Realizing that his facility is the world’s largest; Kruse strongly suggests all youth tournament directors, regardless of tournament size, keep record of attendance and economic impact for these reasons:
• Documentation for sponsors and vendors
• Garner support from city and county governments, CVB’s, hotels and the business community
• Help local businesses staff up for the rush of tournament attendees
• Pride factor for volunteers and sponsoring club
• Help police department plan for traffic and parking control
• Reporting to oversight committees or government bodies
Bush, who plans eight tournaments a year, agrees with Kruse and adds, “Our non-profit also provides a top-of-the-line facility and works hard every day to provide both players and spectators a memorable visit.”
To ensure all have a memorable tournament experience Bush identifies key roles in tournament planning as:
Activities Director: Creates tournament schedule, follows up on matches, update tournament brackets and be available to coaches before and during the tournament
Parking Coordinator: Monitors parking, ensures visitors park in legal spaces and directs visitors to open spots
Concessions Manager: Prepares menu, cooks food, manages distribution and responsible for cash. Never underestimate the value of outstanding concessions. Bush shares that Kids America tournaments are profitable through concession sales because registration fees go toward awards, payment of officials and employees and concession rentals.
Being prepared and planning ahead are essential for a successful tournament. Consider these in your planning.
Inclement Weather: “We schedule or leave openings on upcoming weekends to cover any weather related problems,” says Bush. Be aware of weather warnings and listen for tornado sirens. Have a plan for quickly moving everyone if needed.
Medical Emergencies, including heat exhaustion and injuries: Collect an Emergency Medical Waiver from every player. Have plenty of water and ice available.
Security: Inform and partner with police and fire departments and call upon them, if necessary, to remove participants and spectators who violate tournament non-alcohol and drug policies.
Directing Spectators/Players to Fields and Other Tournament Locations: Provide maps on tournament websites and include a facility map in coach packets prior to the tournament. Make staff and volunteers visible with badges and t-shirts to assist guests throughout the tournament.
Media Exposure: “Given the general lack of interest from the media in youth soccer, we take full advantage of all the web-based technologies to tell our story to the public,” says Kruse. “We rely extensively on social media like Facebook and Twitter and are producing an app for the USA Cup in 2012. We also have live webcasts of select games and events, and during the USA Cup print a daily newspaper and produce a daily video show on Kick TV.”
Well managed field operations differentiate a good tournament from a great tournament. The NSC provides manuals to all field managers who are each responsible for two fields. Field services staff also periodically service the field manager tents, deliver, by golf cart, fresh water, new radio batteries and ice, and provide moral support. Each field manager box contains:
• Field Manager Manual
• Duct tape
• Hand ball pump for inflating balls
• Extra drinking cups
• Notepad and pen
• Paper towels
• Rubber gloves (in a sealed bag)
• Spray bottle of bleach solution (Medical Section of manual explains Blood Pathogens Rule)
• Garbage bags
• Plastic insert for game cards that are in the manual
• Sealed bag with paper clips, rubber bands, Band-Aids, and pump needles
• Rope and tent stakes
• Clipboard and scissors
Each field manager also carries a radio, two jugs of water for referees (players and coaches get water from other sources identified on maps), a 16-quart cooler filled with ice for referee’s water and ice bags for injuries, and field corner flags.
Kruse and Bush both work for organizations that plan tournaments at their own complexes and on their own fields. For those not in their situation, these topics deserve special attention:
Field Space. Contact the parks and recreation departments in the tournament location. Secure permits and pay fees according to deadlines, most often posted on websites.
Officials. Check with local soccer clubs and state referee associations for rosters of officials by grade of certification. More experienced officials create a perception of fair play and outcomes. Having satisfied participants who enjoyed the tournament and felt all matches were fair is what organizers strive for, especially when planning for future tournaments.
Competition. Who is invited? Is it open to only recreational teams or are select teams, club teams, regional teams and travel teams also included? Is it divided by boys and girls, or are co-ed teams included? What age groups? What is the format? How many teams are in each bracket? What happens if there is a tie at the end of regulation play?
Costs and registration fees. Before deciding on what each team owes, create a comprehensive list of costs from officials and other personnel costs to awards to t-shirts. Include a line item for unknown costs so the budget is not short.
Liability Insurance. Seek counsel on creating a liability release form and be certain the event has ample liability insurance.
“One final tip,” says Bush, “Do not forget to be kind and courteous to everyone at your event. Remember, they made an investment in you, appreciate them for that.”