Top 10 Icebreaker Tips
After teams form each year, hold an “icebreaker” party as soon as possible. Unlike parent/coach meetings and practices, it gives coaches and families an unstructured opportunity to make connections—to figure out who’s married to who, which kid belongs to which parents and who all those siblings are. Attend or host enough icebreakers and you’ll quickly figure out what works and what doesn’t. A few tips:
- Timing: Before or after practice is easiest to plan because all the players and at least half the parents are already there. (Although right after practice is only practical for non-smelly Mites and practice facilities with showers.)
- Name Tags: Give everyone a name tag with their name, the name of the player they’re related to, and the player’s number.
- Drinks: Fewer drink choices mean fewer leftovers and hassles. Two-liter bottles of lemonade are inexpensive—and caffeine free! BYOB adult beverages.
- Food: For a house party, you can be creative with themed potlucks—brunch, taco bar, chili contest. But if you’re working with a facility such as a rec center or ice rink, stick with finger foods like pizza or sub sandwiches. The fewer dishes the better.
- Dessert: Stack Ding Dongs on foil inside a mini-hockey net and serve them with a clean mini stick. They look just like pucks (but they crumble like Ding Dongs—keep off the carpet).
- Activities: The whole idea is to get to know each other, so don’t have the players scrimmage or play a parent/child game. If hanging out and chatting is not enough, consider bowling since most of the group remains together. Or, try a hockey-themed “who am I?” game.
- Decorations & Favors: Get younger players in the spirit with balloons in team colors and party favors such as mini-hockey sticks, association pins, mini-Zambonis or foam pucks for mini hockey.
- Think Clearly: For a house party with rowdy kids, skip the spaghetti sauce, grape drinks and colored frosting—or you’ll be cleaning it out of carpets and rugs.
- Costs: The easiest way to pay for this type of party is out of the team account rather than try to collect money after the fact. Keep the costs down—you don’t want to deplete the account at the beginning of the season.
- Express Party: One of the easiest things to plan is a coffee-and-donut party scheduled around a morning practice. Pre-order pastries from the grocery store, grab some bananas and juice, and pick up coffee-to-go (which comes with cups, sugar, cream, etc.) from Starbucks or the like.
Things learned the hard way:
- Don't let boys near spray cans of whipped cream, cheese ... or really, spray cans of anything.
- Don't bother with fancy pizzas. Plain cheese is still vegetarian.
- Keep the caffeine away from the kids.
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Kelly Kordes Anton with the Grow the Game Initiative for this story; image from Wikipedia.
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