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.
- An overview of potential best practices is seen in this Powerpoint. I would recommend starting here. Many of the documents below are derived from and extend this presentation. The underlying theme is the idea of tournament attendees as customers; it was suggested during the original presentation at the 2016 NDCA Coach Development Conference that a better understanding of the relationship of tournament director and tournament attendee is host/guests rather service provider/customers. A combination of the two probably makes the best sense.
- So you want to run a tournament. If you already run a tournament, you don't need this, but it couldn't hurt. If you're just thinking about running a tournament, then definitely start here. A good dose of realism never hurt anybody.
- 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.
- Setting up registration 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.
- 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.
- Judge expectations What you are expecting from your judges, provided as a doc file so that you can edit as you see fit. I recommend sending this out early in the week before the tournament.
- One approach to tournament conflicts, for teams and for judges Distribute these before every tournament. The primary goal here is to disallow endless strikes under the guise of conflicts, but it also prevents preferential treatment in the other direction.
- Mutual Judge Preferences Recommended as part of an invitation to events where a lot of the attendees in the LD field might not be familiar with MJP (although this population may be dwindling). This explains how MJP works in general, and urges all teams to use it as the best tool for engineering the activity towards their own preferences. (This article was also published in Rostrum.)
- MJP analysis If you're going to use MJP at your tournament, do it right.
- Managing Entries: The Waitlist. It is important to control who attends your tournament, for a variety of reasons. You may want to limit your tournament to official entries from bona fide high schools, for instance, which is standard practice. And you may want to manage the size of the fields to maintain balance in the competition. The waitlist is the tool for this.
- 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.
- Genuine photograph of a tab room putting out a difficult pairing: