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3 Keys to Managing a Youth Sports Tournament

By Paul Langhorst on 5/19/2016

tournament management best practicesThe keys to managing a great youth sports tournament are not as complex as you might think. To help peel back this onion, we reached out to Tim Brownlee, president of Diamond Sports Promotions to get his thoughts. Diamond Sports Promotions (DSP) was started in 2005 and is based in Normal, IL, which is located in the heart of Illinois about 2 hours from St. Louis. DSP runs about 70 high-school aged tournaments per year encompassing 800 to 1000 teams per year.  DSP is a very busy and well run program, and while their focus is baseball, their approach to running tournaments applies well to all youth sports. 

3 key factors for running a great tournament. Right off the bat, we asked for Tim's top three key factors for running a great tournament.  He was quick to answer: "communication, good fields and umpires that show up on time." In this day and age, communication is so essential to having a successful event. And, its not only about promoting your event, but also promoting your entire program. Each event you run is a reflection of your organization, so the better your communications, the better reflection on your program. Your website is like the bulls-eye of a dartboard, all information and communications typically radiate out word from it.  In this blog we've talked at length about the necessity of having a clean, easy to use website. When promoting a baseball tournament or any tournament for that matter, here are the key items you'll likely want to cover for participants:


 Tournament dates & schedules.           Registration and payment            Field locations 
 Special considerations            Rain out policies            Key contacts
 Teams and participants           Forms, releases, etc.           Sponsors
 Links to hotels and amenities           Game rules           Insurance requirements

Leverage all your communication tools.  To disseminate your information, leverage all your communication channels:  website, email, text messaging, twitter, Facebook and face to face meetings. Programs like Engage Sports offer fully integrated online communication channels for email, text messaging and social media integration. From one site, you can develop and post your news and updates.  It is important to match the communication channel to the audience as well; for parents and coaches, email, text messaging and Facebook are the media of choice. For players, Twitter is your best best. 

What makes a great field?. As Tim said, great fields make for great tournaments.  It goes hand in hand, that the best fields come from the best programs. DSP contracts with community colleges, high schools and other higher-level programs for their fields. DSP has built a great reputation with these venues and keep going back year after year to those that perform best.  Tim suggests that there is more to a great field than just manicured grass; he stresses "great fields must include ample parking, ease of access, infields must be groomed in between each game, and most importantly clean, convenient restrooms.  "Nothing will make parents madder than having to wait in line to use a restroom, walk long distances to restrooms or deal with a dirty restroom," commented Tim." Tournaments are long affairs and a nasty, inconvenient restroom can ruin what may otherwise be an enjoyable event.   

Tournament director traits.  The success of a tournament does not begin and end on the day of the event.  Success is based on the planning that goes into the event and the team created to run it. Much of the planning and organizing is done by the tournament director, so starting with a great tournament director is key. In DSP's case they hire tournament directors who have strong baseball backgrounds, good communication skills and a steady even disposition. DSP hires mainly assistant baseball coaches from high schools and community colleges. They have the baseball background and the education institutions where they coach that put them through a rigorous screening process.  Tim also added, "I hire people that I'd like to go to dinner with and are comfortable speaking in front of a group. If you nail those traits, you have a great tournament director."   

Participants are your billboard. Thanks to social media, word of your event spreads rapidly before, during and after the event.  Players post what tournaments they are in, they send SnapChats and Tweets in between games, parents post and brag about their kids, send pics of the facility, the city, and coaches send updates on their games, schedules, and performance. All this posting spreads as recipients repost and retweet, spreading news and information on your events. To aid with this process, create a hash tag for your event, which should be unique, short and memorable. Hash tags make it easy for social media users to link to your event and share info on your event. Social media is the new means of word-of-mouth advertising, which is the most effective form of advertising.  Do a great job promoting your event on social media and you will steadily build participation. Pictures are a big part of social media and in promoting your event. Read tips from our blog post on keys to taking better pictures using a smart phone.   

Common complaints from participants.  DSP tries to focus on the three key areas noted above to help reduce complaints, but when complaints are received they usually align with those areas: late umpires, fields not being groomed or ready on time, insufficient restrooms, and he adds, "Thursday morning games." Due to the popularity of their events, DSP often needs to schedule Thursday morning events. These often conflict with parent work schedules and are more difficult to accommodate.   

Tournaments are complex events, but by focusing on the key attributes of using great fields, ample restrooms, and umpires that arrive on schedule, you will ensure your success.  Here's to your tournament success in 2017! 

 

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Paul Langhorst

As a former softball coach and veteran business leader, Paul Langhorst is on a mission to help sports associations and leagues improve their operations and experience for players, parents, fans and their volunteer leaders.

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