Top 10 Gifts to Give a Coach: Beyond the Gift Card
But, as the hockey season wraps up, you know somebody’s going to start taking up a collection. And there’s no doubt that coaches deserve gifts. They volunteer five, 10, 20 hours a week or more for a really long season—plus, they deftly handle kid and parent issues while teaching your kids about sportsmanship and hockey. (Don’t thinks so? Whether and how much you should contribute to a gift for a coach you don’t like is a conversation for another day.)
I talked to coaches from Mite to Midget about what they really like. Once you get past the obligatory “I don’t expect anything, I do it for the kids,” you get to the meat of what they really like. Read on for ideas.
About That Gift Card
No, they’re not all bad. If you have one of those young coaches with no kid on the team, for example, he might really appreciate a gas card, a grocery store card or even just the cash. But if your coach is, say, a former NHL player, a gift card is a little silly. And some gift cards are more thoughtful than others. A steakhouse gift card is a little nicer than a fast-food card and few female coaches are going to hate a spa gift card. As it turns out, male coaches might be into spas as well. Doug Fessenden, a Bantam assistant coach, says, “Oh…a massage gift card to rub away the pains those little monsters—oops, I mean angels—caused us.”
Many coaches like gift cards to nice restaurants that are intended to thank both the coach and the spouse who has given up so much. (Choose a nice local spot and feed your local economy.) For coach-and-manager couples, common in the Mite world, a gift certificate for a one-night romantic getaway is not usually out of reach financially.
What do hockey coaches not want in a gift card: Starbucks. Nothing against the chain or coffee, but a Starbucks card is considered the ultimate in thoughtless gift-giving. (Eek, and I’ve given one before!)
Top 10 Gifts
Buy these gifts alone or in combination, depending on the number of coaches and the amount of your collection. Before you decide on a gift, arm yourself with size, dates and personal preferences garnered from a spouse or friend of the coach.
- Something personal. Whatever you get for the coaches, have your player write a personal message to the coach—and maybe draw a picture—about what he or she learned from the coach that year. Coaches all say that means more than any plaque or gift card as it forces each kid to think about the time the coach devoted and what the coach had to offer. Coaches also like things signed by the whole team, such as a team photo, a T-shirt to wear or a jersey to hang on the wall.
- Photo items and photo albums. A coffee mug or travel mug with a team picture is great for work—just remember that no adult is going to carry around a cup that says “World’s Best” or “No. 1” anything. Photo albums documenting the season—such as the ones you can make using iPhoto or www.snapfish.com and signed by the players are popular as well. “The best gifts are unique items, like when you get a team photo and each player signs it along with a brief note about what they liked best about the coach and/or the season,” says Paul Avant, a Bantam head coach. “Two years ago, one of the moms put together a photo album that had at least one picture of each player and coach and then had it bound into a nice book. That was really cool because it will last virtually forever.”
- Framed pictures. Give someone an unframed picture and you know where it is years from now? Unframed in a stack of papers on the desk. Give them a framed picture, and it’s on a bookshelf at work or on the wall.
- Logo items. A T-shirt, hoodie, jacket or hat from your hockey association. This works best for coaches of younger players who may not already own a hockey wardrobe. Or, look for clothing that is nice enough to wear even without the logo—a nice winter jacket, for example. Some coaches mentioned that they treasure a hoodie or jacket that commemorates a specific team or tournament.
- Skate/golf towels. A skate/golf towel embroidered with the coach name, team name and logo give coaches a frequent reminder of the kids.
- Coaching boards. Coaches say they love things that help them be a better coach. Try the Ultimate Playbook Dry Erase Portfolio, which combines a coaching board with a zippered portfolio so coaches can keep all their information in one place. You can personalize these so they don’t get lost.
- Tickets. Tickets to a baseball game, concert, comedy show—whatever the coach likes. Just don’t get enough tickets for the kids to tag along.
- Beeswax lotion bars. Mite coaches who are stuck tying skates all day like lotion bars that you rub into your calluses—preferably unscented and not-too-sticky. You can find these at artisan centers or order online (but then you can’t smell or touch).
- Hockey ties. Choose tasteful ties with either your association’s logo or a hockey-themed pattern. These are great for coaches who seldom wear ties but want one with personality and for coaches who wear ties on the bench. (But don’t kid yourself—an attorney is probably not going to wear one to work.) This gift is a one-timer as nobody needs more than one hockey tie.
- Jewelry. Many female coaches like Brighton, Silpada or artisan jewelry—something that generates compliments so they can brag, “I got this from my team.” A skate necklace? Not so much.
Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Kelly Kordes Anton for this article.
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