The most asked questions of a soccer tournament

The most asked questions of a soccer tournament right now by coaches and parents are:

Are you planning on having a 2022 tournament?

Is there a website?

When is registration open?

Our advice:
Decide. Have answers. Nothing kills off a great marketing plan by saying, “we don’t know.” Because if you don’t know, the teams asking are going elsewhere.

Selling a soccer tournament during a pandemic

Selling a soccer tournament during a pandemic

How do you sell a soccer tournament during a pandemic? The short answer is; you don’t.

Instead, you pivot to marketing your event for next year. Everyone is now on the same level playing field, all of your competitors have the same market conditions under which to attract teams. Nobody has any particular advantage, points don’t matter, especially if everyone was required to cancel last year.

Teams have short memories. They will remember their experience from last year, but their experience from two years ago will be a foggy memory, if they remember you at all. When they don’t even have a memory of last year, you have a marketing problem.

Or an opportunity. The choice is yours.

Think first year
First year events are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they don’t have a history to point to. Research shows the number one reason a team or club applies to your soccer tournament event is they had a good experience the last time. But you don’t have this. You had to skip a year.

The good thing, though, is you don’t have to live with your history. You can change things about your event that maybe you’ve been wanting to do for a while, but your history has been holding you back. Do it now!

You also have the experience first year soccer tournament events lack. Leverage your experience by becoming your own mentor you would have liked for your first-year running a tournament.

Think smaller
Soccer tournaments for next year will be smaller. Teams will not be attending as many events, so they will be pickier about who they choose. This doesn’t mean giving discounts or running giveaways or contests, but it does mean you will need to think about things you have done or marketing messages based on size and scale. You may also not have volume discounts with vendors and providers you enjoyed in the past.

If you are a large, sprawling event, think about if that is a good strategy for your event going forward. Ask yourself, “is the size of my soccer tournament event the reason teams apply?” It well may be, in that case, you will need to market to the reality of a smaller event next year, with the promise of a larger one as we move past this pandemic.

Think local
Many teams will be restricting travel for next year, maybe even the year after. Because the United States does not have a consistent pandemic response for every state, each state has developed their own rules, some backed by laws and executive orders, others by the US Soccer associations sanctioning policies and most with the combination of all of the above. Because it is confusing for teams, many clubs are simply mandating their teams play in local events through next year.

If you were always a soccer tournament event for local teams, you have an advantage. You know how to do this and you should be leveraging hard. You also have a problem with other tournaments who may have relied on out-of-state teams now marketing to local teams. Get in there first; don’t assume local teams are loyal. Again, teams have short memories and some don’t remember you.

Our advice:
This coronavirus pandemic has turned the soccer world on its head, most affecting the viability of your soccer tournament event. Training has begun, league play will follow if it hasn’t already but tournament events will be the last soccer format to get up and running, taking several years to become robust again. If you relied on your tournament to raise much-needed funds for your club, you need to get tournaments healthy again.

Hire a marketing firm to assess your event, position you within the tournament and soccer space and execute your marketing strategy well, including developing out your social media, other traditional media and email marketing. Now is not the time to bargain-hunt; you need someone who understands the soccer tournament landscape and has a proven marketing record.

Make sure your website is current and spot on updated with everything. No marketing program is going to work if you are not operationally ready and buttoned up. Make sure you are ready to take applications for your soccer tournament and have a clear cancellation policy in place. This year came up fast and took everyone by surprise; next year can be planned. A lack of a clear direction for next year will be read by teams as a disorganized event they will avoid. Don’t give them a reason to pass you up.

That’s pretty much it. Think first-year, think smaller, think local.

And wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance and stay safe so we can all get through this together. We’d hate to lose even one soccer player, their fans and supporters to this pandemic.

Carol Maas and Michael Blackwell standing in front of the Hank and Carol Maas Warrior Soccer Complex in Dayton Ohio

Carol Maas

It is with great sadness we learned of Carol’s passing last night. Without her vision and passion for the sport of soccer and her tournament — the adidas Warrior Soccer Classic — it is no small thing to know that TourneyCentral would have had a rockier start and might not even exist today.

Carol took a risk on a crazy idea from two soccer fans twenty-one years ago, in whom her faith and trust never wavered. In return, we learned from her what true community investment meant and saw how many lives she touched. From a simple idea of creating a soccer tournament to a sprawling complex, witnessing her faith in the potential of others was humbling and breathtaking. I was lucky she gave me a front-row seat into her world and embraced me as a friend. I shall treasure having known her the rest of my life.

My heart goes out to Hank and her family in their hour of grief. Her legacy will always and forever be felt with every whistle blown, every medal won, every touch of a ball.

Rest In Peace, Carol; you will be deeply missed.

Carol really hated it when I took her photo, but I did anyway on occasion, even as I knew she would yell at me. In the photo above, she is standing with Michael Blackwell who, because of her, was able to bring out the life of her tournaments in photos that have been shared and treasured immeasurably by thousands of players and their families.

soccer ball with medical mask

It only takes one

It only takes one player with courage to make a difference and affect change.

It only takes one player to stand up and do the right thing. I’m not talking about the first one to do something, like insisting on wearing a mask at all times — even on the pitch — during a pandemic. That player was born with courage; she is always going to do the right thing no matter what. To attempt to coach this quality out of her is pointless.

I’m talking about the second player to support her. I’m talking about the second player to stand up, face her and put on a mask.

Being that second takes an incredible amount of courage.

Soccer is a team sport and requires all its team members to pull together in the same direction. Inevitably, the question of dissent creeps into this argument by way of questioning a player’s “coachability.” Is a player who defiantly takes a stand “coachable?” Surely not, most coaches would say.

But they would be wrong. When a player takes a stand that is the moral and ethical thing to do, one that is supported by science and data, what right does the coach have to suppress that?

She doesn’t. In fact, she has a duty to stand up and be that third person to support her player.

A great coach draws good qualities out from her players, supports and nurtures them. A great coach recognizes that she is not the true leader of her team, but the players who are instilled with bravery and fearlessness, who charge onto a pitch that contains the unknown and untested — armed only with the confidence in their convictions and skills — are the true leaders.

Treasure those players. Support them and they will support each other.

Have the courage to be that third.

There’s a global pandemic raging right now. Take care of yourself and others as you seek to safely play this game we all love. Wear a mask, wash your hands often, practice safe distance by playing the ball and not the player. Be safe and we will all get through this together. The game will go on; make sure you are a part of it.

Post pandemic soccer tournaments

Nobody knows what soccer tournament play will look like post-pandemic, but the soccer community does agree on one thing; there will be soccer tournaments. It remains to be seen how much less contact the “non-contact” sport will become.

Regardless, it will be interesting.

Tournament directors will have to think deeper about how they want to manage their fields, what social distancing means, and how much health-related behavior compliance they can require. In some states, there will be laws and executive orders to aid the directors, whereas some states will bend more toward individual liberties. The rift will be felt most when teams from less complaint states will cross into those with stricter safety guidelines.

In any respect, a solid #COVID-19 policy should be crafted now, teams applying into your tournament event should be required to sign (explicitly or via the application TOS) and a plan for execution and enforcement drawn up now, before the fall season gets busy.

Our recommendations are:

  1. Keep it simple. Then simplify it even more.
  2. Use as little technology* as possible to communicate and execute the plan on-site.
  3. Sanitize everything. Be visible, show your guest teams that you take this seriously and in return, you expect them to take it seriously.
  4. Use signage, big signs with as few words as possible. Be specific, direct, don’t worry about being
  5. Use physical barriers, ground markings, etc to calculate distancing for the participants. ENFORCE THEM WITH ZERO TOLERANCE! There is a lawn company locally that advertises on TV.. their tag line is “if you give a weed an inch, they will take a yard.” Don’t give up one inch of your six feet distancing.

Here are some signage ideas:

  • Face masks are required for all players and attendees. Players ONLY may remove mask while on the pitch, but mask must remain on while on the sidelines.
  • Parents and fans are encouraged to remain in their cars during games.
  • Spectators MUST remain 6 ft apart while on the touchline and may NOT extend past the box.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Move quickly between games but maintain social distance.
  • ABSOLUTELY NOBODY EXCEPT TOURNAMENT STAFF IS ALLOWED IN THE HQ TENT or within 30 ft from the front or any other opening.

On another note, when teams come out for Fall tournaments, they may not be in the best shape for competition. Even if individual players have kept up their fitness and ball skills, they will have lost a bit of team play. It will take them a bit to find their rhythm.

Should you include your COVID-19 policy in your official rules? YES, we think so!

Be patient. Be safe.

*Sounds weird coming from a technology company, right? But as we’ve been all taking a break, we’ve been watching a lot of soccer tech companies making a lot of noise about how they will be solving the social distancing issues that are inherent in soccer tournaments. This is great stuff, I suppose, if compliance were 100%, but every tournament director knows that a plan only sounds great — until that whistle blows. Then, it’s organized chaos. Keep it super simple; don’t tech the crap out of something that a good sign, field markings and rope can solve.