Tips from a Tournament Director

By TJ Goaley

Tournaments are an important part of a team’s season as everyone tries to prepare for the intense competition of regional championships, but creating a successful tournament shouldn’t be intensely stressful. Here is a step-by-step guide to take some of the pressure off your shoulders for the next (or upcoming) tournament, whether you’re hosting for the first time or you’re an experienced tournament director (TD).

This list wouldn’t be possible without the collaboration of Beth Peavler. Peavler has been involved with tournament planning for four years and recently directed the first Consolation Cup. I myself have been playing for four years and have been an assistant TD and TD for three years.

Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

Before the Tournament
Plan, plan, plan!
This first step is probably the most important: start planning ahead of schedule – the sooner the better. While I am not saying that you should start planning for next year’s fall semester tournament right now, you should try to make sure that you give yourself, your team, and other teams at least a month’s notice prior to opening registration. You should at least have a date set by the beginning of the school year so that teams can plan for your tournament and set aside the time and resources to attend. Make sure you have the right amount of field space (among other essentials, mentioned below) to actually have a tournament before announcing it. Find a facility with bathrooms and good parking. These concerns are often forgotten, but they have a major impact on the quality of a tournament. If your school is big on sporting events, try to avoid scheduling at the same time as another important game or event.  All in all, there are a very limited number of solid quidditch weekends within the season. Once you have a set date, make a public Facebook page to keep all of those who are interested updated.

Make sure that you submit the right paperwork and, if you are in the US, observe USQ deadlines. This means taking USQ’s Tournament Director certification test and reviewing the accompanying materials, where you’ll learn many of these things (it’s also available for non-US TDs). It also includes submitting the tournament to USQ for approval more than two weeks before the tournament. You can do this by going to the USQ website, selecting “events,” and submitting one to the calendar. In addition, roster deadlines need to be posted, and teams should be reminded that rosters must be submitted to USQ at least 24 hours before the tournament. If you are planning on allowing referee certifications, you need to be on that as well. It’s important to include rules on alcohol and pets, in addition to the rules of the facilities you are using.

Post about costs of the tournament. Remember that for official tournaments you need to have medics and referees, and you need to cover the cost of fields. You might also want other extras such as concessions and T-shirts, and if so, remember to take those costs into account. On one hand, you don’t want to overcharge for a tournament because your interest will plummet, but you need to consider how much you will be spending to host the tournament and be sure that you earn some sort of profit.

Most schools offer their intramural fields to club sports hosting tournaments, but if they don’t or you are a community team, be sure to find pricing for fields and take that into account. When paying for medics, if you are a school team, you can always look into the athletic trainers provided by your school because they will help you keep your costs down. Lastly, you should always know where the local hospital is, just in case of emergencies.

Current USQ Executive Director Sarah Woolsey at USQ World Cup 8 | Photo Credit: Isabella Gong Photography

Helpful documents
Give teams a player packet for the tournament. This should include the events and schedule for the day as well as the teams and rosters. You can also include a list of places to eat around town or areas to park for teams who may be unfamiliar with your area. Give them instructions, directions, restaurant recommendations, or if you are doing profit shares with anyone to earn your team more money, make sure to include that as well.

Open registration early and give teams a good amount of time to decide if they want to attend. Be as specific as possible. Tournaments can fill up very quickly, and teams need to know when to be ready. Most teams want the opportunity to be the first to register to hold their spot.

Give instructions for registration and keep the list of interested teams updated on your Facebook tournament page. Teams need about two to three weeks before your tournament date to decide if they are going to register. This also gives you and your team enough time to get everything in order.

If this is not done at the same time as registration, you should do it almost immediately after. Start looking for volunteers! That includes head referees (HR), lead assistant referees (LAR), snitches, and really anyone who just wants to help out. Do not deny anyone’s help because you can never have too many volunteers. Many of the jobs such as scorekeeper, timekeeper, and field managers can come from within your own organization. They will make your tournament run smoothly.

Focus on recruiting as many non-playing referees and snitches as possible – they are invaluable. The snitches have some sort of underground network together – find one and they will likely be able to direct you to some other quality snitches.

Publishing a sign-up sheet on Facebook is a great way to keep track of who will be helping out. Make sure you know each person’s team so that you do not overlap game time with volunteer time. The USQ keeps a running database of certified referees of all levels on its website. If you need help finding qualified refs in the area, or even slightly out of region, this is a great resource.

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Screenshot of the QC Western Regionals 2016 volunteer form | Form courtesy of: Quidditch Canada

Earn More Profit
If you are going to sell food or merchandise, determine the prices and find out who is interested before making a huge purchase. Check to make sure your page on Facebook is public so everyone can find it, and do your best to spread it as widely as possible.  Don’t charge admission to attend though. If you want the sport to grow, reduce the barrier of entry and allow people who are even somewhat interested to attend.

At this point, you should have already ensured you have fields available, but you need to make sure that the facility you are using is equipped to handle the amount of people you have coming. If you have a 20-team tournament, do not try to do everything on two fields. The lowest “ideal” number is four fields, even if you don’t have that many teams, you can use the additional space as a practice pitch or in case the tournament runs behind; if you can secure more fields than that, as well as plan accordingly, you can run a tournament smoothly. If you are not well-equipped, it means a lot of teams will be sitting around. Time management is the most important thing to keep an eye on during the actual tournament. Try to plan the schedule allowing 40 minutes per game to give yourself a good buffer between one game ending and the next beginning.

Have pools and the schedule ready in advance, but be willing to adapt. Look it over, and make sure that you didn’t make any mistakes. Tell your interested teams why you arranged the pools the way you did and why you decided to go with the format you did. It’s not always possible to please everyone, but at the end of the day the format of the tournament is ultimately your decision.

Be open to shifting the schedule in the case of drops. One drop can cause the whole schedule to crash and burn, so make sure you have a wait list just in case. Additionally, if you have enough interest and resources, there is no harm in allowing teams to move up off the waitlist to allow everyone to play. After all, that means more money for you.

Schedule playing referees for games on the same pitch or one as nearby as possible. Too often schedules have been held up because players are referees on a different pitch. Technically, you can make teams play without one player because there are others on the bench, but this is a courtesy.

As far as assistant referees go, make sure that all teams understand that they are required to leave three members at the pitch to help facilitate the next game. Six people is enough to cover the bludger, goal, and snitch refs, as well as have a timekeeper and scorekeeper when general volunteers are unavailable. When you keep referees on the same pitch, you make it easier for not only the teams playing because they can keep track of their players, but you also make it easier for yourself when you need to track down assistant referees at the last minute.

Scheduling Tips:
1. No back-to-back games for teams if possible – and it almost always is possible. If you absolutely have to schedule a team in back-to-back games, make it fair by giving these teams extra break time or having more than one team play back-to-back games.

2. Give snitches a break. Snitching is tiring, so give them the opportunity for a short rest before playing for their own team.

3. Assign pools to certain pitches. Make the movement of referees, teams, and snitches as easy and fluid as possible.

4. You do not have to schedule a lunch break! Generally, teams will be able to find an hour or so within pool play to get lunch. At the very least, limit the break to 20-30 minutes to allow for posting brackets and giving volunteers and referees a break. If you do schedule a lunch break, don’t be afraid to cut it out of your schedule once you have put it in, especially if your tournament is running behind. There is no shame in adapting.

5. If you have never scheduled a tournament before, don’t be afraid to reach out to experienced tournament directors. Nobody wants to host or attend a bad tournament, and tournament directors know that better than anyone. They can give advice on schedules and gameplay format.

The giant schedule at IQA Quidditch World Cup 2016 | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

Equipment needed for Success:
1. Water
Plan to provide a lot of water. The bigger the tournament, the more water you need and the more pressing the need to make sure that people have access to it.

2. Actual scoreboards at all pitches
Dry erase whiteboards do not work. There will either be moisture in the air and the markers will not work, or the score will be invisible from the pitch. They are not a bad backup, but you run the risk of teams and possibly spectators not being able to see the score.

3. Tables and chairs at every pitch
These are a staple for scorekeeping. You cannot have your timekeepers sitting on the ground as they try to tell everyone the score, game time, and penalty time remaining. At each of those tables, you want folders or binders with the pool play schedule, bracket play schedule, and snitch handicaps.

4. Schedules and information
If you can, post signs at each pitch with the day’s schedule for that pitch specifically. This is a nice thing for spectators and players who want to plan which games to watch.

5. Paint
Don’t use cones; use painted lines. Chalk lines are a decent backup, but using only cones as markers in an official tournament is asking for trouble. Have three to four extra hoop PVC couplings per pitch. This may seem excessive until you run out and can’t continue to use a pitch due to broken hoops. Plus, if you have extras, you will use them eventually. Have your extra hoops in a location that people can get to quickly to replace them. Each pitch also needs one or two extra quaffles, as well as bludgers, a pair of snitch shorts, and socks.

6. Bullhorn or PA system
This is the easiest way to to make announcements and updates to the entire tournament at one time. Be loud and clear. Keep it short and to the point. Do not ramble. Make sure people know the status of the tournament as it goes on.

Example: “Due to the game on Pitch 3 continuing, the Texas State v. Sam Houston game scheduled for the next round will be moved to Pitch 4.”

Arfy Papadam’s clearly visible scoreboard in New South Wales, Australia | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

The Day of the Tournament
On game day, have all pitches and equipment set up before people start arriving. That way, you are ready to host check-in at the gates and begin answering questions all day.

During the tournament, make sure that you have your team helping out with each field. Everyone should make sure each pitch is running on time, scores are recorded, and that field referees are where they are supposed to be. Don’t have just one person managing every little thing.

This will help with time management, which is crucial. Do whatever it takes to keep to your schedule. As the day progresses, check with volunteers, referees, and teams to make sure they have the equipment they need and aren’t too exhausted. Don’t just stay at headquarters all day.

Have your team secretary or a reliable volunteer update scores and progress online. The quidditch community loves its statistics and results.

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QC Western Regionals TD speaks with his events staff in the tournament opening | Photo Credit: JYK Photography

Plan out your bracket and have your tie-breakers ready. As soon as teams start to finish their pool play games, tally point differentials, snitch catches, and any other tie-breakers necessary. There is no harm in even keeping a running total as every game finishes to make your life easier later on. Notify teams in advance of the tie-breakers so there is no confusion on why someone ended up where they did.

Once in bracket play, make sure all teams understand that even if they are eliminated they need to stay and at least help assistant referee the next game. Teams are going to want to leave and abandon the pitch, especially the teams that lose, but you need to make sure they stay to help keep your games running on time.

Clean up as the tournament progresses, not just at the end. As fewer fields are being used, collect the equipment from the unused fields so you don’t have to do it after the tournament. This also includes sweeping the fields for trash. Doing so also reduces (though doesn’t eliminate) the chance that someone will steal your stuff.

After the Tournament
Once the tournament is over, don’t forget to submit your scores and pay your referees. Everyone has worked really hard to make this tournament a success, and it’s important for the results to count and for your referees to feel appreciated. Remember to solicit feedback on the tournament from those who attended so that you can improve for next time.