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Beyond the Gift Card: Creative Coach Gifts

It's Official Coach CardWith the fall sports season wrapping up, there’s a certain amount of relief, but you know you will miss the camaraderie of your teammates and the fun of perfecting new skills.  It’s time, however, to reflect on the last few months and that includes the coach’s contribution to your success.

The fact is, coaches work hard all season to inspire, motivate and help players.  They teach new techniques and help athletes perfect their games on a myriad of levels. In addition to the commitment of a season, your coach(es) may have led your team to the All-Stars or a league title. It takes hours upon hours  each week/month  and when the holidays or another special occasion roll around, it makes sense to want to buy your coach a thank you gift.  Given how hard coaches work, there are many heartfelt gift options which will be meaningful.

Lots of coaches say “I don’t expect anything, I do it for the kids,” but who doesn’t love a little something extra?  If you think your coach is the best, try to think of new and unique ways to thank him or her. A gift doesn’t have to cost a lot or be fancy, as it usually is the personal touch that matters.  Right about now, somebody on your team is probably taking up a collection  so read on for some ideas.

Beyond the Gift Card

Gift cards, a holiday staple,  are not all bad.   But if your coach is a guy, it’s safe to say that he likes a trip to the mall as much as he likes “Twilight”. If you must buy a gift card for a male coach, have it be from a store that sells electronics, video games or sporting goods.  Or if you opt for a food/drink gift,  a steakhouse card is much nicer than a fast-food card (and will probably also be appreciated by the coach’s significant other (who usually sacrifices one-on-one time during the season).  Male or female, what about a gift card to the spa? Who wouldn’t want a nice long massage after spending three or four months on the job? What coaches do not want is another Starbucks gift card. Nothing says thoughtless gift-giving like a Starbucks card.

You can always go traditional with some sort of plaque or trophy. These have long been popular choices for coaches and customization helps to make them  even more personal.  But while these items are appreciated, they are not terribly creative.  More than likely, your coach has different teams every year and ends up with a basement full of trophies and plaques. Surely Coach loves your team best of so try to go above and beyond when it comes to choosing a meaningful gift.

Creative Coach Gifts

  1. Registration to a coaches clinic | Coaches clinics are to coaches what soccer or softball camps are to athletes…opportunities to learn from the best, pick up some tips, and improve skills. Check to see if there are any clinics near you that your coach might be interested in attending, especially ones taught by well-regarded coaches or professional athletes.
  2. Framed Photos. Similar to the plaque and trophy, every coach gets a team picture, and often it seems so – well – not enough. If you want to get more creative and really personalize the picture,  leave room at the bottom for all of the team members to sign their names (or use a white matte for the signatures).   And if it’s truly a special photo, make sure to buy a nice frame for it. A framed version of the photo can be a treasured keepsake while an unframed one will end up in a stack of papers on the desk.  If you’d like to take the team picture a step further, you can have it made into a wall plaque with the team roster engraved underneath it. This  is more expensive than a simple framed photo, but if your coach is retiring, or your team is moving up into another division to be coached by someone else, it makes for a more formal  thank you. Remember that if your coach has a number of teams or has coached multiple seasons there’s a good chance that he/she won’t be lining their walls with framed photos of other people’s kids.
  3. Album, Scrapbook or Shadow Box – Albums  documenting the season—such as the ones you can make using iPhoto or,  are popular coach gifts.   Another gift that a coach may enjoy is a scrapbook or memory box filled with pictures and newspaper clippings highlighting the season.  A digital scrapbook – like a DVD of video highlights set to music – is also fun. Sites like are great for making a team montage.
  4. Personalized Home or Office Gifts. Print on demand sites like Zazzle or Cafepress feature customized, one-of-a-kind  products ranging from messenger bags and mouse pads to calendars,  clocks and coffee mugs.  Stay away from generic sayings like “#1 Coach” or “World’s Best Coach” and try to be more personal by adding the team name and year, along with details like the season record.  There are also lots of sites that sell personalized coach gifts like monogrammed whistles or ice chests which may be appreciated if they’re not duplicates.
  5. Tote or Duffle Bag – Along the same lines as above, one of the best ideas we’ve seen is a one-of-a-kind bag made from team jerseys, t-shirts, race bibs, heat sheets, etc. Mile 22 and Races R My Bag sell to the running and tri community but they can take any memorabilia and turn it into a tote bag, backpack, messenger bag, etc.  Plan ahead and purchase commemorative T-shirts from some of the major tournaments of the season and combine them for a memorable tote.
  6. Tickets. A pair of tickets to a game, concert, comedy show—whatever the coach likes –  make a great gift. For example, if he or she coaches your basketball team, get tickets to a home game of your nearest professional basketball team. Include a gift certificate for food at the venue if possible. If professional sports tickets are too pricey, tickets to college sports events or minor league sports games are often much less expensive and just as much fun.
  7. Gift Basket A great  team gift to a coach is a basket filled with different items that the coach can use.  Enclose the gifts in a useful container, such as a large plastic tub the coach can use to hold water bottles or playbooks. A swim coach, for example,  might like a basket filled with towels, whistles, first aid equipment, goggles and any other toolsl they frequently use during practice and at swim meets. For entertainment, throw in some DVDs of favorite sports movies along with some microwave popcorn.
  8. Sports ties (Guys). Choose tasteful ties with either a logo or a sports-themed pattern. These are great for both the coach who seldom wears a tie but wants one with personality and for the coach who wears ties on the bench.  This gift, however, is a one-timer as few guys really needs more than one sports tie.
  9. Jewelry  (Gals). Many female coaches like  jewelry—something that generates compliments so they can brag, “I got this from my team.” Check Etsy or local vendors for ideas.  Engraved jewelry can make that gift even more special.
  10. Memorabilia or Collectibles Many coaches follow other professional or NCAA teams. A nice way to show a coach you’ve paid attention to their interests is to give them memorabilia from their favorite team such as a NBA Draft Hat . Some coaches treasure a hoodie or jacket that commemorates a memorable tournament so if you think about it early enough in the season, you can pick up a commemorative garment from an event. Collectibles are also thoughtful gifts.  A football coach might appreciate a collectible, such as an  Autographed Eli Manning  Super Bowl Photograph.
  11. Signed Ball/Bat/Oar   Everyone knows that the real MVP is the coach. So when you’re looking for gifts, a customized piece of equipment may be a winning choice. All the team members can sign their name with a Sharpie. You can also engrave the coach’s name as well as a message such as “Thank you, Coach. You taught us how to be tough.”


  •  Just because you can buy something online for 70% off its retail price doesn’t mean you should.  Be sure the gift is something your coach will actually enjoy and appreciate (this applies to all the gifts you buy).
  • See if  purchases can be made through your school’s Scrip program so that the school gets a percentage of the purchase donated back.
  • The very best gift is to show APPRECIATION. Whatever you decide to get for your coach,  write a personal message about what you learned during the season. Coaches all say that means more than any plaque or gift card as it forces each player to think about the time  devoted and what s/he had to offer.
  • “It’s Official – You’re a Gold Medal Coach” is the perfect thank-you card to include with your gift!

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