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Need A Unique Coach Gift? Signed Mat Board Is A Homerun!

cover-thanks-coach-mat-board
We just wrapped up another wonderful Little League season. The coaches we had this year were literally an answer to my son’s prayers, so I wanted to make an especially nice thank you coach gift for the end-of-season party. I also wanted the coaches to know that they made an impact on all of the kids (not just mine). For me, that means creating something that is a mix of thoughtful words from the players plus a unique gift the coach can really appreciate.

I’ve seen a few coach gift mat boards online, but none had the professional look that I wanted. So, I combined my computer skills with crafty tools to make this “Thank You Coach” gift mat board that hit a home run with the coaches, parents and kids. The board got rave reviews at the party. The personalized gift cards that I added jacked these presents out of the park. Below, you’ll find instructions for making one of your own.

Ordering the Coach Gift Cards

Update: Just thought you should know that the coach gift card shown is actually the first personalized gift card I ever ordered, well before joining GiftCards.com as the company spokesperson.

To make the personalized gift cards, I chose an action photo of each coach’s son. (I had planned to use a team picture, but the GiftCards.com submission rules previously stated that licensed logos would be prohibited. Thankfully, the rules have softened a little–more on that later. Since I didn’t want to Photoshop 14 hats and jerseys, I opted for great individual images. In the end, I’m glad I did because seeing their sons’ pictures on the gift cards is what rocked the coaches the most. Check out the coach gift ideas for more ways to put pictures on gift cards.

Gathering Player Quotes

I interviewed the kids on the team and asked them to tell me what they learned from each coach this season. Then, I framed a photo of the team and added the quotes to the mat around the picture. The personal touch of asking the boys to share a memory is all you need to make a coach gift more unique. Put player quotes in a journal, write them on a notepad, or stuff them in a jar for coach to read later. I guarantee those precious comments will be a treasure that lasts longer than the gift card ever will.

In talking to the players, you may have to prompt them a little. Believe me, I got simple answers such as “he taught me to hit the ball.” To that answer, I probed further. What did he teach you? Did he tell you where to stand, how to hold your hands, what to look for in a pitch? When they really think about it, the answers are heartfelt. Finding that nugget is worth the search so hone your interview skills. Another lesson I learned is to talk to the kids separately. If they can hear each others’ answers, they will repeat or just find it hard to think for themselves. Plus, I like the player quotes to be a surprise to everyone–not just the coaches.

Making the Coach Gift Mat Board

Supplies

  • Frame. Make it easy on yourself and buy a frame that holds an 8×10 picture with an 11×14 mat board
  • Mat board. Stay with standard sizes so you can print the quotes on a standard sheet of paper.
  • Software. Microsoft Publisher or other software that allows you to control the layout. I’m sure you MAC users also have some good options. Microsoft Word would be my very last choice, because it’s difficult to maintain spacing in an application created purely for word processing.
  • Precision cutting tool. I used an X-ACTO knife with a new blade.
  • Glue stick

Step 1 – Print quotes on paper

coach-mat-board-gift-step-1Type the quotes into the software program you are using. I used Microsoft Publisher because it allows me to place the quotes where I want, without shifting around. For my size mat, I set up an 11×17 document so I could fit the entire mat board on the paper. I created a guide for myself at 14 inches then put an 8×10 rectangle shape in the middle of that space. This essentially set up a guide for me to use when typing the quotes.

I printed the finished product at an office supply store for about a dollar–making sure the technician did not select “shrink to fit” or any other setting that would change the sizing of my layout. It’s a good idea to take the mat board and frame with you so you can quickly hold the printed sheet up to see if all of the quotes fit.

Step 2 – Cut middle of quote paper

coach-mat-board-gift-step-2Since the mat board is raised and beveled, cutting the quote paper exactly is a challenge. You need to cut slightly bigger than 8×10, but I think it would difficult to measure and cut that area perfectly. So, I did it in two steps by first removing the 8×10 section out of the middle.

Using a glue stick to hold the picture in place, I centered the 8×10 picture on the 11×17 paper. Then, I gently and slowly cut the edge of the paper, around the picture. When you do this, be careful not to cut the actual photo or cut too deep into the quote paper itself. Take extra caution on the corners.

I should note that you can take a shortcut here and skip the beveled mat board. You could simply glue the 8×10 image onto your quote sheet and put it in a frame.

Step 3 – Place quote paper

coach-mat-board-gift-step-3Noting, again, that the mat board is beveled, the cut quote paper won’t fit perfectly. You’ll want to set it on the mat board as closely as possible. I chose to align the inside corners on the bottom left of the mat board. With the left side and bottom stretches perfectly aligned, I would only have to trim the top area and right side.

Glue the quote paper onto the mat board to hold it in place.

You might notice that I varied the print type slightly between the quotes. I alternated bold face and regular to give the frame some depth and to help separate the quotes from each boy.

Step 4 – Score quote paper

coach-mat-board-gift-step-4At first, I tried to trim the quote paper directly, but since the beveled edge is hidden under the paper, I found it difficult to cut blindly. So, I had to take this step of scoring the edge with my fingernail…eeks! I need a manicure.

The scored edge will act as a guide in the next step.

Step 5 – Trim quote paper

coach-mat-board-gift-step-5Slowly and gently trim away the excess quote paper from the mat board. I found I had better results when I took shallow cuts rather than pressing hard. Shallow cuts may have to be repeated, but deeper cuts may go off track and cut the mat board.

Like stepping into the batter’s box and waiting for a good pitch to hit, patience is the key to this step.

When the paper is trimmed back perfectly and you can see the beveled mat board edge, the frame looks like it was professionally printed. This step is worth doing…and it’s worth doing correctly.

Step 6 – Put it together

coach-mat-board-gift-step-6Now all you have to do is put the photo and the mat board into the frame.

Another twist on this coach gift mat board, that takes a lot less effort, is to have the kids simply write their answers on the matting. As an adult, however, I find it hard to know what to write when someone slaps a Sharpie in my hand. Also, by taking the time to interview the boys, you’ll get better responses.

I’m not saying this is simple. But it’s not super challenging either if you have the right software to make the quote paper and you are decent with an X-ACTO knife. Beyond that, it just takes a little time and patience. I made two of these coach gift mat boards and the second one took half the time of the first. After all the work these guys did for my boy, however, I was more than happy to go the distance.

Pinterest Thank You Coach

Find more coach gift ideas on our Thank You Coach Gift Ideas Pinterest board. Also, check out my post about how to make personalized gift cards even better. With a few tips, you’ll make a unique coach gift that is sure to impress even the most seasoned Little League manager.

Happy Gift Carding!

~Gift Card Girlfriend

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