Tiny details make a big difference

Recently, to accommodate a larger holiday meal, another batch of forks were added to my cutlery drawer by someone who thinks a fork is a fork is a fork is a fork.

The fork on top is thin and well-balanced, with long, tapered tines and a flat handle that rests against my palm. It feels like an extension of my hand as I deftly navigate my way through the food on my plate to my mouth.

The fork on the bottom has short blunt tines, with a thin handle where I struggle to keep the fork aligned with my knife. It feels like I’m fighting my fighting my food, bludgeoning it to give up its home on the plate.

What do forks have to do with a soccer tournament? Everything!

Our Advice: If you are using TourneyCentral to manage your soccer tournament event, you are already honing the user experience for your tournament. We are obsessive about sharpening the tines and shaping the handle so your web site and management tools feel like an extension of your event.

But you can do more.

Make sure your news on the front page is clear and concise. Keep updating the news for your event during the tournament. On the ground, make sure your signage to the parking is clear and visible. Make sure all your volunteers know the web address, the twitter, facebook, snapchat and instagram accounts. Update the scores as quickly as you can after the games. Post the standings in real time. Dedicate one or two people (depending on your tournament size) to posting scores during the tournament–that is all they do.

Broadcast about your vendors and sponsors on a schedule. Make this part of their sponsorship package, especially the vendors who rely on you for foot traffic to their on-site booth.

Build a media team.

Highlight some of your guest teams. Write short personal stories about them. Include human interest photos. Crop your photos well; don’t just slap up a team photo. Show your tournament personality. Capture the fun and excitement, the agony and the joy of being there. Shine a spotlight on some of the attendees by picking them out of a crowd and showing an interest in their story. (Get permission from their parents, please, if you are posting photos of minors… preferably a release your media volunteers already have. It’s 2017; be mindful.)

Make stickers with your tournament logo and social channels, maybe even establish a special “secret” instagram or snapchat account they can join. Kids love stickers. (Their parents secretly love stickers, too. Really.) Make sure your volunteers have a ready supply and hand them out generously.

Create a program/yearbook and publish it using CreateSpace, then push it to the Amazon store where participants and their families can buy it for a nominal price. Make it special so it is worth buying by designing it. Yes, hire a graphic designer… a good one.

Give your guest teams a seamless experience, from registration through posting the schedule and field maps to finding the games to enjoying the social activities to connecting with you on social to chatting about your tournament on the ride home to not being able to wait until next year to participate in your tournament. Expand the 90 Minute Attention Span a few more minutes.

Tiny details, huge user experience difference.

Soccer needs universal health care for its survival

We are taking a stand on health insurance and health care.

Regardless of your personal stance on the Affordable Care Act, (Obamacare, ACA) the goal of the soccer community should be to make sure any kid who wants to play on a soccer team has access to health insurance and affordable health care. Expanding the available talent pool and deepening the bench of soccer talent for all should be the goal of any soccer organization. The lack of health insurance with the exception of those who can afford the premiums, threatens this goal.

Despite the myths, slights and shade the media wishes to throw at soccer sometimes, competitive soccer is a contact sport. The sport is growing and has become an American sport in many households across the country.

My son played keeper throughout high school and on select soccer teams. Any parent of a keeper knows the anxiety of seeing their kid being charged at by a forward or the risk of hitting their head on the cross bar. Like any keeper, he was all-in on the field. There were many times when he put his body between the net and several forwards twice his size. He won more than he lost, but there was an injury cost.

My daughter played mid-field most of her club and high school career. Despite her deceptively slight frame, 5’6″, 110lbs, she was a bruiser. When there was a tackle or a challenge, she was going to win that ball. She was fearless and the opposing team got to know that early on. There were injuries, but I was fortunate enough to have an insurance plan to cover her. (I actually increased coverage and decreased my deductible during her soccer-playing years, she was that committed. Don’t tell her that, she would feel guilt.)

Having access to good health insurance on the individual market allowed me to give a quality soccer experience to my two kids when they were growing up. While every parent dreads the time when their kid will get injured playing a sport they love, there was some anxiety in the stands over how much out-of-pocket that love and commitment to the sport would cost their parents. My guess is we all kept that quiet from our kids. We did not want our anxiety to be the reason they did not “win the ball.”

Here is a letter we at TourneyCentral sent to our Ohio lawmakers. (We are an Ohio corporation) We urge everyone in the soccer community to become more aware of how a repeal of the ACA WITHOUT A REPLACEMENT will affect and endanger the soccer community and actively lobby their lawmakers for a specific plan that replaces it and ensures we will not lose players based solely on their access to health insurance, affordable care.

Write, call, blog, tweet. This affects us all. Health care is not a political issue; it is a human issue and also a business issue. Repeal without a replacement plan would affect us all who strive to bring the sport to those with the most talent, instead of the most insured.

. . .

The Honorable Rob Portman, (R-OH)
The Honorable Sherrod Brown, (D-OH)
The Honorable Mike Turner, (R-OH 10)

When a kid does not have health insurance, they cannot play soccer in a club, league or high school. When they cannot play on a team, they cannot play in a soccer tournament. Without health insurance, their athletic skills and abilities—as well as any potential college scholarships—will never be realized by themselves, their parents or fans. Sponsors of the tournaments and the businesses surrounding the event suffer economically.

Since 1999, TourneyCentral has been the front door for over half a million soccer players, their families and fans each year. Furthermore, since we are based in a military town with WPAFB as an integral member of our community, our websites have afforded parents who found themselves stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places, to engage actively with their kids as they played in soccer tournaments. We have stories we could share; they are heartwarming.

Our business depends on a steady stream of talented kids who have access to affordable health insurance and health care.

As a small business incorporated in Ohio, one that provides jobs, tax revenue and increases the economic impact of other small businesses, I am concerned about the cost of employer-based health care. But more importantly, I am concerned that my potential customers will be limited in purchasing our services simply because they can’t field teams of players who have access to health insurance or health care.

As a company and as an active member of the soccer community, we do not support the repeal of the ACA without a solid, specific and accessible replacement in place. The ACA is not a perfect law, but anything less than the protections and access it currently affords the youth population and their parents is untenable.

Coaches, too, must be frustrated to see a kid in a pick-up game who has remarkable potential but can’t be included on a team because his or her parents do not have health insurance. Or, more frequently, the deductible is high and the fear of a costly injury during a game or training is the single issue that holds them back.

It is our official position that our elected representatives craft a plan that goes beyond the current ACA to UniversalCare, SinglePayer, MedicareFor All. The ideal is that every kid should have the right to reach to his or her potential, not limited by whether or not they have affordable health insurance.

While health care is foremost a human issue for us, it is also a business issue. The lack of universal, affordable health insurance endangers not only the soccer tournament business and the soccer community, it stands to limit all organized youth sports, including football, basketball and the most American sport, baseball. It also endangers the small businesses that rely on their support.

Soccer is a welcoming, benevolent community. Help us continue this fine tradition of supporting and engaging in our communities through sport by keeping this in mind as you take up votes regarding the repeal of a health care law many in our community now rely on for access to their team, which gives them strong character and community skills. For many, their soccer team is their purpose.

Don’t rob them of their ability to participate by limiting access to health insurance and health care. I urge you to vote with this in mind, to think of the wider arc of not only the health of sport, but the health of the businesses that support it, including your own Ohio-based, TourneyCentral.

Using Instagram Stories for your soccer tournament

Instagram has added a feature to their platform that has the potential of getting bigger, so we’ll cover it as a separate topic — Instagram Stories.

Instagram Stories is a short (10 sec) video clip that you can add to your account that disappears after a day, much like stories in Snapchat. You can decide to do just Instagram or just Snapchat… or both, but whatever you decide to do, make sure you feed your audience on both channels. If you do both, it may be tempting to record on Snapchat, save and then republish on Instagram, but you really should resist and create content unique to each channel for the widest audience engagement.

Regardless of what you do, save the video before you post it. You will want to create a reel of your social media efforts for your committee, board, sponsors or yourself and it always helps to save before posting.

Getting started
To get started using Instagram Stories, just log into your Instagram account.

1. At the very top of the home screen, you will see a camera icon (or a +) Press that and it turns into a standard recording screen.

2. Hold down the white record button at the bottom of the screen while you are recording your video. Release it when you are done.

3. Add text at the top and doodles as you’d like using the marker and/or text at the upper right (not necessary, but you can experiment as you get more comfortable with Instagram Stories)

4. Save your story to your phone now just in case things go wrong, like you get disconnected or Instagram fails to upload, by clicking on the download icon in the lower right.

5. Send your video to Instagram Stories by clicking on the Record button that now contains a check mark. If you change your mind or wish to re-record, you can always cancel.

6. You can also add photos to your Instagram Stories by just tapping on the Record button once, like you would take a regular Instagram or Snapchat. However, Instagram Stories is turning into more of a short video story tool and the photos are less effective in holding attention. Viewers can see your standard feed for photos.

7. Be sure to also add to your Instagram feed in addition to Instagram Stories. Because Stories go away after a day, you want to have something a bit more permanent. By swiping up on the record screen, you can include any photo or video you recorded on your phone during the past 24 hours. However, people really like seeing original, in-the- moment video so you may want to avoid doing that too much.

What to storify
The key to a good Instagram Story line is to tell a story, not just post up random or sequential videos because you can. That is what you may want to use your regular Instagram feed for.

Have a beginning, middle and an end, even as you may want to tell the story acrosss multiple 10-second clips. Many users string together several recordings to tell a complete story. Always be aware, however, that your videos will drop off at the end of a 24-hour period, so make sure your story still makes sense if the first or second video in a series is no longer available.

If you want to create a multi-video story, it is best to script and set up as much as possible beforehand, so that when you shoot the videos, they are so close in time that they drop off pretty much on the 24-hour expiration.

Have fun and experiment.

And shoot vertical, even though you can shoot horizontal.

Soccer tournament scheduling human skill

Soccer tournament scheduling is a human skill

The most-asked question we get about our software is “where is your one-button scheduling?”

I’m aware this expectation is out there and that others may be marketing it in their sales pitch, but we’re never going to lie to you. Scheduling a soccer tournament is a human skill that is only aided by software. While we have grids, automated pairings, conflict alerts — all the standard stuff you would expect from a soccer tournament scheduling program — we here at TourneyCentral don’t assume to know more about your event that you do.

You know your fields. You know the people who tend them, water them and make sure they are in peak condition for your tournament. You know what is important to them. You know the teams you have invited to and accepted into your tournament. You understand the hundreds — maybe thousands — of nuanced variables of each of these coaches and DOCs. You know who your volunteers are and what is important to them to get them and keep them volunteering. You know your vendors. You know your sponsors’ needs.

It may look smart, but a computer is pretty dumb about all this. A computer program just fakes knowing all this. A computer program needs to be told all of this stuff that you intuitively “know.” Sure, a program can help make things easier, but a one-button schedule-maker won’t care. It will just spit out the pairings, locations and times.

Fast, but not good.

In short, you know, understand and respect the thousands of human needs, feelings and relationships that make a soccer tournament possible. Never assume a successful soccer tournament is the result of a “superior, efficient” schedule. It’s not. Success will ultimately be judged by the vibe the coaches, players, fans and sponsors feel at your event.

If this is your first time scheduling a soccer tournament, we’ll help you if you need us to. We can do the mechanics of who, when and where, but the why is all you. Learn the why. Learning what is important to the people playing and tending to your games is the most effective way to build your scheduling skills. It’s much, much more than just an app.

You should never want to cede that power and responsibility entirely to a computer program. Your software should help with the scheduling, not take over the human bits that make your soccer tournament different, human and pleasant to attend.