March Madness is one of the most popular sporting events in America and may be one of the best opportunities to bond with your family through sports.
Sixty eight of the best college basketball teams participate in do-or-die battles spanning three weeks and showcasing some of the most exhilarating competition in all of sports. But, you don’t have to be a basketball fan to use the tournament for some great family fun. March Madness can teach kids some important lessons about hard work, reaching for the stars, heartbreak and perseverance! And if you really want to get creative… a little geography, math and DIY crafts can be added in too!
For this first post, let’s start with the most important thing about March Madness, THE BRACKETS! Also known as Bracketology, or the process of predicting the winner of March Madness. Each year, Presidents, pundits, professional gamblers, and everyone in-between try to predict who will be the last team standing when the final whistle blows. One year, Warren Buffet offered a billion dollars for anyone who could get a perfect score – the odds of which happen to be one in 9.2 quadrillion. No one did. And the truth is, it’s VERY hard to predict much of what happens in March Madness, which is what makes it so much fun for everyone. Your six year-old has as much of a chance to win your family pool as the experts on ESPN.
Here’s a little help to get you started.
- The first thing you will need is a bracket. Feel free to use ours or find your own on-line. MARCH MADNESS 2016 BRACKET
- Keep the buy-in super cheap, either $1 or $5 max. Have the kids collect and count the money.
- Filling in your bracket. Anyone younger than 8 will probably need some help. If the older kids are really interested, they can visit a website like CBS Sports for tournament predictions. If they are elementary age, then one fun way to go about selecting is to do what I did one year and just pick the college they’d rather attend (I actually won the entire pool that year). Or if a parent wants to help them with the mascots, they can have fun picking which mascot they prefer or even which color they like best. Once you make your first round choices, you keep writing your winners on the next round bracket lines until there is only one team remaining – this will be the team that you feel will win it all.
- Designate a “Pool Keeper”. Have one person, typically a parent or an older child, be the keeper of the pools and update the sheets. Or set aside time each night to go through the scores together either online, in a newspaper, or by watching a highlight show like Sportscenter.
- Game time. Watch as many games together as possible or at the very least watch the highlight shows if you are tight on time.
- To keep their attention during the games, connect game action to fun things for them to do. For example, every time someone misses a three-pointer, the kids do three push-ups, or a missed free throw garners five jumping jacks.
- To score your pools, we suggest keeping it simple so the kids can do it themselves. Typically each round gets weighted with more points. But for the younger ones, it will be easier if you score 1 point for every victory and then tally up all the points at the end. Maybe you want to weight the final four, making choosing a team correct in this bracket worth 4 points and the championship team picked correctly could be 6 or 8. This it totally up to you and the age of your children should dictate.
- The payout. We recommend having a first place and a last place winner. I like to do it 50/50 so the kids who didn’t do well early on stay invested in the tournament.
- Most importantly, have fun. It will give your entire family a bonding experience and something to get excited about together!