Seniors Night: mentorship, retention and a whole lotta fun
Last Friday night high school basketball families gathered at the Richmond Olympic Oval for Seniors’ Night. This is a tradition I found out about last year when my older daughter’s volleyball team played their last home game of the regular season. Her and her grade 12 teammates had been together for 5 amazing years along with their coach Leo Cheung. It was such an emotional time. I had spent literally hundreds of hours driving her and her teammates to games and cheering them on all the while watching them grow up.
So, the event at the Oval on Friday was my second seniors’ night. This time, it was for the graduating players on my younger daughter’s basketball team. Being in grade ten, she still has a few years on the team but even so, the night was every bit as heartwarming. The five graduating players were announced on a microphone, their names ringing out across the court. They ran out past their teammates as if they were in the NBA, slapping hands, fist pumping and bumping shoulders. They hit the court on a high. The ten kids on the bench were just as high, as were the parents in the stands. I couldn’t help but think of the bigger picture. It was more than a lovely tradition. Seniors’ Night provides teams like my daughter’s an opportunity to do three things: provide mentorship, deepen relationships and increase retention.
The younger athletes on the team prepared for the night by spending lunch hours painting posters for each of the graduating players. They prepared speeches, delivered after the game, over the same microphone, paying tribute to and thanking each senior for her mentorship. They cheered extra loudly from the bench as each basket was sunk. Through all of this, their relationships with each other truly deepened. They came together as a team to thank each other. They publicly told the senior players and their families that the years they’ve put into the sport have been important. The younger players spent time together with a shared goal of creating a special memory for their mentors. Sharing moments as a team at this level creates the foundation for managing conflict if it comes up in the future. The girls were closer at the end of the night. No question.
The stands didn’t only hold parents and grandparents. Kids from junior school teams were also there to watch. I chatted with them at half time. Through their giggles and selfies, they told me they were excited to be part of the event. I couldn’t help but think they must be looking forward to the day when they are introduced standing with their best friends, over a loudspeaker in a beautiful gym after five years of hard work and commitment. An event like this is sure to motivate these kids to stay involved. Listening to Michelle Obama on my audiobook on my way home, I heard her wisdom:
“Kids will invest more when they feel they are being invested in.”
Isn’t that the truth?
I look forward to my own daughter’s Seniors’ Night. High school sports have been a huge part of her life, just like her older sister—and, by extension, the whole family. I look forward to witnessing the culmination of the mentorship that she has already started providing the younger players on the team and to the celebration of the sisterhood that has been created through events like this.