Everyone will have an expectation that you’ll say something as the head coach, so be ready!
If you’re going to do a slideshow before the match, make sure it’s short. You could pair this with the bios and give your crowd some additional entertainment.
Senior Night Idea #4: Make T-Shirts
If you’re able to plan ahead, consider getting t-shirts made of your seniors! These will be a keepsake for your players for years to come. Get a group picture or have a student come up with a creative design that highlights all your seniors, and then get shirts made for the whole team! You can wear them as warm-ups on Senior Night, and you could also sell more to parents/fans.
Before the game starts, do a t-shirt toss and throw some out to the crowd too!
Tip: This will probably be a long process, so get this started asap if you’re interested! You could either go to a local shop or use online stores like customink.com.
Senior Night Idea #5: Give out Goody Bags
Give your seniors a bag of presents before the match! All this takes is a quick trip to the dollar store and you’re bound to find something that will make them laugh and that they’ll enjoy. When I was a senior, we received plastic crowns and feather boas from our coach, and we all have some funny pictures from posing with these on. A few of us also gave these to our moms and our moms were wearing them for a while too!
You could also throw in small meaningful things related to the season like a bag of twizzlers for the girl who was eating these before every practice, or a container of ketchup for your senior who used WAY too much every time you stopped for food on the way home.
Take some time yourself to come up with these funny gifts, or assign your team to coming up with them. Again… always check that an inside joke is actually funny. You don’t want a senior with hurt feelings on Senior Night.
Tip: Get bags in the right size and label each one! You don’t want a huge bag that’s only half full, and you don’t want Amanda taking Jessica’s bag home at the end of the night!
Bonus Tip: Don’t Forget Cards!
When the slideshow is over, feather boas are put away, and the posters have come down, the best way to give your senior something they can hold onto is to give them a small card with messages from the team.
Make sure the cards are appropriate (I feel like I’m over emphasizing this, but after coaching high school a number of years I know what these girls are capable of lol) and that everyone writes a little message. This will make it 10x more valuable and appreciated by your player.
A nice note from the coach is also something they’ll enjoy for years to come.