Tag Archives: Tournament

Simple is good

Screen shot 2009-12-06 at 7.44.25 AM

A couple weeks ago, my hi-tech coffee maker broke. All the electronic stuff on it worked just fine, but it failed in the most basic way; the mechanism to bring the hot water from the reservoir through the grounds and into the carafe no longer moved the water. So, I went out to the local Kroger and bought a Melitta coffee cone and carafe for 12.00. I heat my water and pour it through the grounds. My coffee-making experience is now simple and will never break.

What does coffee have to do with a soccer tournament?
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No scheduling conflicts and late Sat games

With the recession pulling into it’s second (or third) year, we’re seeing a lot of teams request a late Saturday morning start so they don’t have to book rooms into a hotel for Friday night. As you can imagine, accommodating this request puts a serious strain on the scheduling as most of the time, the start times are determined by the number of fields and the number of daylight hours available. While you can sometimes squeak out another field somewhere, tacking another hour of sunlight on the end of a day is impossible.

So what to do? You don’t want to turn away a team if you don’t have to, but re-writing the laws of nature to fit an economic reality is just not going to happen. When most teams are now asking for a late Saturday start, it become mathematically impossible to grant the request.

Our advice: Publish a cut off date for late Saturday start requests. Instead of trying an Early Bird discount or other pricing scheme to get teams to apply early, have a date or volume cut off. Perhaps only the first two teams for each age group can request a late Saturday start. Once those requests are used up, there are no more. And, while you are at it, do the same for multiple-team coaches. It rewards the teams with special requests to apply early without compromising the price and value of your tournament.

Be sure to promote visibly and keep track of the number of requests. Reward the requester handsomely and make it crystal clear that the reason you are honoring (or denying) the request is because they applied and paid early (or not.) Once you start doing this, competition for special considerations next year will be fierce.

Multiple team discounts; do it or not?

Every coach has always looked to save money on tournament fees, but with the economy where it is, there seems to be more pressure to go after the mulit-team discounts. The logic coaches use is that it is more cost-effective for you to take in multiple teams as your marketing costs are lower, your management time is less, etc. But that is a myth.

Here is why it is a bad investment for soccer tournaments.

Lower marketing costs
You have a quality soccer tournament event and the club knows it. That is primarily why they want to bring all their teams to your event, especially at the beginning and end of a season. Having all the teams together in one place bonds the players, the parents and makes for a stronger club. You have already made that investment and lowering your fees will not allow you to recoup that investment. Isn’t that why you invested marketing dollars, to attract multiple teams from the same club?

Lower management costs
The myth here is that it will take less effort to manage multiple teams from the same club because your management costs are lower. But, the opposite is actually true. A coach may have coaching responsibility for multiple teams, making scheduling more difficult as you work around coaching conflicts. Parents may have players on different teams who may also have a expectation that since their club is bringing you more business, they should be able to get preferential scheduling treatment as well. They may not ask for it, but they sure as heck will tell everyone on the touchline how they have to “choose” between kids because the tournament doesn’t care.

In addition, you still have the same number of team reps to deal with and most likely, the payments will come in slower because the teams have perceived “leverage.”

A team drops out
If one team drops out and you have already given the discount based on the number of teams they sent, but are no longer sending, do you then go back and ask for the full amount for each team? Not likely.

Hotel rooms
If the club is sending the teams to your soccer tournament as a bonding experience, most likely they will want hotel rooms close together. If you are not prepared to accommodate that or your hotel market can’t sustain that, you will be only offering the discounted teams an opportunity to gripe and complain all weekend long.

More discounts
The multiple team discount does not end with the team fees. It moves into comp rooms for coaches, comp apparel for coaches, special accommodations on the field and anything else the coach can think to ask for. After all, you gave in on the application fee discount.

Our advice: Discounts are almost always a bad idea. It leads to “privilege thinking,” additional management costs and little brand loyalty. It is always better to sink the investment money that you would have given away in discounts into building a better soccer tournament experience that teams and clubs would pay you EXTRA to participate in. (Of course, you would not accept bribes to consider an application, but it would be a nice touch.)

Servicing guest teams at a soccer tournament isn’t the same as packing multiple items shipped to the same address. The management cost does not decrease with each team; it increases. And, having a “bundle” of teams that are comprised of human beings all with separate expectations of the experience complicates that even more.

The coach may ask for a discount, but what s/he really wants is value, which includes respect. Focus on building value for your soccer tournament event and you will be able to charge more than what you ever thought you could. Recession or not.

Do you welcome new volunteers into your soccer tournament?

The lifeblood of a successful soccer tournament is the army of volunteers who run the concession stand, sell the sponsorship ads, stand duty as field marshals, sell t-shirts, direct the parking and generally make sure your guest teams feel welcome and cared-for. But, how many of these volunteers are the same people, doing the same jobs year after year?

If your soccer tournament is like most, the same folks are doing the same jobs every year. On one hand, that is good because you have consistency. On the other, it is bad because there is no new talent to take over these critical jobs if the veterans were to leave.

I read Chris Brogan’s blog regularly about social media. For the most part, he is considered an expert in social media technologies such as Twitter, blogging, Facebook and the like. But I don’t think he is an expert on human behavior. Yesterday, he posted a rant about people using robots to reply to a new Twitter follow. There was (and still is) some discussion going on about his opinion on using robots, but I think Jeff Crites’s comment (#182) sums up the issue most closely aligned with soccer tournament would-be volunteers.

Most volunteers just want to help out and have some fun. Having been involved in soccer clubs for a number of year, both in the inner circles and on the outside, there are mainly two reasons people do not volunteer, regardless of the excuse they may use.

1. They are afraid that if they open their time to one or two things, the tournament will take advantage of their time and inundate them with responsibilities. So, it is easier to say no and keep the door shut.

2. They do not feel accepted by the “inner circle” of folks who already run the show. This is perhaps the most common reason.

A soccer tournament, like Twitter, is a scary place. There is a lot going on and a lot of folks who are experts at making it happen. They know all the rules — written and unwritten — and they make it all look easy. They are intimidating to new folks. And — like the Twitter community — the veterans have little patience with anyone who is new coming in and shaking things up. (If this does not describe your soccer tournament, consider yourself very, very lucky. Be honest with yourself; this is all part of that human condition we’re cursed with.)

New volunteers do threaten the status quo. They threaten the existing “power circles” the veterans have built. And that is a good thing because they also bring in new blood, new energy, and a different perspective. If there is no change, there is no growth.

Sure, the veterans will rant about these “new guys coming in and wanting to change everything,” but experienced, seasoned leaders will do it in private and as a release of their own fears of becoming irrelevant and obsolete, not as a rant against new blood who may not quite understand the rules but have good intentions. There may be a few new folks who step up to volunteer for the wrong reasons, but for the most part, they will be found out quickly and either corrected or asked to leave.

Our advice: Running a soccer tournament is more about leading people than it is about finding teams and scheduling games. Stop and think about how you felt the very first day you volunteered. Think about how scary it was being among all those people who were so sure of how to do things. Did you feel comfortable? How long did it take you to become the expert you are now? Did anyone take you aside and show you the ropes?

As a tournament director, identify those areas in your organization that have built walls to new volunteers. Actively seek to tear them down. And, if you have built a wall around yourself, start tearing that down. Pair new volunteers with those expert veterans who are open to change. Establish a new volunteer system that encourages change.

And try the new ideas suggested by new volunteers, but make them responsible for executing their own ideas. If they work, you’re ahead of a lot of soccer tournaments who are doing the same-ol’, same-ol’ every year. And, if they don’t, then they don’t. Don’t make a big fuss, don’t point fingers, but do encourage change, personal responsibility and innovation. If other volunteers see that you rant on unsuccessful ideas, they will be less apt to propose them and your tournament will not grow.

And never, ever use the phrase “We tried that once and it didn’t work.” If a new volunteer is willing to put in time and effort on an idea you tried a few years ago, perhaps times have changed and it will work this time.

Whatever you do, never publicly rant against new people who are enthusiastic and bright-eyed, even if they get stuff wrong and tick you off with their energy and excitement. It will make your soccer tournament look stodgy and you will scare off entire generations of potential volunteers. And your tournament will stagnate as your current experts get older and more resistant to change.

Make this year the year you resolve to try new things and break the status quo. In a down economy, the worst product to be selling is a commodity that anyone can get anywhere. Resolve to be different, to be special. Resolve that new people with new ideas will help you get there.

Meet us in St. Louis for the NSCAA. Jan 14-17, 2009
We’re in booth 1735 and we won’t even try to sell you anything, so you can stay and chat as long as you want. Really. And, if you want to make a podcast promoting your soccer tournament, Back of the Net will help you with that. You don’t even need to be a TourneyCentral tournament.

Consistent design matters

Every so often, a tournament looking to join the TourneyCentral family calls up and says something along the lines of:

We’re a very different tournament and we wany you to design a totally different web site for us. We want to look and act different than everyone else in your calendar.

When pressed, they admit that:

  • They have soccer teams apply
  • They accept soccer teams to play
  • They schedule two soccer teams against each other to play in a match to see who is the winner
  • They keep score to see who advances to take a trophy
  • They accept advertising and sponsorship
  • They are basically running a soccer tournament where they need to get large numbers of players, parents, coaches and fans to a field at a particular date and time.

So, I ask, what sort of “different” did you need? Well, we just want a different LOOK, we want menu choices to be different, we want to do our own thing.

But the irony of the matter is your guest teams don’t want you to do your own thing. They want to know how to read about your soccer tournament, they want to know how to apply easily, they want to know where the schedule is posted, they want to know how to find the scores. In short, they want to know, not guess.

Recently, I ran across this blog post that explains the whole point rather nicely. In short, a hotel decided that they wanted to be different and were going to design their hotel room card keys with the branding DOWN and the swipe strip UP. Anyone who has ever stayed in a hotel knows that the strip goes down, you look for the little arrow and insert the card with the arrow pointing toward the door. Because this has been standardized, if it doesn’t work that way, you would think it is broken, just like the author did. Valuable time and hotel resources were wasted on a customer who didn’t “understand” the hotel difference. I suspect that there was more than one confused customer on every night the hotel entertained guests.

Our Advice: Different is good, but focus different on where it makes the most sense for a soccer tournament; on your competition, your game format, the helpfulness of your staff, a high level of guest service, great pairings, etc. Different with your web site only adds to confusion and increases your tournament costs and, in some instances, drives a team away. If you hide the front door, how do you expect a team to enter?

A system like TourneyCentral has been “battle-tested” and gives teams a level of comfort that they are entering a well-managed soccer tournament. When they see that top graphic, top menu, side bar and look and feel of a “TourneyCentral” site, they know immediately they are in good hands. (a word of caution, we have developed such a solid brand over the past ten years that many events are copying our look and feel… look for the Powered By TourneyCentral.com seal at the bottom)

We continue to change and add new features to make your event stand out, but we do it in subtle ways to keep that high level of comfort and trust your guest teams have with your event.

Be different, but not weird. Different is good; weird just costs your soccer tournament time, money and teams.