One thing that I like to do after a tournament is reflect on what went well, what didn’t, and what could be better next time. Normally I keep those notes to myself, but this time around, I decided to share my process.
Treading into new territory
NorCal by Northwest wasn’t just my first time as a paid tournament director: it was my first time running a tournament outside my NorCal comfort zone, period. As such, my two biggest hiccups were tied to being far from home: staffing and venue.
Hurdle #1: Medic
At home, I can normally depend on the lovely Natalie Stottler to be the EMT at my events for the bargain basement price of free. This time around, I had to depend on contacts I didn’t know quite as well to find a medic for our event. Luckily, Cascadia Quidditch has an EMT on the team (hi, Caryn!), so she was able to find a coworker willing to come out for the amount of money I’d budgeted for a medic.
However, while I was on vacation with Jim and his family, my original medic bailed. Instead of being able to take the weekend before my tournament off, I had to ask Cascadia to find me another medic. Eventually, Caryn was able to find another EMT for me, but not before I spoke to a local EMT company that told me that my original budget was not enough for them to send one of their medics out. Though Caryn was able to find me another EMT in time for me to enjoy the rest of my vacation in peace, I do need to reexamine my medic budget in the future just to be sure that this doesn’t happen again.
Hurdle #2: Venue
“What do you mean, Liz? The venue was great!” You’re right, gentle reader—it absolutely was. It was also very well priced considering that it was turf and we had lights.
However, I also had to scramble to find and book it in the space of two days. Why? Because Plan A completely fell apart.
NCxNW wasn’t in Portland at all; it was across the Columbia River in Vancouver, WA. Our Portland plans fell apart two days before our paperwork for USQ Event Sanctioning was due. I’m used to either using local school facilities (Wilbur Field at Stanford or SJSU’s Spartan Stadium) or booking fields through the City of San Jose. Make sense of a new city’s policies (do the people who write for city websites enjoy being deliberately obtuse?!) confused the local players I had delegated location scouting to just as much as it confused me.
On the other hand, I would have never known we didn’t actually have a location lined up if I hadn’t applied for USQ Event Sanctioning. I signed up for it to get additional insurance and hope for a little extra funding. What I didn’t expect was the extra help in confirming all my plans. Mary Kimball made sense of the city policies that had confused me and my team and gave me just enough time to find new, better, and cheaper fields. We might not have had a tournament if she hadn’t given me enough notice to find a new city me out, so thanks, Mary!
Portland reminded me a lot of booking a field in San Francisco: a complicated and undependable process. Suburbs, like Vancouver WA, are usually much easier to deal with than major cities.
Ugh, did I just imply that San Jose is a suburb? Damnit.
No need to reinvent the wheel
A lot of the stuff I did two weeks ago was an improvement on things I’ve learned from my experience with other tournaments and organizations, or from watching and learning from what others have done. Since my focus was solely on the event and not on playing, coaching, or managing a team, I was able to elevate some tournament perks that I was already used to providing.
#1: Live streaming
All you need to perform the most basic level of live streaming is a phone with a good camera and a decent internet connection. Ideally, one with unlimited data if you don’t have wifi access.
I was about to upgrade my phone anyway, so I came to Portland with a shiny new iPhone XS that wound up streaming all nine games without a hitch. However, this also meant that my phone was tied up most of the day. In the future, I want to be better about delegating this.
Or even better, I want to be able to make paying someone to be responsible for a higher quality stream a part of my tournament fees. The scoreboard graphics that Smythe created and used for our #SFvsLA live stream last summer were great, but wouldn’t have happened without an assist from Michael Vong and his super fast Project Fi connection.
#2: Score reporting
Even if people can’t watch, they always want to know the score. I knew I wouldn’t be submitting to the USQ website until I got home, but not everyone keeps an eye on the Quidditch Scores Facebook group. I also wanted to do more than just post scores written.
Both MLQ and the crew behind the Heroes vs Villains Invitational always manage to put out excellent graphics with scores within minutes of a game ending, so I decided to do that, too. That’s the new gold standard, and if people are paying for my services, I want to give them the best.
I’ll probably post a tutorial later so you can replicate my process, but I’ll give you a tl;dr version for now. I created templates for each game in Canva, an online graphic design tool. I had the app on my phone, so as soon as a game ended, I filled in the score, downloaded the image, and posted it online.
Sweat the Small Stuff so that it never grows into a Big Problem
I dodged two more bullets that I’d to touch on: having enough referees and having enough time.
One of the things I’m proudest of as a TD is the group of referees who enjoy working my events and are willing to go the extra mile for me. Chris Dewing and Ra Hopkins were two of those referees. The both of them were already prepared to be responsible for HRing or proctoring every game at NCxNW.
However, when Ra ran into car trouble and they weren’t wasn’t sure if they’d make it, I gave Chris a heads up that he might be put in the awkward position of HRing his own team, and he was ready to help me in any way I needed. I slept well that night, knowing my ref situation was covered either way.
Luckily, Ra made it and the volunteer schedule went on as planned.
Relationships like that don’t just happen overnight. They grow from running good events and treating your neighbors well. Your local rivals in one game will be your volunteers in another tournament later on, after all. Both Ra and Chris have been on teams I considered rivals in the past, but I think I can safely say that they enjoy volunteering for me and will keep doing it as long as I ask them to with enough notice.
If I had my way, I’d schedule hour blocks for every game instead of the 45 minutes that USQ recommends. But in my scramble for a new venue, I could only find one available after 12:30 pm, so I sucked it up and scheduled 45-minute slots to fit everything in before 8 pm.
Unfortunately, every 5-minute delay, whether a game ran late into snitch on pitch, a ref meeting ran too long, or a stoppage that lasted forever, slowly started eating away at my dangerously tight schedule. Around six pm, I began to worry that I wouldn’t have enough light for Breakers vs Cascadia, the game that would determine which team won the tournament.
I eventually tracked down a groundskeeper, only to be told what I already feared: the lights were on a timer and there was nothing he could do. My next step was to round up the Cascadia and Breakers captains, catch them up with the situation, and tell them to be ready immediately after the second to the last game ended. The ref crew was gathered together and given the same instructions.
The last game finished a few minutes before 8 pm. Bullet dodged.
However, asking early also reaped an unexpected benefit: the groundskeeper was able to track down someone who could extend the lights to 9 pm.
Lessons learned: ask for help before your problem has time to catch up to you… and pay for another hour of lights, just in case.
Other than these nitpicky details (sweating the small stuff is what I do, damnit), NCxNW one of the was the most successful tournaments I’ve ever run. All the community division games were interesting, the lone college team got some much needed unique opponents in, and most of all, everyone had fun.
I can’t wait to do this again next year.