HOW TO HOST A TOURNAMENT
Written by Nathan White and Melissa Tierney, Ever Active Schools
In our Everybody Plays project work, funded by Jumpstart, Ever Active Schools has been working with schools and communities to host leagues of play, which includes tournaments! This handy guide is intended to help you plan and host a tournament. It is important to note that every school context is different and your school may have unique considerations that are not in this guide. This is more geared towards indoor gym sports; other sports may require additional considerations.
- Team Makeup: If you are organizing teams by gender, trans and non-binary students should be able to participate in the team that best aligns with their identity. Tournaments may want to include and account for mixed teams (this allows smaller school communities to be able to participate if they do not have enough players to form single gender teams; this specifically benefits girls because they are often unable to play at all if their school cannot support a full team)
- For more information please refer to:
- Confirmed teams: It is really important to get attending teams confirmed sooner than later. This way you can create a tournament draw and not be stressed about filling the tournament roster last minute.
- Venues: Does it need to be booked ahead of time? If you are using a school gym, have you made sure that there aren’t any other teams or groups using the gym during your proposed tournament time? Some schools will require for there to be a custodian on site whenever the building is occupied by a group, so be sure to check in with your admin team to make sure that OHS requirements are being met. If the tournament is happening outdoors, what is your contingency plan for poor weather? Are there change rooms and washrooms on site? If not, we can provide seed funding for porta potties to be rented.
- Draw: Most tournaments are done in a round robin or bracket style draw. When creating a draw, try to give every team an equal amount of games. There are plenty of draw “generators” online, or you can ask firstname.lastname@example.org to create this for you. If a team is traveling into town that day, try to give them the later games to allow them time to arrive. Specify on your draw which teams will be wearing light/dark jerseys in any given game. Place a large draw printout in a common area of the venue that is updated promptly after each game so that teams know when their next game will be. Try to have an even amount of teams in the tournament. Aim to get these draws out a few weeks ahead of time so schools can plan their travel accordingly.
- Giveaways/swag: This could be t-shirts, MVP shirts, keychains, sackpacks, a “care package” with snacks and water for each team, or whatever you think is best! “Free stuff” is a good way to make your tournament memorable and keep teams coming back year after year.
- Tournament guide: When sending out your tournament draw, it is nice for the attending teams if you include some sort of “guide” that lets teams know how early they should arrive, how long warmup is, any rule nuances, instructions on how to get to the school/gym, where busses can park, whether there are change rooms available, whether there are gender-neutral bathrooms available, any cultural celebrations you might be including, any local customs which should be known about/respected, which team will be wearing light/dark and any other information that is relevant to your tournament.
- Additional events: Are you planning to have an opening ceremony or additional events outside of the games? If so, are you inviting speakers? Doing giveaways? Shooting contests? If so, be sure to mention to participating teams so that they arrive on time!
- Refs: Are you planning to hire refs from one of the local associations, or do you have capable students or community members? It is important to note that in some sporting contexts, having officially certified refs can contribute to the safety of the participants. Refs should be booked as soon as your tournament is filled.
- Scorekeepers: Make sure that the scorekeepers are aware of how the score clock/scoresheet works. This is an excellent opportunity to get students some volunteer hours. Consider how you can motivate students to attend the tournament and scorekeep. Sometimes free food and snacks can be the ultimate motivator! If it is in your budget, you could also consider paying these students an amount per game. Always be prepared with a backup plan in case your scorekeepers don’t show up. You may need to lean on parents or do it yourself if this happens.
- Concessions: Are concessions a consideration? This can be a great way to raise some money for your school or community’s athletics programs. You will need some volunteers to run concessions. Costco is a great choice for grabbing “concession” type items. Plan to offer healthy foods that will fuel the athletes and promote balanced eating:
- Water, milk, chocolate milk, and 100% fruit juice instead of gatorade or pop
- Fresh fruit, fruit bars and granola bars instead of chocolate bars
- Bags of pretzels or crackers and cheese instead of chips
- High protein snacks like whole grain muffins, jerky and cheese sticks
- Crowd: Has the event been advertised to the local community who may wish to watch? Community members could also potentially be recruited to volunteer in other roles.
We hope you find this checklist to be a handy guide when planning your tournament!
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