Tournament Scheduling Part 2: Individual tournaments


Hello and welcome back to the second part of organizing the tournament schedule! In this post, I’ll talk about all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into running a tournament. How far out I hire referees, when I ask for bout committee volunteers, and tournament day work. Hint, if you missed part one, go here!

Running a Tournament - Preparation

Three to four weeks out I start hiring referees based on the pre-registration numbers. The rules of thumb are:

  • 1 referee per 6 fencers
  • 8 fencers - 2 refs
  • 13 to 14 fencers - depends on the event, maybe 2, maybe 3
  • 15 fencers - 3 referees
  • Layer so 1 person isn’t standing the whole time
  • Try not to have a big break (i.e. foil then saber)
  • Have a current USFA membership with background check and SafeSport training per USFA sanctioning rules.

Some referees (*cough cough* MN Refs if you are reading this!) are bad at responding to emails, so I may have to mildly harass people via email, in person or via a proxy to get a verbal confirmation that they can or can’t ref. When hiring referees for the MN Open, out of state refs are contacted 1.5-2 months in advance so that travel arrangements can be made.

One to two weeks out I ask for bout committee volunteers. Sometimes I have people reach out to me early and ask if they can do bout committee, which makes my life easy! I also coordinate with Colin, who houses the grounded strip, Lena, who has the money, and whoever has access to the division tournament supplies (printer, cash box, scoring boxes, reels, referee kits, blue tape, medals, etc.) to get those items to the tournament.

A few days before the tournament, I will send out an email to all of the hired referees and bout committee members with the tournament schedule and when I would like everyone to be there. This helps our day run smoothly so everyone knows what weapons they will be refereeing and when they need to get there.

The day before the tournament I pull USFA’s current member list and update Fencing Time, our tournament software, with everyone’s information. Next, I download the preregistration lists from askFred and upload them into Fencing Time. Lastly, Fencing Time will make me a sign-in sheet that I then modify to better work with our bout committee’s workflow. These modifications include highlighting people without current memberships, how much people owe for the day, and a drop down method of payment option.

Running a Tournament - Day Of Set Up

Tournament morning I get up far earlier than I want to and make my way to the venue, usually with a mug of hot tea. I aim for one hour ahead of open registration for the first event. When I get there, I unload the tournament supplies and start setting up with the other volunteers. This includes moving tables around for the bout committee area and the scoring machines, taping down strips, running extension cords to scoring machines, hooking up reels to scoring machines, and setting out referee kits for each table. When the grounded strip is being used, I will also help carry the pieces and hook them together. With three experienced people, it takes around an hour to set up 6 strips.

Bout Committee will be there shortly before open of registration and will set up their area. Their area involves running an extension cable to power the computer and printer, setting up the printer and computer, setting out extra referee kits, preparing for equipment check, and preparing to take entry fees via Paypal. Bout committee takes about 15 minutes to set up.

Running Events

At the close of registration, bout committee will check all fencers that have paid entry fees into Fencing Time. Fencing Time will then check that all fencers have current memberships (if not, bout committee manually enters membership number presented at check-in) and present an initial seeding list. Bout Committee will print out the initial seeding list, post it, and wait for any corrections to come in. Usually while waiting they’ll go ahead and tell Fencing Time to start pools. When the initial seeding list is “approved” (either no corrections, or corrections are made), the pool sheets are handed to the referees. The event start times are staggered enough that pools should be returning to bout committee before the rush of next event registrants are checking in. (However, sometimes that doesn’t happen so we thank you for your patience when checking in!)

Bout committee will enter the scores into Fencing Time and once all of the pools are in, the pool results are printed and posted. After the first event, while bout committee is entering scores, the referees working over lunch hours will be asked to write down their lunch order. This will make it easier for bout committee to order meals after the second event is started. Once pool results are either not contested or are corrected, Fencing Time is told to start DE’s. Fencing Time will populate the DE bracket and bout committee will print out slips for all known bouts or all known bouts and bouts with one person known. The bout slips with both competitors are known are handed to the head ref to assign bouts to referees. The bout slips missing a competitor are held back until the first bouts are completed and they’re known. When the second competitor is known, a start time for the bout is written in the “Start Time” box. Bout committee manages the slips until the event is done. Upon the finish of the final bout, bout committee will enter the scores and print the final results. With the final results in hand, they present medals to the top 4 finishers and announce any rating changes.

Somewhere along the way, bout committee also finds time to put in the lunch order and have it delivered or goes to pick it up. Having hungry referees might be a bad idea.


As the final event is finishing up and strips are no longer needed, volunteers will start tearing down strips: pulling up tape, rolling up floor cords, and putting equipment in boxes. Bout committee will count and record the entry fees taken. When the final event is completed and the finishers are awarded their medals, bout committee will finish packing down the bout committee area. The tournament computer will be returned to me so that I may wrap up the tournament and publish results to AskFred. If Lena (the treasurer) is at the tournament, the money bag will be given to her. Otherwise, it will be returned to me and I will give it to Lena the next time I see her.

After the tournament, I send Lena the sign in sheet with who attended, how much they paid, and how they paid, so she can do the tournament financials. If there are rating changes, I fill out two forms, the “Classification Change Form” and “Event Officials Form”. The Classification Change Form is mostly auto generated by Fencing Time on who attended which event and who is awarded a rating change and I fill out the event details. The Event Officials

Form details who refereed and when they completed the background check and SafeSport training. It can be generated by Fencing Time but is generally only worth the effort to input referees for a tournament if it’s the MN Open. Otherwise I look up the referee’s information and manually enter it into the form. Once those forms are completed, I send the results to the USFA national office for processing. Occasionally there will be a membership issue and they’ll email me to get it corrected. They’ve been pretty helpful in situations where a parent’s information has accidentally ended up on the child’s membership card. Once those are completed, I will post the results to AskFred and email participants through AskFred a “Thank for attending! Results have been posted and I have some lost and found items.” message.


There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into a single day of tournament. The MN Open has even more work since out-of-town referees are hired and it’s a two day affair. If you want to be involved in helping run tournaments, you can hit the “Contact Us” button or fill out our referee and bout committee availability form (! If you haven’t refereed or done bout committee before, that’s okay! We’ll be happy to giving you refereeing experience and/or bout committee training.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more!
Stephanie, your tea fueled MN Div Vice President

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