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
    “nice.”
  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.

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.

COVID-19 Updates and Soccer Tournaments

The coronavirus pandemic is rapidly evolving and will affect soccer leagues and tournaments. Right now, it’s not a question of if, but when and how much.

While each tournament needs to determine the best path going forward, in some instances these decisions may be made for you, as in Ohio and Michigan recently.

While we know you have a lot of questions regarding your website, rest assured firstly, TourneyCentral isn’t going anywhere. While this sudden downturn will be uncomfortable, we are sufficiently capitalized and staffed to weather this. We are both in this together and together, we will also get through this.

Please take the time to review your own contingency plans should the dates of containment be pushed back. Communicate clearly and concisely with your guest teams. Your TourneyCentral website is equipped with communication tools to help you manage this task efficiently. Be sure your Frequently Asked Questions are updated and current.

We’ll make it through. Stay calm, wash your hands often, don’t touch your face and practice social distancing. (WHO Website for COVID-19 info)

G.

Now may be a good time to review our cancelation policy. As always, please advise us as early as possible if you will be forced to cancel. As always if needed, we will work with you as best we can.

20 second timer

Soccer tournaments and coronavirus

As a soccer tournament director, you should be crafting a plan to address the coronavirus for your event.

A soccer tournament hosts a lot of people in a concentrated area. As a tournament organizer, you need to be prepared with a written statement, a strategy and a training session for all volunteers. Hopefully, this post will help you formulate that plan, assuage anxiety within your staff and with the teams you are hosting.

You should not panic, but you should be cautious, vigilant and prepared.

Firstly, keep yourself informed. Misinformation is not helpful for you or your hosted teams. The best organization for information is the World Health Organization. In the United States, the prevailing authority for the coronavirus is the local health officials, so make sure you are in direct contact with the municipalities where your tournament is being played.

DISCLAIMER: We are not medical experts and this post is not medical advice.

Ok, that said, and following the advice of the medical professionals at the WHO and your local health departments, here are some soccer tournament-specific tips we think will help everyone attending your event.

Tournament Staff:

  • Firstly, respect the wishes of your guest teams. If they wish to withdraw amidst fears of the coronavirus, respect that. Have a plan in place, whether that is event insurance or a refund.
  • Stock Lysol or similar disinfectant that is specific for a coronavirus.
  • Map out all the public areas like restrooms, porta-lets and concession areas. Create a plan to methodically disinfect all these areas. Assign volunteers to disinfect these areas throughout the tournament. Post a sign-off sheet in plain view of the participants with dates and times the area was last disinfected to assure them you are taking necessary steps to ensure their safety.
  • Include a statement in your liability release that indemnifies your event. (consult your legal counsel on this one, please)
  • Ask your local health department if they have a brochure you can hand out or post to your forms area on your website for the coaches and parents.
  • Wash your own hands frequently. Make sure all your volunteers do the same. You may want to do this in plain site of the participants to set an example and also assure them you are protecting them.
  • Make sure your vendors are aware and ask them for their coronavirus prevention plans, especially any food vendors. This is no time to be shy; ask them directly. Make sure they stick to the plan they say they will abide by. Again, be direct.
  • Post signs in every restroom areas — above the sinks, on the front and back of each door, in each stall, on the porta-let doors, on the concession stand areas — reminding participants to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds. Provide soap that is listed as killing a coronavirus and make sure you never run out.
  • Keep the restroom areas clean and make sure any used hand towels are contained entirely in trash cans. Don’t allow them to overflow.
  • Encourage all participants to make your soccer tournament a “no touching” event. Eliminate handshaking as much as possible. Ask teams to air-touch hands, fist-bump or elbow touch at the start and end of the games. Also, encourage parent to NOT make a tunnel for the players to run through.
  • Spray the game ball with disinfectant before and after every game.

Coaches:

  • Respect the parents’ wishes! If they don’t want their kid to play in the event, don’t force it or punish them. You are responsible for the team, but the parents are responsible for their kid’s overall health.
  • Respect the coronavirus policy of the tournament. Make sure your parents are also respectful of the policy, regardless of their personal opinions.
  • Encourage your players to keep the soccer ball at their feet at all times. A cool unintended consequence of this is they get more touches and develop more ball control skills.
  • Identify and eliminate times when players will touch.
  • Encourage players to cough into their elbows or upper arms. Don’t play players who are sick.
  • Practice precautions yourself and be a good example to your players.

I’m sure there are a few more tips that you can think of, but the important take-away is to be prepared, be vigilant but not panicked. Above all, do not spread misinformation or allow it to be spread. Be clear, concise and visible about your coronavirus policy.

Soccer is a team sport and we are all in this together. Let’s do all we can to make your soccer tournament a safe event.

*That graphic at the top of this post is just me saying, “Hey Siri, set a timer for 20 seconds” before I start washing my hands. I’m told singing two verses of ‘Happy Birthday’ is also about 20 seconds long.

DaytonStrongCup 3v3 Soccer Tournament

DaytonStrongCup 3v3 Soccer Tournament

UPDATE: Thank you for your support of the Dayton Community as we continue to repair the damage caused by the Memorial Day tornados. Through your generosity, we were able to raise $2,957.00 for the Miami Valley Community Action Partnership. The funds will be used primarily to help displaced residents find and secure housing.

While the TV cameras have largely moved on from the damage the Dayton community sustained from the Memorial Day tornados, many residents continue to need help reconstructing their lives they lost in the few moments the tornados touched down on their homes. Many lost everything.

There is still a lot of work to be done and your generous contribution will help organizations on the ground continue to do their work.

* * *
On Memorial Day, 15 tornados touched down in the Dayton, Ohio area, the largest ones hitting Trotwood, Brookville, Riverside and Old North Dayton. They were rated EF4, with winds up to 170 mph.  

Many lost their homes; many more were displaced without power, food, water or shelter. Thanks to local groups on the ground, a lot of the initial cleanup has been addressed, but the hard work of rebuilding lives still needs to be done. In the coming months, the tornado survivors will need not only their physical needs met, but their mental well-being cared for. 

We believe that sports help heal. It is in that spirit that we are reaching out to the soccer community and asking us to come together to help provide a fun day of play and entertainment, food and laughter.

We are organizing a fun 3v3 soccer tournament event to help raise funds that will continue the relief efforts. The games will be 25 minutes each, with 12 minute halves, played on three small-sided fields. Team divisions will be separated by age. All teams are co-ed, youth and adult (parents, fans, coaches, referees) We are limiting the number of teams to 36 due to the number of available fields, so apply early! www.daytonstrongcup.com

We are not asking for team fees to compete, but rather donations for what you feel you can give (suggested fees are $50.00 per team.) We are also accepting sponsorships for individuals and organizations who would like to help but can’t form a team. For those players who have lost everything, we only ask that you have a good time. (checks accepted on Saturday, credit cards will also be accepted)

In addition, June 20th is Warrior Soccer Club night at the Crew Stadium in Columbus. We have purchased four tickets to the Columbus Crew vs Montreal Impact match at 7:30pm. Each player on a competing team is eligible to win. Players who are able to travel to the game can place their name in a hat and the winning names will be drawn prior to the 1:00pm game.

The Dayton, Ohio area is home to TourneyCentral and the soccer and business community here has been very good to us the past twenty years. For us here at TourneyCentral, this is very personal. We hope to raise funds to help, but more importantly, we hope to raise spirits.

We hope that by bringing the community together, we reaffirm to each other that we are all in this together; that what affects you, affects me. We hope you meet others throughout the day and take the time to share in each other’s story.

Gerard and Chris

CONTACT INFORMATION:
Chris Bess, Event Director
mighty.pixel@gmail.com

REGISTER A TEAM:
To register a team, apply at www.daytonstrongcup.com

DATE/TIMES: 
July 20, 2019. Games start at 8am and are scheduled through 2pm (finish up at about 2:30pm)

LOCATION:
Warrior Soccer Complex
4110 Fishburg Road Dayton OH 45424

SOCIAL HASHTAG: 
#DaytonStrongCup  Use it widely across all your social channels. Photos will also be taken throughout the event and posted.

TSHIRTS:
Event tshirts are pre-order only for participating teams on www.daytonstrongcup.com $15/per

COST:
Donation requested, suggested minimum; $50/team

FUNDS RAISED:
Funds raised will be donated to the Miami Valley Community Action Partnership

cell tower in Englewood, Ohio 45322

Overloaded cell towers at soccer tournaments

Soccer tournaments are going mobile. Parents and coaches are able to get scores and standings on their phones in real time from the fields to their phones rapidly, post photos and videos from the touchlines. Everything is wonderful!

Eh, maybe.

While the number of teams, parents and fans checking for scores at the sites have remained relatively stable, the way we use the internet has changed. Every tablet and phone is competing with every other tablet and phone for a channel from the cell tower. More streaming services are available, more real-time social media features, larger files and less low-data like checking websites and apps is being done. It’s the equivalent of a Walmart on Black Friday where they only have a few televisions and hundreds of customers busting down the doors to get in. Every wireless device that is being used at the fields is competing with your HQ team for wireless internet access.

Bored siblings are playing internet games on their iPads on the touchline. Parents are streaming the latest episode of After Life as they wait for the referee to blow the whistle to start the game. The cell tower infrastructure at the parks that was designed for casual weather checks and texting for a few dozen people while feeding the ducks or strolling around the lake now has to accommodate a few hundred or thousand parents, players and their fans, all looking down at their screens. It also needs to provide the tournament staff access to their website admin modules.

While wireless providers are promising unlimited data plans, they have generally not upgraded cell tower access on their public park locations. Moreover, “value” providers like Boost Mobile and some pre-paid plans are allowed by law to access the cell towers as a common carrier, while not contributing into upgrade costs. It’s like a soccer tournament adding three more fields, 20 more teams and not planning for extra port-a-johns. Things are gonna get a bit messy and long lines will form.

How cell towers work
This is very simplified because the real technical stuff is quite complicated. But for our purposes here, this will provide a basic understanding so you can make logistical decisions.
While it may appear that cell service is freely available to anyone who wants to grab a signal out of the air, the technical reality is far from that myth. A cell tower — while an amazing bit of technology — is a hardware device that has hardware limitations.

Again, not comprehensive, but essentially each cell tower has a limited number of channel pairs, one for incoming and one for outgoing. You need both for internet data and voice to work otherwise, your cell phone would just be a megaphone. If the tower has a free pair, it links up with your device and you can make a call, visit a website, etc. If there are no free pairs at the one tower, your device goes looking for another. In sparsely populated areas like suburban parks, there may only be one the services miles. In normal day-to-day life, that may be more than enough to service the park. If there are no channel pairs, you get a spinning icon as your device waits for one to open up.

The exact number of channels available depends on the technology the cell tower uses (LTE, 4G, 3G, 2G… 5G coming) and wireless providers upgrade these on a schedule that is basically dictated by prevailing laws, community tax-base, market value… whatever it is, but suffice to say that if you are an affluent market and your local government is active and strong, you’ll get better service. Fair? Probably not, but reality.

With some exceptions, the type of communication that gets through, in order of priority are: 911 calls, SMS/text, voice and finally, data. By law, 911 calls will (should?) always get through and the tower will bump off traffic to connect. (As an aside, you should always equip field marshals and your emergency staff with radios. Do not rely on cell phones.)

Again, this is by no means a comprehensive technical description of how cell towers works, but the important thing to remember is cell towers have a limited number of channel pairs. And every kid you see playing an internet-based game on their iPad or every parent live-streaming Netflix or doing a FBLive of their kids game, they are basically holding a channel pair hostage. When these fill up, the only thing that will knock them off is a 911 call. With no channel pairs left, even your tournament HQ will not be able to log in and update scores, even as the servers hosting your website are sitting with dedicated resources.

But I have five bars!
That means little other than your device has the potential for a strong signal. If there are no data channel pairs left because several hundred parents are all video-streaming their kids to Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Snapchat or TikTok they are hogging the channel pair you need to update scores. First on gets the channel pair. Unlike regular HTTP web traffic which is a quick millisecond on and off, these live-streaming apps must keep a constant connection. The “bars” you see on your phone are basically Apple, Android-manufacturers and cell service providers’ marketing gimmicks for users to believe it is not their phones or data providers that are the problem; it must be the website servers. It is not.

But I can Google and go to Amazon
Yup. Remember the Net Neutrality fight in 2017? The larger providers are paying the data providers for priority access. As important as your soccer tournament is to you is as unimportant as it is to them. While I have no hard data on it, I suspect that if a user hits Google or Amazon.com, some random parent three fields over will get knocked off their cell tower signal. Since we have all been conditioned to accept cell signals are spotty, nobody will figure that out.

But I logged into the website at home and still could not get through
Possible. Are you using the same device as you used in the field? Your OS may still be cached, trying to use the same path to get to the website. Log out, clear your temp files, refresh your DHCP lease and then log in. Some OSs are so sticky that you may need to restart the device, reconnect to your WiFi and log in again. Also, if your home is close to the fields and you are trying to use your wireless device, you may be trying the same cell tower the rest of the parents are. Make sure you are connecting using a cable or DSL modem.

What we do at Tourneycentral
We’re always revamping our code to be as skinny as possible, to make as few calls as possible to the database and serve up as few graphics on a page load as we can. The days before the tournament weekend, we ramp up server resources like RAM and CPUs to handle the increased load. We monitor server traffic and balance the load, especially on Sunday mornings when there is an increased interest in the final pool play scores. We watch the scores coming in and make sure that team are advanced quickly and that anyone who wants to get a score can get a score. (If we don’t see scores, we’ll probably be calling you….) We especially watch for bots scraping everything or hackers attempting a DDoS attacks and rabidly block these IP addresses at the firewall.

In short, we don’t clock out on Friday night and check back in on Monday. We’re watching everything from dashboards and terminal windows throughout the tournament weekend.

Our advice
Your soccer tournament is an event, like Lollapalooza, Bonoroo, Coachella… maybe not as big, but like these festivals, part of the planning now includes ubiquitous internet access. Your attendees expect it and you need it to administer your event. You can’t ignore it, just like you can’t ignore planning your port-a-johns. Internet is not some magic that gets pulled out of the air; it is a series of hardware and software bits that have limits.

Even if you have your own wireless device or use your cell phone as a hotspot, you are still relying on the cell towers hundreds/thousands are using to get a signal out to your website admin. You want to remove that bottleneck.

Get a dedicated DSL or cable router access from your local provider for the HQ tent. If you create a WiFi zone for your staff from this connection, make sure it is password-protected and not shared with anyone except your scorekeepers. You need a path into your admin area. It is worth the extra money.

Position the scorekeeper off-site, in a facility with a hard wired router that is not part of the same wireless cell tower that is being inundated by traffic at the site. Usually voice and text messages can get through, even as the data channels are being bombarded by traffic. This could be a volunteer or tournament staff member sitting in their home, on their own internet network. Call in the scores.

Lastly, if you can, make a deal with your local wireless provider to get a C.O.W (Cell On Wheels) unit positioned at the park to handle the increased load. These are a bit expensive, several thousand dollars for one unit for one weekend and should be planned well in advance of your event. You may be able to strike an in-kind deal with a local provider. If you get a C.O.W, make sure that your provider limits it to your TourneyCentral website (we can help with IP addresses if needed.) Every other bit of traffic like to Facebook or Twitter can be handled by the cell tower infrastructure.

And follow up with your local government officials, let them know your tournament is a vital part of their community and contributes to the economic impact for local businesses using your Tournament PulsePoint™ Show them that internet at the parks is not just something “nice to have,” but a critical measure in ensuring your tournament — and their community — remains a desirable place to spend a weekend.