Tournament Planning Part 1: Yearly Schedule

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Hello! I’m Stephanie, the current Vice President of the MN Division. I’m in charge of organizing all of the division sponsored tournaments. You’re reading this blog post, so clearly you’re at least somewhat interested in how I accomplish that. For me, it takes a lot of tea, worry with an occasional sprinkle of panic, amazement that Brianna presumably did this with some ease, and help from my fellow board members.

Making the Tournament Schedule

At the end of July/beginning of August, I put together a proposed schedule for the season. First, I black out the dates for holidays, Region 2 ROCs most likely to have MN fencers, driving distance (<8 hrs) NACs, Junior Olympics, Summer Nationals, and deadlines for qualifier submissions. Next, I grey out the remaining NACs and Region 2 ROCs, recurring nearby large tournaments that draw MN fencers (like Wisconsin’s Turkey Meet), and note the high school season runs January through late February/early March. Once I have that down, I look at what Sundays are available for tournaments and the number is pretty small. We’ve found that we get the best attendance with about 1 tournament per month, so that’s our goal. Once I have a proposed schedule, I email it to the clubs in the Minnesota division and surrounding area division members for feedback. The Minnesota clubs generally give me speedy replies and out of state contacts can be hit or miss. One important thing to note here is that the Minnesota division, as far as I can tell, operates very differently from others. We host most of the tournaments in the division while in other divisions, clubs will host the majority of the tournaments. Some divisions will get all of their tournament organisers together and hash out a schedule while others are a little more free-form about it. I’ll wait about a week for responses on my schedule before moving onto the next step: venue booking.

Finding the Venues

Venue booking can be pretty tricky and the cause of most of my headaches and frustrated gif sendings. The easy part: Twin Cities Fencing Club (TCFC) and Center for Blade Arts (CBA) donate their space to the division to host our youth, women’s only, veteran’s only, and qualifying tournaments. Usually they’re pretty open and I worry least about overlapping with events in their space. The hard part: booking our senior open tournaments. They are too big to host at TCFC or CBA and we need to rent space at local community centers or school gyms. We need a space that: is at least 2 basketball courts big, has an area to set up bout committee, has space for people to leave their fencing bags, and won’t break our budget. (Lena’s going to write a post on our finances, so look for more info there!) Last year we found all of these things at the Fairview Community Center.

Know of any other spaces that would work? Let us know!

This year was particularly frustrating and had me rearranging the fall half of the schedule several times - Fairview Community Center was booked on the original dates for the Tony Staples and Great Moose. Fortunately they did have alternate dates that allowed me to swap the dates for the Great Moose and the Valkyrie. That still left finding a venue for the Tony Staples. The Fairview Community Center is part of the Roseville Area School system and the coordinator let me know the middle school gym was open on my date. It was nearly double the rate of Fairview though! Time to venue shop - many area school systems have their rental rates posted online and the board scoured through pricing sheets for places for me to contact. Most places responded that they were booked or that we would (understandably) need a costly building manager there during the event. I ran some numbers and the Roseville Middle School was still the cheapest option for us, so I booked it. Once everything is booked, I request proof of insurance for each tournament from the National Office. While not hard, it is tedious and time consuming filling out the same form with basically nearly identical information. Thank goodness for autofill! Usually the National Office turns that around in a day or two and I forward them to the venues.

Final Season Preparation

Lastly, I upload the tournaments to askFred.net. Again, it’s not hard, just time consuming. Fortunately, Brianna is a kind, wonderful person and added me as a tournament organizer to all of last year’s tournaments. askFred will let you clone a tournament, so I cloned all of last year’s tournaments and updated the information to include relevant rule changes, close of registration dates, and age classifications. We have 13 tournaments and it took me about 2.5 hours to clone the tournaments, update the close of pre-registration dates, and track down the age classifications and a link to the foil chest protector rule.

Actually lastly, because I forgot to do this until right before the Tony Staples this year, I create a Google Form for referee and bout committee interest and tournament availability. I send this out to my list of tournament officials asking them to fill it out and will link to it in all of our askFred tournament descriptions. (Which takes another 20 or so minutes to update askFred again.)

I hope I’ve helped pull back the veil on how and why we schedule the season the way we do. For me, running the tournament season can be pretty stressful at times. (Especially now that Brianna has left us and the training wheels are off.) So if I seem particularly frazzled: hugs, jokes, and tea are always welcomed. Look out for Part 2 where I discuss running a tournament - it should be coming out with the next newsletter!

Cheers and happy fencing!

Stephanie, your tea-fueled tournament organizer

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