Three Ways to Watch More March Madness Without Ignoring the Kids

I can’t get enough March Madness.  Bring on the games!

In my no-kids-allowed, temporarily-single-again dream world, nothing stops me from lounging in my comfy arm-chair in front of my home’s largest television from noon to midnight this coming Thursday and Friday.

Nothing can shift my focus from college basketball – not soccer practices, not diapers, and certainly not “my brother hit me” fight break-ups.  Nope, it is just college basketball and I.

My family, however, is less focused.  I’m raising sports fans, sure, but my wife and kids have a more appropriate balance.

Alas, there is still hope for my dream world – even with five kids and a non-sports nut wife.  I’ve discovered the secret recipe for watching more basketball during March Madness – and my strategy might be counter-intuitive.

I plan to lure my wife and kids into similar fandom by preying on their collective sense of competition.

To bring them in, I plan to utilize one of three household contests to maximize my March Madness screen time.

Pre-Step: Basic Ground Rules

No matter which contest you choose from the three below, the basic rules are the same:

  • All picks must be in before any game is played for the each round.  Family Tip: set aside time to make selections together.
  • There is a winner declared after each round of the N.C.A.A. tournament determined by the most number of games picked correctly.  The “play-in” round and the championship game are excluded.  Family Tip: have an older child be the official scorekeeper.
  • No money is required – the only “currency” allowed is folded slips of paper that will be described below.  Family Tip: assign a younger sibling to be the official envelope consulate.
  • Each round of the tournament is a new competition, no one is ever out of contention as long as they continue to make picks.  Family Tip: have your kids make a “scoreboard” with poster board. 

Step 1: Getting Started

The first step in playing one of the three contests is having each participant write down one indoor chore and one outdoor chore each.  For example, I would scribe raking leaves and vacuuming.  Those chores are written down on slips of paper and placed into an envelope labeled “Chores”.

Next, all participants must come together to list ten family activities they enjoy.  The ten choices will be written down and placed in another envelope labeled “Grand Prize”.  Examples of these activities for my family would be: bowling, fishing, out to dinner, a trip to the park or watching the sunset.

There are five rounds of games to pick during the N.C.A.A. tournament – meaning there will be five winners along the way.

When the both envelopes are stuffed, tuck them away and collectively decide which competition you’d like to do from the three below:

(1) Everyone for themselves

The first contest pits all members of the family against each other.  The winner of the round is determined by the total number of games selected correctly by a participant.

The winner of each round is awarded three privileges:

(a) The winner blindly draws a slip of paper from the “Chores” envelope and selects another participant to carry out the designated chore.  The assigned task must be completed by the start of the next round or the chore-avoiding competitor, by default, will be forced to select an additional chore during the following round.

(b) The winner of each round chooses one of the ten family activities from the “Grand Prize” envelope.  The activity slip picked is set aside and is voting upon at the end of the fifth round of games (i.e.: the Final Four).  After five slips are drawn, they will provide the voting options for the winners.

(c) Each of the five winners receive a 20% voting share for selecting the “Grand Prize” after the Final Four (round 5).

The Grand Prize family activity will be carried out the Friday after the national title game and attended by each participant.

(2) Pick-A-Parent

Game #2 involves each participating child choosing to support their dad or mom.  All children must hitch their wagon to a parent before the start of Thursday’s games and cannot change their selected side throughout.

Before each round, all those supporting Dad (or Mom) will collectively submit their picks.  The parent’s team with the most games picked correctly, wins the round.

The victorious parent is awarded the privileges described in Game #1 above – except that the winning side draws (and hands out) as many “Chores” as participants on the losing team.

All chores must be carried out prior to the start of the following round.

(3) Team-Up (Brothers vs. Sisters, Parents vs. Kids, etc.)

The third game is exactly the same as Game #2 with the exception of allowing my children to team-up as they see fit – to create their own team.  When a team is established, the rules persist and all decisions require an agreement from each teammate.

No matter which contest is right for your family, each offers several family friendly outcomes:

  • Fun for all – with no basketball know-how or minimum age required
  • Empower decision-making – both independently or as a team working toward consensus
  • Encourage light-hearted competition
  • Having round by round winners will keep our kids interested over the long haul
  • Chores suddenly become more fun – and get done
  • The ultimate reward is an agreed upon, all-family activity

But, that’s not all.

For all sports nut dreamers, like me, we enjoy the grandest of “Grand Prizes” – watching endless basketball for the next three weeks with no dream world required.


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