March madness

Get the family involved for the most fun during March Madness. Photo: adobestock

There is so much to love about the month of March — St Patrick’s Day, the first day of spring, and daylight savings time, which means more daylight. For basketball fans, March means the March Madness, the branding for the NCAA Men’s Division I basketball tournament. I have always loved basketball — I played through high school and helped coach all my kids’ teams at the Presidio YMCA. I was fortunate enough in eighth grade to attend the West Coast Conference men’s tournament. Although we saw several exciting games, unfortunately it ended in tragedy. We were at the game where Loyola Marymount’s star player Hank Gathers collapsed on the court mid-game only to find out a few hours later he had died. The whole experience was so upsetting but what I will always remember is how that team came together after this tragedy of losing a teammate and made it to the Elite Eight. 

March Madness is full of hope and upset, which is what makes it fun and also very frustrating. Regardless of whether you love basketball, there are many ways to get the family involved and have some fun. Here are a few:


I’m old school so I still like to print out brackets, but you also now can do a family bracket challenge online. This year all picks must be made before March 21. It is easy to set up and doing it online makes it easy to keep track of everyone’s points. Points are given for each game won and the points increase in each round. We like to set a friendly wager to make it more fun and a little more interesting so everyone can put in $5 or pick the restaurant for a family dinner or winner gets out of doing dishes and garbage chores for a week. Choose whatever will be interesting and keep everyone engaged in your family. If someone doesn’t follow much basketball but still wants to participate, there’s always the “auto pick” option. 


If your children are younger and don’t know enough about specific teams or players, another fun way to play along is by creating a mascot bracket so you choose the team that will win each game based on the mascot. It is also a fun way to learn about all the different collegiate mascots. My daughter when she was younger always chose her favorite teams to win based on the which color uniform she liked better. It can also be fun to create a bingo card or print one out and put a chip down when different things in the game happen that match the bingo card. Do whatever it takes to keep it fun and interesting for all ages and interest levels. 


The reason March Madness has become so popular goes beyond the sport of basketball. Both the men’s and women’s tournament are full of life lessons. The upsets of high seeds getting out in the early rounds, cheering for the “Cinderella” team that was underrated and goes farther than anyone thought — that is what makes this tournament so fun — it rarely is all the number one seeds that make it to the Final Four. Getting to the tournament is about hard work, competition, being ready for a challenge and giving your all. These are all great life lessons exhibited in these games that make for great family conversations. It is also a wonderful time to talk about sportsmanship. Having attended a lot of sporting events at all levels, this is a value that seems to be withering away. You can ask your children, “who has it and who doesn’t.” You can also get them to identify actions they see that exhibit good sportsmanship and encourage them to try to implement those in their own sports or even just on the playground at recess. 

Brackets during March Madness have become a family tradition in our house. Even if you aren’t super into basketball or you don’t choose a lot of winning teams, I guarantee once you try this as a family you will want to do it again. This tournament has become one of the most watched college sporting events and part of its allure is that there are so many unexpected twists and turns. No one really knows how it will end up which is why it is so fun. Everyone in the family gets a fair shot at victory no matter how much you know about basketball. So as the pundits say, “enjoy the dance” and good luck. 

Liz Farrell is the mother of three children and the founder of TechTalks, a consulting group to help schools and families have productive conversations around social media and technology. Comments: [email protected].

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