Tournament Director's Toolkit

Although I no longer actively coach, I am still very much involved in the running of tournaments. In fact, one might say I am about as expert as one can be in this pursuit, having run tournaments of every shape and form for many years, both as director and in the tab room. In this toolkit I share my experience as best I can, providing a collection of documents offered as help for other folks running or thinking about running tournaments. Consider them as suggestions, aids for managing your tournament from start to finish. And please note that they are not intended to reflect the official procedures/rules of the NDCA, where I originally posted most of them: They are simply my thoughts, arranged as well as I could.

Magical Movie Introduction
This is the Facebook page where we post regular updates of interest to TDs.



  • Announcing Your Tournament
    You need to get the word out to people that your tournament is going to happen. Here's how.

  • Setting Tournament Deadlines
    There are realistic ways of organizing the time between deciding to run a tournament and greeting people at the door on tournament day. Following these best practices assures the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people, including both you and your guests.
    Part 1: Registration Opens
    Part 2: Deleting TBAs
    Part 3: Shutting Down

  • Managing the Waitlist
    If you're running a tournament that isn't open to all comers, no restrictions, then you need a waitlist. Here's the whys, the wherefores, and the how-to. It's not as easy as it looks, and there are best practices in place.

  • Setting up registration tables at a tournament
    The difference between a smooth registration process and a traffic jam is knowing how tabroom.com works, and how to use it to move people quickly out of the world and into your events. This pdf works regardless of whether you're actually doing your tabbing on tabroom. And consider this a strong recommendation: have an adult (maybe even the tournament director) run registration and, especially, collect the money and enter the amounts collected into the system.

Running the Tournament

    Judge Management

  • 5 Rules of Thumb for Judge Management
    This is the basic strategy, however much you adhere to the tactics that follow.

  • Judge expectations We ask a lot of judges at tournaments, and more than anything, we expect them to act as the educators in the room. But what does that mean? What, exactly, are the reasonable expectations for a judge at a high school forensics tournament? This is a general guide to the job that judges should be doing, including knowing the rules of their events, running their rounds professionally, and maintaining educational accountability and propriety. It's provided as a doc file that you can edit as you see fit. I recommend sending this out or posting it early in the week before the tournament.

  • How many judges do you really need to run a tournament?
    Short answer: more than you'll ever get.

  • Judge obligations/commitments
    A pretty strong recommendation that having limited judge commitments is bad for you, and bad for your tournament. There's math and there's analytics. What else do you need?

  • Why MJP? Where MJP came from, and why it's your best choice for judge assignments, with the possible exception of totally random judging. Random does have its supporters, but we're unlikely to see it any time soon at high stakes LD and Policy events. This document can also be useful as a handout for your attendees who might be resistant to the idea, if any still exist. A version of this was originally published in Rostrum.

  • MJP in Practice If you're going to use MJP at your tournament, do it right. Including information on handling judges who never get to judge, and use of strikes.

  • One approach to tournament conflicts, for teams and for judges. A conflict is a situation of too much love, not too little. The primary goal here is to disallow endless strikes under the guise of conflicts, but it also prevents preferential treatment in the other direction. Distribute these before every tournament.

    Unsorted Docs Below (I'm workin' on 'em)

  • E-Ballot instructions. Using e-ballots and want to make sure your judges are plugged into tabroom.com? First, here are the instructions from one tournament, in a docx file. Edit it with your own wifi specs, and claim it as your own. Or, take this general PDF and distribute it without your own specific site instructions. It is probably a good idea to have a station set up somewhere for your judges to get connected throughout the tournament: often even the most constant of judges find they're no longer plugged into tabroom for some reason or other.

  • Complete Guide to Running an E-ballot Tournament Whether it's a one-building one-fielder, or a mega-tournament over a dozen buildings in twenty time zones, this is the process that has proven effective.

  • Diaster Preparedness What if you're tootling along at a tournament, running tabroom.com, and suddenly the system goes down? Here's a way to keep your tournament moving; if nothing else, it will keep you busy while you're waiting for tabroom to come back up.

  • Pyramid: These are plenty of ways to figure out how many teams are going to break at what level. For those who want a good old-fashioned, albeit barebones Excel version, voila!

  • Sidenotes: These are all the things that have come up since the toolkit was created, little tidbits that might be of interest on various subjects.

  • How to handle the assignment of speaker points. This will especially help get new judges, e.g. PF parents, on the same page.

  • Academy Debate A summary of a new level of debate for sophomores and juniors. You might want to consider this approach to events, especially if there's a need for rounds for younger students in your region.

  • An introduction to PF for parent/new judges. There's thoughts here on what to say at a short opening assembly, and a possible handout. You might use this in conjunction with the NSDA's original handout.

  • How to judge A collection of elementary how-to materials for judging both speech and debate. Print up some of the relevant ones for your tournaments where you're training a lot of new judges.

  • Guide to Tabroom.com: A fairly exhaustive guide to how tabroom's debate tabbing software works, beyond the helps available in the program. Available both as a pdf of the entire guide, and a webpage breaking it down into smaller bite-sized pieces. Since this was written, tabroom has vastly improved its help screens, and this has not been updated lately, but you can print it out and most of it is still accurate. It's certainly still a handy guide for tabroom.com noobs.

  • Genuine photograph of a tab room putting out a difficult pairing: