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Tips for Tournament Organizers

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This article provides tips for organizing and running martial arts tournaments. Many of the tips apply to sports tournaments in general though. If you merely want tips for attending a tournament, see the article Taekwondo Tournaments.

Many of the activities below have to be done in parallel. For example, you can't decide where to hold the tournament without also deciding when. Many of the activities also feed back on each other: a draft budget tells you how many sponsors you'll need, once you know who the sponsors are you can create a revised budget. So even though these activities are listed more-or-less chronologically, expect that you may have to revisit many of these tasks several times.

Preliminary Planning Edit

Before you do any detailed planning (like how many trophies to order, or what kind of hotdogs to sell at the snack stand), you're going to need to do some preliminary planning just to get your arms around the size of this thing: roughly how many schools do you think will even send students? How many entrants can you expect? For a regional tournament, anything over 5,000 entrants would typically be considered quite large; 1,000 entrants would probably be considered a small tournament.

Scoping the tournament Edit

Before you begin anything, you need to decide what kind of tournament you want to have.

  • Are you just going to invite a few local schools? Do you want this to be a big tournament?
  • Who is the tournament open to? Is it an invitational, or an open tournament? If open, is it open to all local schools/clubs, or just an identified selection of schools/clubs? Will there be para-athletic or special-needs events?
  • What styles of martial arts will be invited? WTF-taekwondo? IFT-taekwondo? All types?
  • What kinds of events will be competed? Forms, breaking, sparring, demo teams…?

It's also helpful to decide why exactly you're hosting a tournament. Are you hoping to attract more students into the sport? Is this primarily a community-building event? Is it a fundraiser? Knowing exactly what your goals are may inform some of your organizing decisions down the road.

Organizing committee Edit

You're going to need help organizing this tournament of course, which means you'll need an organizing committee. Committee members with lots of local contacts are great: local small-business owners, school-board members, town council members, etc. People with contacts can turn big tasks into easy tasks.

You'll also want people who are planning on spending a lot of time on this. Enthusiasm is great, but what you need from the committee members is people who can put in the hours. The tournament-day staffers only need to commit to a day of time, but your committee members are going to be working on this tournament for months.

  • Treasurer: At least one of your committee members is going to have to be The Money Person, responsible for maintaining the budget, tracking expenses, keeping the receipts, etc. Put somebody on your committee who's good with numbers.
  • Publicity: You'll want to put at least one person in charge of Outreach: advertising, inviting other schools, working with the press, etc.
    • This is important: one of the first big tasks of your Outreach person is to gauge how much interest there will be in the tournament: how many entrants, how big an audience. Your Outreach person will need to work with the local schools quickly to gauge their level of interest so that you can make these estimates. Without those estimate, you won't know how big a facility you'll need, how much equipment, how much to charge for registration fees, etc.
  • Facility Manager: It's not a bad idea to have somebody in charge of all the physical items you'll need: equipment rentals, trophy ordering, etc.
  • Staffing Manager: It's also not a bad idea to have somebody in charge of the tournament staff / volunteers: recruiting the staff, prepping the staff, making sure they're equipped with everything they need, providing regular communication with the volunteers before and during the tournament, etc.
  • Technical Manager: this is the person who will be in charge of the officials and referees.
  • Vendor Manager: this is the person who will select any on-site vendors you have at the tournament (hotdogs, tee-shirts, etc.), negotiates the vendor business-deals (does your tournament get a percentage of the take?), and coordinates the logistics of having the vendors at the tournament.
  • Sponsor Liaison: identifies tournament sponsors, negotiates the sponsorship deals, etc.
  • Athlete Coordinator: manages the database of all the athletes: names, ages, schools, etc. Develops the brackets for competition.
  • Safety & Security: It'll be useful to identify a point-of-contact for all safety and security tasks.
  • Scheduler: There are going to be literally dozens of people working on hundreds of tasks to make this tournament happen. You might want to put one person in charge of making the schedule, maintaining the schedule, and keeping track of all the tournament tasks.
  • Technology lead: Your tournament is going to need a website, but it's going to need more than that as well. You're probably going to want Facebook pages, Twitter feeds for the staffers and athletes, databases for your athletes and participating schools, computers for tournament day, scoring systems, etc. That doesn't mean one person needs to do all these things, but it is probably helpful to have one person in charge.

Beyond the core committee members themselves, you'll also need a ton of volunteers on the day of the tournament, to help with all of the tournament logistics. (See Tournament Staff, below.)

Document, document, document Edit

Is this the only tournament you ever plan to organize? Maybe from now on you plan to run a tournament every year or two.

If so, document, document, document everything about this tournament, including the lessons-learned, contact information for vendors and sponsors, which schools participated, etc. Hosting your first tournament is going to be a ton of work, but you can make all subsequent tournaments easier by documenting the first one well.

  • Secretary: Considering appointing one of your committee members to be a Recording Secretary for the whole process. Their charter should be to write the How To manual for the next tournament you host. (Ask them to add tips to this wiki page while you're at it!)

Using a management company Edit

Bigger cities especially may have companies (such as Event Planning or even specific Tournament Management companies) that you can pay to help organize big events, including tournaments. If you're planning on running a big tournament, you might want to do some research and see who's available locally. You may decide their price isn't worth using them, but at least you'll know what your options are.

Examples: http://TKD-Events.com,  http://mataleao.ca/Services.html.

Tournament software and websites Edit

There's also a number of software products and websites out there that help automate some aspects of tournament-day. You might want to do some research and see if there's some software that you'll want to use, and get your volunteers smart on your using that software well before the tournament.

Leverage your taekwondo parentsEdit

Many of your taekwondo parents may be local small-business owners. Do you need trophies? Maybe one of the dads runs a trophy shop. Do you need catering? Maybe one of the moms runs a catering business. Send out an email to the parents explaining what you need, and see what shakes out. You might be able to get a lot of free stuff or steep discounts.

Where – selecting a location Edit

You're going to need to decide when and where to host the tournament. The two questions are related of course; not every venue is available on every date. Below are some tips for selecting the location.

  • School gymnasiums and local sportsplexes are two obvious candidates as venues for larger local tournaments of course. If you have a big school though, and you're keeping the tournament small (just a few local schools being invited) then you can of course save a lot of time, money, and effort by hosting the tournament in your school.
    • Pro-tip: If you want to run a big, local open tournament someday, starting with a small in-school tournament first is a good practice run, before you tackle the big job.
  • Check to see where other hosts in your area have hosted martial arts tournaments. Working with a venue that's experience with martial arts tournaments can be a big help. The venue staff may have extra tips to help you on your way.
  • Many venues will impose a requirement for insurance in order to use the venue. Check to make sure the insurance requirements are something you'll be able to meet.
  • Establish what the post-tournament clean-up responsibilities are. How much cleanup does the venue owner do, and how much do you have to do?
  • Of course when most people think of a tournament they think of the main competition area, and any good school gym or sportsplex should work well.
    • Remember that your athletes will also need changing rooms, staging areas, etc.
  • It's not just about the athletes though. You want your audience to have a good time too. Pick a location with easy access, simple directions, plenty of parking, and lots of seating.
    • Audience members from the same school often like to sit together. That can actually be an extra source of revenue. Some schools may be willing to pay extra to have their own designated seating area in the audience.
  • You're going to need to load, unload, store, and set-up a lot of equipment. Make sure your facility has a good loading dock and staging area for the equipment.
  • You vendors (hotdogs, tee-shirts, etc.) are going to need facilities too. Not just their storefronts (including water, electricity, network connectivity, tables, etc.) but very possibly access to the loading dock and storage areas as well. Make sure your venue's operator is going to allow all that.
  • Consider setting up a hospitality room for your officials, staffers, and honored guests, stocked with bottles waters, coffee, etc.

When – selecting a date Edit

From start-to-finish, you're probably going to want a good 3-months to plan and organize your tournament. You need to give your entrants time to register and train for the tournament. You'll need time to find sponsors and order supplies.

  • Make sure the date does not conflict with other major events in your community.
  • Check with other martial arts schools in the area to make sure nobody else is also in the preliminary planning stages of a tournament!
  • Consider seasonal challenges as well. Winter tournaments could mean a tournament cancellation if there's a big storm. Summer tournaments compete with summer vacations. Tournaments near holidays compete with family vacations.

Building a schedule Edit

Make a detailed schedule of all the tasks that need to be done. Work backwards from the tournament date. See Tournament Preparation Schedule for an example.

Essentially all of the activites on this wiki page -- and more -- should be on your schedule.

Out-of-Town accommodations Edit

Many of your athletes and families may be traveling from out-of-town and need overnight accommodations to attend your tournament.

  • Identify local hotels/motels that are readily accessible from the tournament venue. See if you can negotiate a discount rate for your athletes, in exchange for some free advertising at the tournament.
  • In any case, as part of your tournament flyers, recommend local accommodations for athletes who may not know the area. You can include this information in the formal Invitation Packages that you send to the local martial arts schools.

Gauging interesting Edit

Early in the planning you'll need to have some idea how many athletes to expect.

  • One way to do that is to contact hosts of prior tournaments, see if they can give you some rough numbers associated with prior tournaments.
  • Your Outreach person can also work with the local martial arts schools to gauge their level of interest, well before requiring any official registration.

Building a budget / financial plan Edit

You're going to have several different sources of revenue, and several different kinds of expenses. Let's talk about the revenues first:

  • There will be the registration fees for the entrants
  • Ticket sales for the audience members
  • You'll probably want a percentage of the take from whatever vendors you allow into your tournament
  • You'll probably want some tournament sponsors too, who will donate some funds to the tournament in exchange for advertising within the tournament

Then there are all the many, many expenses, including:

  • Rental fees of the facilities and for the equipment
  • Any permits that may be required, or other regulatory costs
  • For sanctioned tournaments, sanction fees
  • Any insurance costs you may incur with the venue management or sanctioning body
  • Medical costs (e.g., paying for on-site First Aid team and supplies)
  • The cost of trophies and awards
  • Consumable tournament supplies (boards for breaking, etc.)
  • Costs for advertising
  • Printing and office-supply costs: posters, flyers, scoring sheets, tournament badges, tournament programs, etc.
  • Hospitality costs for volunteers and honored guests (free waters and snacks, etc.; also, free tee-shirts, etc. for volunteers)
  • Lodging costs as needed for honored guests, tournament officials, etc.
  • Cleanup fees, as applicable

You're going to want to build a good budget for the tournament. Keep track of expenses. You'll probably want to designate one of your committee members The Money Person to be in charge of all this.

To build the financial plan, you're going to need some estimate of how many people are likely to register as contestants, and how many audience tickets you're likely to sell. This is one place where your Money Person and your Outreach Person are going to need to work together.

Of all the expenses, listed above, it's also worth making special note of which costs are up-front costs, such as down-payments and deposits.

See Example Tournament Budget for an example budget.

Finding sponsors Edit

Local businesses, especially small businesses, are always looking for cheap ways to advertise. Ten extra clients is worth a lot to a local hair salon or pizza parlor.

  • Figure out how much advertising space you'll have overall at your tournament. Establish prices for setting-up specific size advertising banners at your tournament, then calculate how much you could bring-in overall via sponsorships.
  • Estimate how many people are going to see that advertising: one thousand, five thousand? Potential sponsors are going to want to know.
  • Sweeten the deal: offer advertising not only at the tournament, but also at subsequent events at your martial arts school.
  • Document your offer: print off a few dozen Sponsorship flyers that explain the sponsorship levels, how much advertising the sponsor will get, for how long, and at what cost.
  • During business hours, canvas the local retail areas with your flyers in hand, looking for sponsors.
    • Be willing to negotiate. Maybe your local pizza parlor doesn't want free advertising, but is willing to cut you in on 10% of the take if you let them set up a pizza stand at your venue.
    • Be flexible, be creative. Maybe a sponsor can't provide funding, but maybe they can provide goods or services that would help with the tournament. For example if you rent your tables and chairs for a Rent-All company, maybe they'll offer you a discount in exchange for free advertising.

Obtaining sanctionsEdit

If you want your tournament to be "sanctioned" by a taekwondo federation or association, don't forget to start that process early as well. Many federations and associations describe their sanctioning processes and paperwork on their websites. For example:

Organizing the Tournament Edit

All of that, everything you just did above? That was just the planning! Now you know how much money you have to run the tournament, you have some idea of the costs and revenues, you have a venue and a date, sponsors, and a plan. Now it's time to get-to-work and organize a tournament.

Determining the rules Edit

Your Technical Manager is going to need to establish and document the rules of the tournament.

Lay out the floorplanEdit

This is another good task for the Technical Manager. How is the competition area going to be organized? What are the paths by which athletes get into and out of the competition area? How do you keep audience members at a standoff distance? Where are the officials and referrees located? 

Publicizing the tournament Edit

You want this tournament to be a success, which means (1) athletes, and (2) audience. To get both of those things, you have to advertise.

Tournament website Edit

Nowadays, you can't run anything without a website. That doesn't mean you have to spend a lot of money on it though. You could add a tournament webpage to your school's website, use Facebook or a blogging website…whatever works.

Remember though that the website serves two purposes:

  • First of all, it's advertising. You want the main page to look pretty and advertise the event.
  • The website also has to be practical. You'll need links where people can find and download all the information they need to participate and attend: athletes, their families, officials and referees, tournament staffers, tournament vendors, etc. What do they need to know to show up and participate. Where can they go with questions.

Nowadays when so many people have smartphones, your tournament website can be used not only for the weeks leading up to the tournament, but also for the day of the tournament as well. Using Twitter, Facebook, or blogging websites you can keep all the athletes, families, staff, etc. up-to-date in real-time on the tournament schedule, upcoming events, current scores, etc. Get creative with the use of technology as a way to orchestrate the actual tournament itself.

Tournament posters and flyers Edit

Websites are great, but if you want people to show up at your tournament, a good poster can go a long way toward advertising your event. Send it to all the local martial arts schools of course, but see if local businesses will let you put up some flyers as well.

  • Identify the name of the event, and the sponsor
  • When and where the event will be held
  • Who's invited
  • If this tournament is a fundraiser, explain what charities will benefit
  • The website to go to for more information

Pre-invitation announcements Edit

At some point you're going to want to send formal invitations to the local martial arts schools, but really that can wait until you've finalized all the details. It's never too early to let the local schools simply know that a tournament is upcoming. Once you have posters and flyers printed, you can send them along with pre-invitations to the local schools, letting them know that formal invitations will be forthcoming.

The pre-invitations are also a great way to help gauge the level of interest. Use a survey website like SurveyMonkey to ask local schools whether or not they think they might attend, and if so, with how many athletes. Reinforce that this survey isn't a commitment, just a way to get a ballpark estimate on how many athletes to expect.

Invitation letters Edit

Now it's time to send out formal invitations to the local schools. The invitation letters should provide all the detailed information the locals schools will need in order to know how to participate.

  • tournament time and place
  • planned tournament-day schedule
  • type of rules being used (including any tournament-specific rules)
  • divisions (age, gender, belt, disability categories, etc.)
  • events (sparring, breaking, demo teams, forms, etc.)
  • gear requirements
  • athlete fees and deadlines
  • coach / school fees
  • audience ticket price
  • who to contact / where to go for additional information (tournament website)

Registration forms Edit

TBD - need a good example of a registration form for this section, maybe as its own wiki page linked form here.

Invitation p​ackagesEdit

Many of the above items can be packaged together into a single "invitation package" to go out to all of the local schools: formal invitations, website info, a few posters, some flyers, registration forms, local accomodation info, etc.

Don't be shy about asking for things that you still need too. Need more volunteers? Need some specialized equipment? Need more referrees? In your invitation package, let the local schools know if you still have any special needs -- ultimately, it's their tournament too, and they and their athletes want to see the tournament succeed as much as you do.

Example invitation package: http://www.itftkd.org/documents/events/20110423_5th_internat_ITF_Championship.doc

Press releases Edit

Press Release. Sounds fancy, doesn't it? It's really not that big a deal.

  • Using Google, you can find plenty of standard Press Release formats and templates. Here's one, for example: http://www.mediacollege.com/journalism/press-release/format.html
  • Decide who you want to send press releases to: local newspapers, local radio and television stations, etc. Keep in mind, you're doing them a favor. You're giving them something newsworthy to write about, so don't be shy about sending out releases.
  • Most local news outlets will have contact info on their websites; you can use that information to identify where the press release should be addressed to.
  • Proof-read! Proof-read! Proof-read! Give your press release to somebody else to proof, before you release it. Make sure not only that the information is accurate, but make sure it's complete. You're only going to get one shot at gaining some press interest in your tournment, so make sure your first impression is a good one.
  • Make sure to provide good contact-information so that the press can follow-up for more details if they want.
  • Host the press release on your tournament website as well. 
  • Under separate cover, you can also offer your local news outlets free Press Passes to your tournament as well. If it's a slow news day, and they have pages to fill, your little tournament could be of interest!

Free tickets for the press Edit

When you distribute press-releases for the tournament, provide some free tickets or Press Passes to the tournament as well. In fact, making the tickets as Press Passes and offering local journalists special access to the tournament facilities (such as the ability to take photographs out in the competition area) is one way to try to entice more local press coverage of the tournament.

Advertising Edit

TBD - tips for effective but low-cost advertising

Medical and community services for the tournament Edit

Your going to need a First Aid plan for your tournament, not only for the athletes but also for audience members and staffers as well. 

AccessibilityEdit

Your venue already needs to meet mandated requirements for handicapped accessibility, but you might want to keep accessibility in mind during your own tournament planning as well. Remember, martial artists tend to spend more time on crutches than couch potatoes do!

Tournament equipment Edit

There's a lot of equipment you'll need to rent, borrow, or buy. Allow for plenty of time for medals to be engraved, for posters to be printed, and for souvenir items to be produced with your organization logo and the dates of your event.

  • Mats
  • Cordons
  • Tables & chairs
  • Loudspeaker system
  • Computers
  • Scoring systems
  • Supplies for the officials (Official badges, bottled waters, clipboards, pencils, etc.)
  • Supplies for the staffers (Staff badges, walkie-talkies if you're not using cellphones, etc.)

If you're running a sanctioned tournament, many of these supplies may be rentable from your sanctioning body. Dollies, wheeled carts, and packing material are good to have on-hand as well. You're going to moving a lot of equipment around.

Trophies and awards Edit

Of course you're going to need to order trophies and other awards well before the tournament. Some tournaments make sure all entrants win some sort of award, even if it's just a ribbon or medalian. Since you don't know exactly how many of these you'll need, it makes sense to keep the cost low, since you're going to need to order extras that eventually stand a strong chance of going to waste. For the trophies, of course, you do know ahead of time exactly how many you'll need, since that's based on the number of competition categories, not on the number of entrants.

Preparing the venue Edit

Before the tournament you're going to need to set-up, so you'll need a plan. Does set-up happen the day before? Does tear-down happen the day after?

You'll want a detailed floor-plan too. What goes where: banners, signs, tables, chairs, cordons, competition areas, vendor tables, food stands, officials, First Aid, honored guests, photography, staging areas, hospitality area, etc.

Identifying vendors Edit

You're going to need to determine if you want vendors at your tournament, if you're allowed vendors at your tournament, if so how many and of what kind, and what the business deal should be (do you get a cut of the take?) Once you have all that sorted out, you can start negotiating with local retailers to get the best mix and the best deals for your tournament. Remember, don't be shy: you're the one doing them a favor, provide a captive audience of hungry tournament-goers for many hours.

Fo​odEdit

Your venue may already provide food-service vendors, in which case that part of your job is done! If not, check with your venue operator to make sure that outside food vendors will be allowed to serve at the venue. The food vendors are going to be constrained by the facilities available: power, water, sewage, trash, etc. so as you select and coodinate with food vendors make sure you let them know what they're up against. 

Also, don't over-vend. If your venue has sufficient space, it'd be nice to be able to offer separate vendors for hotdogs, pizza, ice cream, etc...but at the same time, the more food vendors you have the less money each vendor is going to make, which means they're less likely to want to return to your tournaments in the future. That having been said, don't under-vend either -- if audience members have to wait in line 10 minutes for a bottled water, you probably didn't arrange enough food vendors.

BlingEdit

TBD - tee-shirt and sourvenir vendors and such

Identifying honored guests Edit

It's customary for tournaments to invite honored guests, especially for the opening ceremony. These can be martial arts leaders or pioneers who live in the community, or other community leaders. 

Identifying officials Edit

TBD - how to find officials and referrees for your tournament

Identifying tournament staff / volunteers Edit

You can't have too many volunteers on tournament day.

  • Directing parking
  • Signing in the teams
  • Checking in the referees
  • Updating scoresheets, brackets, scoreboards
  • Herding the athletes through the staging rooms onto the tournament floor
  • Running errands for the referees when they need something
  • Coordinating last-minute needs from the vendors
  • Help lost souls find bathrooms, misplaced car keys, misplace athletes, etc.

Staff members should wear tee-shirts or hats and badges (with first names on the badge) so that everybody knows they're staffers.

  • This is really important: staffers should all get to know each other before the tournament if they're going to work together well on the day of the tournament. Consider having a brief staff social before tournament day so that everybody can get to know each other.
  • If your staffers are volunteers, thanking them with a nice Staff tee-shirt is one way to show your thanks. You could just get big red tee-shirts that have the word Staff sharpied on them, or you could get some really cool-looking Staff tee-shirts made up as a way of saying thanks.

In the old days, equipping your volunteers with walkie-talkies was a good way to keep everything orchestrated on tournament day. Nowadays, you can set up a Twitter feed or Facebook page for the tournament and just have everybody check their smartphones for new messages.

  • You'll probably want to designate at least a couple volunteers to be responsible for tournament-day staff communications: managing the Twitter feed, running to find somebody who's not responding, etc.
  • In fact, you might want to set up several Twitter feeds: one for staffers and officials, and another for athletes and audience members.

So how do you find the staffers/volunteers? Of course the staff of your own school, and the students and families at your school, are obvious candidates.

Note: Nobody would every claim that this wiki page is the perfect end-all to tournament organizing, but honestly...it is helpful when everybody participating understands what everybody else's job is. So it's also not a bad idea to use either this wiki page or some sort of "tournament guidebook" as a reading assignment for all your staffers and volunteers before the tournament. That will also help uncover any lingering questions your staffers and volunteers may have before the tournament starts.

Prep the officials and tournament staff Edit

Now that you've identified the staffers and the officials, you have to prep them. When do you want them to show up on tournament day? To where? Checking in how? Coordinating with whom?

On tournament day, how do you want things to run? Are there any tournament-specific rules or guidelines?

What are the contingency plans for when things go wrong? What if there's a blizzard on the day of your tournament – how will staffers be notified of cancellation? What should be done if the tournament is running way too slowly; what's the contingency for speeding things up?

You can type these things up and email them to all your officials and staffers of course. You can set up Officials and Staffers webpages on your tournament website as another way to keep people informed. Early in the morning, before the tournament starts, it's not a bad idea to have all the staffers show up early for a staff huddle before everybody gets to work. (Bringing breakfast of course is a nice way to thank the staff for showing up.)

Tournament Safety & Security Edit

Firs​t AidEdit

By now, you've already lined-up your First Aid plan for the tournament. Keep in mind the First Aid plan applies to audience members as well as athletes. 

Badging PlanEdit

You're going to have lots of different kinds of people at the tournament:

  • Athletes
  • Audience members
  • Officials and referrees
  • Tournament staff and volunteers
  • Honored guests
  • Coaches and school instructors
  • Vendors
  • Journalists
  • Tournament photographers
  • Tournament caterers
  • Safety and security personnel

Generally speaking you're probably not going to badge the audience members, but everybody else should have badges that identify their role.

Audience ManagementEdit

Typically the biggest problem you'll have is keeping audience members out of the competition area. Eager parents want a good view of their kids sparring, or want to take close-up photos, or want to argue with an official (it happens!), or want to rush to the side of an injured athlete (can you blame them?).

Eager audience members can cause problems even if they don't enter in to the competition area proper: just by pushing into the cordon-ropes, or sitting at the cordon-ropes so that nobody can get buy, or bunching up at the cordon ropes, so that seated audience members can't view the competition. These are all commonplace problems.

The easiest solution is a blanket "no." No audience members in the competition area, no standing by the cordon-ropes, etc. If you have enough volunteers though, you can use volunteers to provide exceptions. For example, parents can be allowed into the competition area in the case of an injured athelete, as long as there's a volunteer leading them into and out of the competition area, so that the parent doesn't interfere with other ongoing competition activities.

Or as another example, you can designate some areas along the cordon-ropes as standing-allowed areas. That allows eager audience members to get close to the competition while still providing open areas for athletes and coaches to get into and out-of the competition area.

Audience SecurityEdit

Thankfully, one tends to not see many serious security problems at martial arts tournaments (unless Karate Kid's Cobra Kai school is attending your tournament!) but keep in mind that a lot of athletes, coaches, officials, parents, etc. are going to be leaving equipment bags, backpacks, cellphones, purses, etc. laying around in the bleachers and competition areas as they coordinate their own personal logistics of participating. Even if you didn't have to worry about outright theft, there's still the whole Lost & Found aspect to all this loose gear lying around. Have a plan in place for dealing with lost items, and for providing appropriate security for the audience area as well as the competition area.

Angry ParentsEdit

Sadly, some parents can sometimes be over-eager to advocate for the competitive interests of their athletes. Hopefully this isn't going to happen at your tournament, but have a plan in place for if it does. Remember that the strategy isn't to escalate the confrontation via a show of force, but to difuse the confrontation as quickly as possible. Put a seasoned veteran in charge of deescalation, backed discretely by capable staffers as needed. Provide a formal mechanism for airing grievances, a senior official that parents can go to when they have a legitimate gripe. Sometimes people just want a voice.

Tournament photographer Edit

You're probably going to want to have an official tournament photographer. It's customary to take photographs of the winners of course, but you may want other photos as well, for your tournament or school website for example. 

Tournament cateringEdit

It's not necessarily typical to have your tournament catered, but if you're running a big tournament with a large hospitality room (for the referrees, officials, and honored guests), you might want to have a local caterer provide the food and beverages for the hospitality room.

Registering contestants Edit

TBD

Ticket sales Edit

On tournament day, you're going to need a way to take people's money (cash, credit cards, debit cards, etc.). You have a way to do that at your school, but you're going to need a plan for how to do that at the tournament as well.

Keep in mind that whatever plan you come up with, try to make it be something that works fast. You don't want long-lines forming, people trying to get into your tournament and becoming frustrated by how long it takes to get inside.

Tournament-day signageEdit

You can save yourself a lot of trouble on tournament day by having lots of signage printed-up and ready to post at the venue on tournament day:

  • This way to the front door
  • This way to the registration desks
  • This way to buy tickets
  • This way to the staging area
  • This way to the restrooms
  • This way to the food and vendors

In fact, it's not a bad idea to bring extra markers, poster-board, and tape to the tournament so that at the morning huddle you can add last-minute signage as needed. 

Tournament programsEdit

You may not think your little tournament needs a program, but you may be missing an opportunity for additional sponsorship revenue without one. In addition to offering sponsors advertising space within the venue or on your website, you can also sell advertisements within your tournament program.  Even if you give away the programs for free (rather than charging a buck or two) the program can still be a money-maker just by virtue of the ad revenue.

Contingency plans Edit

Contingency plans are important. Make sure teams attending the tournament know what will happen in case of a weather delay or cancellation.

Tournament day: running the tournament Edit

All the above planning was for this, the big day! Does anything ever go according to plan though? Your best hedge against contingencies during the day is extra volunteers. Volunteers can not only help you inside the tournament, they can even run-out to get last-minute items if needed. In that situation, volunteers who know the local retail outlets (and who have big SUVs!) can be especially helpful.

Morning huddleEdit

Before the tournament starts, start the day with an early-morning huddle for officials, referrees, staffers, volunteers, guests, security teams, First Aid teams, etc. Break into smaller huddles as need for specialized instructions.

Also, people work together best when they get to know each other first. Don't feel too bad if people have to "stand around" for a bit after the huddle, drinking coffee and donuts together. In fact, encourage your teams to use that time to introduce each other and get to know each other.

Running the parking lotEdit

You don't necessarily need a parking-lot manager, but hey...if you have volunteers to spare, why not? Especially at the start of the day, you may see lots of athletes show up needing direction or special help. It makes a great first impression to have somebody working outside to help the athletes, coaches, and schools before they even walk in the door.

Running the registration desksEdit

Nobody likes standing in line, so plan a registration-desk strategy that makes everything move quickly. Have a fast mechanism in place for handing out badges, selling tickets, providing directions, etc.

Running the Weigh-In processEdit

TBD

Running the athlete staging areaEdit

Before athletes go to the competition area, they'll need a staging area in which to queue-up, gear-up, and listen for last-minute instructions. You'll need some people working the staging area: probably more than a few people if you have very young athletes involved.

Also, you'll need a plan for how to manage parents in the staging area. Not that parents are likely to be a problem, but you'll to help direct them in how best to assist their athletes as their young athletes prepare to take to the floor.

Running the tournament floorEdit

During the tournament, the floor itself is a madhouse of people moving around: athletes, coaches, officials, photographers. No matter how much you try to plan ahead, there are always going to be unexpected contingencies (not the least-common of which is falling behind schedule). You're going to need somebody to be in charge of running the tournament floor: deciding which competition takes place next in which competition area. This person is like the Air Traffic Controller for your entire tournament.

Running the scoringEdit

TBD

Running the communicationsEdit

You will save yourself so-o-o-o many headaches by having a strong tournament-day communications system in-place.

  • Have cellphone numbers for all your volunteers and staffers, and tell them to keep their cellphones close, so that your Communications chief can text them as needed.
  • Nowadays, when almost everybody has smartphones, be creative in your use of technology. Twitter can be used for broadcast messages to all your staffers and officials, for instance, and long as everybody has been told to follow a specified Twitter account.
  • Back in the day, walkie-talkies were a good way to stay in touch during a tournament, and they're still not a bad option.
  • Your venue should have a good Public Address system; use it judiciously. 
  • No matter how good the technology gets, you will still find yourself in need of runners. If you have enough volunteers, designate some as runners, to hunt down people who aren't replying, get small items where they need to go, etc.

Tournament tear-down clean-up Edit

If you're running a larger, local, open tournament, you might want to fit the cost of a professional cleaning crew into your tournament budget. Your tournament volunteers have literally been on their feet all day, and they still need to help you with tournament tear-down (re-packing all the rental equipment, etc.) -- they're probably not going to have much energy to spare for cleanup. Your venue may offer a cleanup server for an additional fee as well.

After the Tournament Edit

TBD

Celebrate the Champions Edit

Update your websites, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, etc. to let everybody know who won! Send out fresh press-releases as well, with the tournament results. 

Thank you letters (sponsors, officials, guests) Edit

By this point, there are a ton of people to thank: committee members, sponsors, vendors, officials, referrees, honored guests, volunteers, schools, athletes, journalists. How you choose to thank each group is going to depend on hor much resource you have available and how you want to thank everybody.

If you still have some tournament bling leftover (tee-shirts, caps, medalions, etc.) you can parcel those items out as part of your thank-yous.

Lessons learned Edit

You can use an online survey tool such as SurveyMonkey to survey everybody who was involved in the tournament and ask them what went well, what could have gone better. Document the best suggestions, and make sure you file everything that made this-year's tournament a success: the plans, schedules, budgets, flyers, posters, etc. Next time you host a tournament, you won't have to start from scratch.

Update this wiki page. If you have some good tips that you want to share with other people who host martial arts tournaments, add them to this wiki page!

References Edit

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