If you have read any of my earlier posts, then you know I am organizing my first tournament. I decided to go with an a-typical tournament format in the hopes that I would create something fun and memorable for all players involved.
The tournament is really coming together. In my last post I talked about finding local sponsors to go along with my more national “disc golf” sponsors. As an update, the local sponsors didn’t pan out as well as I had hoped. No worries though. I got a few more prizes and hopefully those companies will benefit from the donation and be willing to donate again in the future. I have over fifty people pre-registered and over 35 prizes to give out.
One thing that I found was that I kept going over things that needed to be done in my head and thinking “Oh yeah, I’ll do that later.”
When I decided to actually sit down and make a list of things to get done, I was overwhelmed. I walked through the player’s experience on tournament day in my head. Here is what I am looking at with four days left:
- When they show up, where will they go? – I’ll need a table for registration and one to display the prizes.
- How do I split them up into random partners and cards? – I need to get some poker chips and write numbers on them (I also considered ripping a deck of cards in half)
- How am I going to communicate all of these crazy rules? – I made a score card specific to the tournament with the “special” rules on the back. It only cost me $2.80 to get them printed on card stock. I also made a one-page list of the holes and what is different about each, to post around the registration area.
- What the heck am I going to say at the player’s meeting? – I wrote up an outline and listed all of the sponsors so that I don’t forget to thank anyone.
- How are players going to mark their longest putts and CTPs? – I bought four dowels from a hardware store, cut them into four pieces and made duct tape flags to make 16 markers.
- Anything specific to the tournament that needs to be done? – I needed to buy some field paint to mark a drop zone for a mando, a putting circle for one special rule, and specific distances from baskets because we will be using a putting game for a tie breaker.
- What else am I forgetting? – I committed to sending pictures of the winners with their prizes to companies that donated. Too bad I don’t have a very good camera. Maybe someone would be willing to come take pictures and/or videos. I posted it to the facebook and disc golf scene and the wife of one of the players is going to help me out.
So that’s it… If I continue to check more things off of my list than I add every day, I should be ok. I am sure that it won’t go completely as planned, but if I roll with the punches, I am hoping that it is a fun tournament for everyone involved.
My first run as tournament director is coming up in about a month. If you want to read more about it please check out my last post on Dogleg. I am not collecting a tournament fee so my original plan was to just have players win a beer from other players. Then I got it in my head to see if I could get some prizes donated. This has proven to be a great learning experience and a very successful one too.
For what is basically a free tournament, we are going to have a huge set of prizes. There will be a free key-chain bottle opener (and hopefully a beer koozie) for every player that pre-registers. We have five disc golf bags to give away. We also have 11 discs from seven different manufacturers as prizes. There are also a bunch of great extra prizes including things from local breweries which works great with the single beer fee to play.
When I first decided to try to find sponsors, I looked up every brewery in Michigan and sent them an email or contacted them through their website. The email explained the premise of the tournament and asked for donations to give away as prizes. I was very lucky to have two Michigan breweries agree to donate. Looking back on those emails now, I am surprised that I even got anyone to respond. Thankfully, both breweries have people at the brewery that play disc golf.
After getting brewery stuff, I thought it would be a good idea to contact some disc golf companies. Again, I looked up everyone that I could think of (outside of “the big two”) and sent them an email. I would have continued with these lack luster results if I hadn’t gotten the most helpful response declining to donate. They actually gave me feedback on my donation request and after incorporating what they told me, my responses really started to turn around.
Here is the format that I found has really worked for me:
- Briefly introduce yourself and your tournament. There are hundreds of tournaments out there. Explain what makes yours different from the rest.
- Talk about the company that you are making the request from and how they line up with your tournament. This part is specific to the company that you are working with and it is important that it be personalized. This can’t be a form letter.
- A donation is a business decision. Explain the specific exposure that the company will get with their donation. How many players are expected? What level of players are you expecting? Where and how will the company be promoted by the tournament? Will there be sponsor logos on posters, web sites, t-shirts, etc?
- Try to be specific about what you are asking for as a donation. If you leave it wide open, the company will not have any expectation on the monetary commitment that you are asking for.
The last step that I have to do for collecting prizes is to go around to local businesses to ask for donations. At this point I am a little behind the gun on this one. I feel like I would have been more successful if I had started a couple of weeks ago but I just haven’t had the time. Real life keeps getting in the way. Businesses that I am thinking might be interested are local bars/restaurants, the local movie theater, and maybe the local bowling alley. Hopefully a walk through town shaking hands and talking to people about something that I really enjoy will result in a few more prizes to give away. This is a different approach from sending emails and it is a little intimidating.
Don’t let a lack of responses get you down. There was a stretch where I was really getting down on myself because I was sending out a lot of communications and I wasn’t hearing back. It was like high school all over again. But then, as I continued to work at it, I started getting more and more responses. Some of the older requests started coming in too. There were literally weeks where I was working with four different companies to see how they could work with my tournament.
One thing that I noticed about every single disc golf company that I worked with was that they are a part of the disc golf community. Whether or not a company donated, they all seem to be going out of their way to grow the sport. If you are organizing a disc golf tournament, focus on working with disc golf companies to help the sport together. Don’t burn bridges, and try to build a long lasting relationship with everyone that you deal with. Chances are, you will get the tournament director bug and your first will not be your last.
I am just over five weeks from my first crack at being a tournament director. It really feels like the home stretch. At this point, it looks like this thing is going to be really successful. I’d like to share my experiences with you and hopefully help you through my successes and my failures.
I tend to be a bit of an oddball. I am constantly thinking up twists to the game that could be fun or fall flat. I am convinced that blue discs fly farther when you throw them toward water and pink discs are under-stable. The idea of running the same tournament that everyone else runs is like standing in line for a crappy roller coaster. I just can’t do it. I’ve got better things to do with my time.
Last year I played in an April Fool’s Worst Shot Doubles tournament that I was really excited about and it turned out to be an absolute flop. It wasn’t really worst shot. It was farthest from the pin, so an errant shot could just be followed with a safe short shot and there was no need to recover. The course was disgusting and covered in broken glass, stagnant water, and old mattresses. It was really disappointing.
When my partner from last year joked about playing again, I responded “I bet we could do it better.” and the idea was born. It was like a song that gets stuck in your head. I found myself thinking about the things that did and didn’t work last year and the things that I could add or twist to make it better.
One of the first things that I had to decide was “why” this tournament was going to exist. Just having a song stuck in my head is no reason for me to sing in public. People would much rather listen to someone else that has sung before and knows what they are doing.
I came up with three reasons:
- I have a lot of friends that don’t play. If I could focus more on the fun and less on the competition, I may be able to talk them into enjoying disc golf with me.
- We have a regular Sunday game at my local course and it would be great to get some new blood playing regularly.
- I wanted a group of people willing to try playing with my crazy twists.
So the tournament was for all skill levels, with weird rules, intended to get the word out about our regular Sunday game. It was time to start combining things from tournaments, our regular game, and my weird rules to come up with a combination that worked.
The regular Sunday game is random draw doubles and the losers owe the winners a beer. They also add one to their handicap and the winners take one away from theirs. New players usually take a couple of weeks to settle into a handicap that works for them but most weeks are fairly close at the end of the round.
This format works well for small groups but in a large tournament, without handicaps, I needed to find a way to stop someone that may be really competitive from being upset about picking up a brand new player as a partner and I wanted to make sure that there was no incentive for a foursome to “cheat” and not pick the worst shots. I decided that if player’s were only competing with others from their own card and cards rotated partners throughout the round, this would eliminate both problems.
There was no reason to charge for the tournament because there were no costs involved and no club to raise funds for. Everyone could bring a beer and the best score on the card would take two beers, the worst would take a single beer, and we would throw together some other competitions for the one leftover beer per card. While I was at it, I decided anyone that brings a beer unique to the tournament can take two strokes off of their final score. That would help set the tone.
I decided to have special rules on every third hole and have the partners switch after each special hole. I came up with a scorecard that helps show the special holes and when to switch partners. I honestly don’t know how this is going to work out. It may be that there are too many special holes and switches. It may be just fine. Time will tell.
Our course has 24 holes. There are 18 numbered holes and six letters that are just mixed in throughout the back half. I decided to have the letter holes played as individuals for a tie breaker. This could be another way for a competitive player to feel like they have a better chance.
After I came up with the format and the fees, I had to figure out how to advertise and get people to sign up. I chose the Sunday before April Fool’s day and named the tournament April Fool’s Shenanigan Doubles and decided to use two different methods to advertise. Disc Golf Scene is a great way to publicize to disc golfers but new players would never know about it. A facebook event was my answer for the less serious and potentially first time disc golfers. As players say that they are attending my facebook event, I just add them to the registered players list on disc golf scene.
A couple of weeks later someone looked at a calendar and broke the news to me. I had six players signed up to play a tournament on Easter Sunday. Since when is Easter in March? I pushed the tournament back to April 7th and let everyone registered know to contact me if they wanted to be removed from the player’s list.
One other problem that I didn’t think about until it was too late was that people assume that they need to bring a partner and pass on the tournament without looking at it based on the name. Once you pick a name, you aren’t allowed to change it. I wish that I would have put “Random Draw” in the name.
Now that I have a good sized group of players registered, I am a little bit worried about the true first-time players. I think that I am actually going to run a “how to play disc golf” clinic two weeks before my tournament and ask people that want to come to go to their local disc shop and pick out a mid-range and a putter that feels good in their hands beforehand. During the clinic I will give them a chance to throw all of the drivers that I own to see what does and doesn’t work for them. This will also give me a chance to teach them basic rules and etiquette.
At this point I am just over five weeks away and I already have 36 players pre-registered. I am really looking forward to seeing everyone enjoying this crazy idea that I had a few weeks ago. I have managed to get some of the best prizes donated that I have seen at any non-A tier and non-sanctioned tournament.
In my next post I will talk about how I worked with great sponsors like Gorilla Boy, Fade, NutSac, Dynamic Discs, Millennium, Gateway, Flywood, Dogleg, and more.