Tips for improving your fantasy league: Recognizing your champion

Fantasy sports are in our DNA at Yahoo, and we know it’s your passion, too. We’re always looking for ways to make our award-winning experience even better and in this case we’re getting help from one of you, our amazing legion of fantasy players, to make leagues even better.

Commissioner’s Corner is a multi-part series meant to provide tips to keep your league engaged all season long and tap even more into the fun that comes with playing fantasy. The author, Justin C. Cliburn, has been the dedicated commissioner of his Yahoo Fantasy Football league the OIL since 2006. While it’s a unique league, each and every one of your leagues is special and brings friends, families and co-workers closer together.

Part 4: Recognizing your league champ

Winning a fantasy championship is hard. It takes research in the preseason, scores of mock drafts, staying active on the waiver wire, and weeks of blood, sweat, and tears. It’s a fight, and your job as commissioner is to make that fight worthwhile.

In a perfect world, pride would be enough to motivate managers to put in the work required for a fantasy championship. For many leagues, the chance to win money in a Pro or Cash League is a motivating factor. But beyond the opportunity to take home hard earned cash, there’s a reason the pros award trophies: you can’t show off pride. What athletes (both real and fantasy) crave is tangible proof of their dominance, and league prizes serve that function.

You have multiple options for league prizes, but they boil down to two categories: communal and individual. Communal prizes are held in trust by the league champion, who keeps possession of it until a new champion is crowned. Individual prizes are awarded permanently to each new champion. You must gauge what is more important to your league and make it happen.

The OIL awards a traveling trophy to each conference champion and another to the overall league champion.

A “traveling” trophy is passed down from one champion to the next, with each champion’s name engraved permanently on its side. Think of it like the Stanley Cup.

Due to the popularity of the FX show The League, many leagues refer to their trophy as The Shiva. The OIL trophies are named after men we served with, but that’s a unique situation.

There are tons of options online for traveling trophies at reasonable prices, including on Yahoo Fantasy Shop. When the OIL first purchased the Lawson Memorial Trophy, it cost the 14 members about $10/each. But you don’t necessarily need to buy a new trophy. Some leagues find old trophies at thrift stores, shine them up, add engraving plates, and call it a day. The Wally League found a walrus sculpture at a thrift store, attached to a plaque, and added their engraving plates. The Mortal Kombat League takes it one step further, competing for The Gronk, which they created with two pet urns and a plastic Gronk toy spray-painted gold.

The Mortal Kombat League competes for The Gronk, which they created with two pet urns and a plastic Gronk toy spray-painted gold. (Photo courtesy of The Mortal Kombat League)

Whatever you use, my advice would be to ensure you’re getting a solid piece that will withstand years of being shipped from one champion to another. Also, do the right thing and engrave all previous champions’ names on the trophy, even if the trophy wasn’t awarded when they won the league.

If your members are bigger fans of the WWE than they are the NHL, a Stanley Cup-style trophy may not be for you. Luckily, there are companies selling wrestling-style championship belts. That is what the Ron Dynasty League competes for, and it looks amazing.

If individual prizes is what your league wants, there are options, beginning with Lombardi-style trophies the champions will keep forever. Championship rings are a nice touch, too.

Admittedly, jewelry isn’t for everyone. The D-League, a 48-team relegation league made up of college fraternity brothers, awards custom jerseys for its champions to keep. The OIL awards both jerseys and mini-helmets to its champions.

Aside from jerseys and helmets, all of the above can be purchased through the Yahoo Fantasy Shop partnership with Fantasy Jocks. And there are multiple vendors online who produce custom jerseys and helmets, so be sure to shop around.

Whether you crown your champion with an individual or permanent prize, a trophy or a ring, a helmet or a jersey, awarding any of the above will certainly make the fight for first worthwhile.

Helpful hint: You can use the message board of your Yahoo Fantasy league to discuss and decide on a prize for the league champion (or even a penalty for the last-place finisher). Once you have made your choices, use your “Commissioner’s Note” to help remind everyone what they’re playing for all season long. You can access the note under the Commissioner’s Tools tab.

Up Next: In Part V of the series, we’ll dive into setting the schedule. 

More tips for improving your fantasy league:

Starting with the basics
Why bylaws matter
Building franchises

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