Things that make a good tournament

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Joshua Rutsky
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Things that make a good tournament

Post by Joshua Rutsky » Tue Sep 30, 2014 9:03 pm

Just some thoughts as we move into tournament season. I have a lot of new coaches and teams in our state, and several of the younger coaches are trying to host events. I thought perhaps we could make a list of basic things here to keep in mind when you run an event. I know that a TD guide was in the works elsewhere, and it certainly will help new hosts, but a shorter summary of key stuff never hurts.

Please add, comment, or argue as you see fit.


1) Avoid single-elimination playoff setups if possible. I know that for invitationals, it really doesn't particularly matter who wins the tournament--you can't win state or nationals until you GET to state or nationals--but it can be very frustrating to only get one shot at a team, particularly in the prelims, and feel that one bad round cost you the tournament. (I also know that good teams aren't supposed to let one bad round cost them the tourney, but there's a reason virtually every sport plays a series to determine winners.)

2) If you are bringing teams to a tournament, DO NOT SHOW UP ON THE DAY OF THE EVENT WITH MORE TEAMS OR FEWER TEAMS. Unless your entire team caught ebola overnight and is in quarantine, one person being out is no excuse for screwing up the planning of the tournament staff by pulling a team out from under them at the last minute. Either call the TD the night before and let them know that you are dropping a team, so they can swear to themselves and fix things before morning, or come in a player down, play short-handed, or hope to pick up an extra player from one of the other ten teams there.

2a) If you are the tournament director, try hard to make sure that pools, if you use them, are balanced. Don't put a team's A and B squads in the same pool. If you don't know which teams coming to your tournament are the strongest and which are weaker, pick the most experienced coach you know in the area, e-mail them a list of the teams, and ask them to help you sort them into good pools. Asking for help is a really good way to get help.

3) If you say you are bringing buzzers, BRING THE BUZZERS. Working ones. With the lights and cords. ALL the lights and cords. Failure to do this should be grounds for relegating said team to playing in the slap bowl room all day.

4) If you are hosting a tournament, make sure you have scoresheets, pencils, and scratch paper, or VERY CLEARLY ARTICULATE that you will not provide them.

5) If you are hosting a tournament, make the complete question set available to the teams who played at the end of the event if that set isn't being held by the editors as "no distribution before date x." Charge me $5 or $10 if you feel you must, but make the set available, and make it the WHOLE THING. It's really just a polite thing, especially with NAQT sets, because it means teams that paid you $60-$70 or more to play that day won't have to pay another chunk of change to get the set from NAQT that NAQT has specifically given you the right to give to those teams at the end of the event, and besides, what the heck are you planning to do with the 10 copies of those rounds you made for the event, anyway? You only need one, and everyone else benefits from this as well. It's like when you were a kid and you gave out party favors to guests at your birthday. Everyone leaves satisfied.

6) If you decide to keep stats, and you should keep stats, please keep good stats. Teach your scorekeepers to use scoresheets correctly, and learn to use SQBS. It isn't hard. Yes, it takes a little time, but that's part of what teams pay for--to know how they did. Also, please post your stats promptly after the tournament, or at least some preliminary information so people know you are working on them. If you entered games in SQBS as the tourney progressed, you really should be able to post stats within a day of the tourney's end, even if you got behind.

7) THANK YOU FOR HOSTING A TOURNAMENT. Hosting takes a lot of time and effort, and I hope I speak for others here when I say that I appreciate people trying to host events more and more often, even if it means that they are still working out the kinks. The more chances we all have to play good quizbowl, the better we all get. As a coach, I may not always remember to say thanks to you for hosting at the end of the day when we're all tired, but I absolutely should, and if I forget, please accept this as my statement of appreciation.
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Re: Things that make a good tournament

Post by quizbowllee » Wed Oct 01, 2014 9:28 am

I agree with most of this.

I would, though, like to add that tournament directors need to announce before Round 1 exactly what the playoff format will be and they need to STICK TO IT. Let teams know how many teams from each pool will advance, what the tie-breaker procedures will be, etc.
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Re: Things that make a good tournament

Post by Benin Rebirth Party » Wed Oct 01, 2014 11:55 am

Joshua Rutsky wrote:
2) If you are bringing teams to a tournament, DO NOT SHOW UP ON THE DAY OF THE EVENT WITH MORE TEAMS OR FEWER TEAMS. Unless your entire team caught ebola overnight and is in quarantine, one person being out is no excuse for screwing up the planning of the tournament staff by pulling a team out from under them at the last minute. Either call the TD the night before and let them know that you are dropping a team, so they can swear to themselves and fix things before morning, or come in a player down, play short-handed, or hope to pick up an extra player from one of the other ten teams there.
As a consequence, the TD will need contingency schedules (printed, so no stupid chalkboard schedules) for +/-2 teams or so. If the teams are annoyed at why these back-up schedules has generic numbers instead of team names if they are used, everyone can blame the team that didn't show up for having to use a less pretty schedule.

Also, as a TD, make sure to have more buzzers and laptops than you expect. Electronics die.
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Re: Things that make a good tournament

Post by Susan » Wed Oct 01, 2014 1:20 pm

There's definitely some things to mine in this thread on hosting tournaments. I'd add to what's already been said here that tournament directors should make no assumptions about their staff--that is, don't assume that people will just show up without copious reminders, and don't assume that people will be able to staff a tournament fairly and efficiently without coaching and guidance.
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Re: Things that make a good tournament

Post by Important Bird Area » Wed Oct 01, 2014 2:22 pm

The United States of America wrote: As a consequence, the TD will need contingency schedules (printed, so no stupid chalkboard schedules) for +/-2 teams or so.
Just wanted to quote this for emphasis. "Unexpected number of teams" is a thing that happens at many tournaments. Being prepared to deal with it in advance can save a lot of time.
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Re: Things that make a good tournament

Post by Benin Rebirth Party » Sat Oct 04, 2014 11:52 am

If possible, please, please, please make sure that your multiple teams are arranged such that A>B>C>D etc. Tournaments with round robin pools will go under this assumption. Some cases, like ICCS, where only two or three practices occur before it, there's no real way to do it. But if you can, please, it makes the tournament more enjoyable for everyone.
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Re: Things that make a good tournament

Post by Ndg » Sat Oct 04, 2014 12:18 pm

The United States of America wrote:If possible, please, please, please make sure that your multiple teams are arranged such that A>B>C>D etc. Tournaments with round robin pools will go under this assumption.
You can help make sure this is true by asking for rosters prior to the tournament. At one of our high school tournaments last year, one coach insisted on labeling her teams "Red" and "Blue," and having the rosters ahead of time enabled me to estimate the strengths of those teams with reasonable accuracy. For any teams that rely on one player for most of their scoring, you want to make sure that player going to be playing.
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Re: Things that make a good tournament

Post by Joshua Rutsky » Wed Oct 15, 2014 3:40 pm

OK, so I'm looking for some input on the question of how to best set up a middle-sized tourney (32 teams) so that I can make the following things happen:

1) Rebracketing for playoffs to make afternoon games available to everyone and roughly equal in competitive ability
2) Avoiding the possibility of a team losing once in the morning and being eliminated from the chance to win the tournament
3) Avoiding playing more than 11 rounds total.

Is this possible?
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Re: Things that make a good tournament

Post by ryanrosenberg » Wed Oct 15, 2014 3:47 pm

Have four prelim brackets of eight teams each. After the prelim round robin (7 rounds), take the top two teams from each prelim bracket and split them evenly into two championship brackets of four. The remaining teams should be placed into consolation brackets of four based on their prelim bracket finish (third-place bracket, fourth, etc.). All teams play a round-robin in their playoff bracket (3 rounds), followed by a crossover game for final placement between the two championship brackets, for a total of 11 rounds.
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Re: Things that make a good tournament

Post by Joshua Rutsky » Wed Oct 15, 2014 4:34 pm

Perfect. That was eluding me for some reason, but I appreciate having this community to draw on for support.
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Re: Things that make a good tournament

Post by ndikkala » Wed Oct 22, 2014 12:26 am

I would say another important thing is to give clear instructions to readers on exactly what to do. I've been to a tournament where the readers didn't know whether or not to neg people when the tournament was in fact no negs, and the inconsistency on bounceback policy is just as bad. Make sure you tell the readers if they can or cannot accept designations on bouncebacks, and when to read the answers on bonuses. Some readers withhold the answer to bonus parts until the end of the question. Also, be clear on tiebreak policy. We played a match this year where we had to wait for at least 5 minutes while the reader ran to HQ to figure out how to resolve a tie.
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Re: Things that make a good tournament

Post by jonpin » Wed Oct 22, 2014 9:58 am

Basically, every tournament needs a moderator meeting that at bare minimum covers the following grounds, in order from most absolutely needed down:
* Timing rules (after tossup, after a buzz, on a bonus, on bouncebacks if they exist)
* Overtime (first correct answer? neg loses? 3 tossups? 3 full cycles?)
* After each round (what to do with the packet and scoresheet, where to get new questions, where teams report for announcements, etc.)
* Substitutions (at halftime only? are there timeouts?)
* Protest procedure (#1: You as moderator are not the final authority. #2: If a protest would swing the game, this is what you tell the teams. #3: Here's who you alert in HQ and how)
* General format (so that if a team asks "what's going on?" a moderator can provide some level of answer)
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Re: Things that make a good tournament

Post by Urech hydantoin synthesis » Sat Nov 01, 2014 3:45 pm

As a TD, you should make schedules for fields ranging from at least 4 teams less than your current field to 2 teams more. Do not get too invested in one schedule - unless you want to do that extra work, keep the schedules as basic as possible and as simple to modify as possible.

Also, if you're trying to do paperless scoresheets and schedules, ensure that there's available guest wifi, and have backups in case your fancy schedule-generating program doesn't work.
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Re: Things that make a good tournament

Post by Joshua Rutsky » Mon Oct 05, 2015 9:46 am

I don't know if this falls into the necessity bracket, but it is something I think is worth mentioning. If you are hosting a high-school level tournament and charging $50+ per team to attend, you need to have trophies or plaques for the winning teams. You don't have to break the bank on this, but a decent quality trophy runs as little as $10. Hardware matters to a high school team. Funding is based on visible success in a lot of schools. Coming back and saying "we won!" matters to a principal, but if you leave a nice trophy or two on his/her desk, you've got something they see regularly that reminds them "Hey, we have a strong academic team. We should fund that, too!"

If you don't intend to offer trophies or plaques, SAY SO UP FRONT so people aren't surprised at the end of the day. It probably shouldn't be assumed that this is what you are going to do, but even so, better to make your plans clear.
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Re: Things that make a good tournament

Post by quizbowllee » Mon Oct 05, 2015 11:57 am

Joshua Rutsky wrote:I don't know if this falls into the necessity bracket, but it is something I think is worth mentioning. If you are hosting a high-school level tournament and charging $50+ per team to attend, you need to have trophies or plaques for the winning teams. You don't have to break the bank on this, but a decent quality trophy runs as little as $10. Hardware matters to a high school team. Funding is based on visible success in a lot of schools. Coming back and saying "we won!" matters to a principal, but if you leave a nice trophy or two on his/her desk, you've got something they see regularly that reminds them "Hey, we have a strong academic team. We should fund that, too!"

If you don't intend to offer trophies or plaques, SAY SO UP FRONT so people aren't surprised at the end of the day. It probably shouldn't be assumed that this is what you are going to do, but even so, better to make your plans clear.
You're absolutely correct. It's inexcusable not to have decent awards for high school teams at tournaments. I would suggest that you make this post in the thread of the tournament you are referencing. I will definitely back you up when you do.
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Re: Things that make a good tournament

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Tue Oct 20, 2015 4:25 pm

Stop talking between questions.
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