Monday, May 15, 2006

TD Communication

When it comes to running a tournament, I believe that a) early planning, and b) frequent communication are the foundation of putting on a quality event. This post will focus on the later.

Those lucky souls that have worked for me as UPA Coordinators know that I take frequent communication seriously. I am well aware that we are swamped with e-mails on a daily basis. I know that some TD's temper their communication based on not wanting to "bother" the participants. My assumption is not really the opposite, rather, it is more centered around a presumption that folks have a working delete button on their PC. I am not at all offended if folks delete my e-mails, and I do my best to write e-mails that get right to the point.

My perspective as a coordinator/TD is informed by my experience as a participant, and, as a participant, nothing raises the "this tournament is disorganized" flag more than e-mails, sent on Friday afternoon, that say things like "seeding TBD", "we might be using two different sets of fields", or "format is still being worked on". I guess I feel that disorganization is disrespectful to me and my team's time. Of course, there are always emergencies and problems, but I would rather receive an e-mail (sent the week before) that details potential issues in advance rather than walking into a disaster on Saturday morning.

So, a couple of points about communication, specifically pre-event communication:

1) Use the SRT- There will come a day when the SRT or something like it will be the tournaments web site. The SRT creates a sense of season and helps other TD's by providing data for seeding. People actually care about results, so put them out there. To not use this resource furthers the disjointed aspects of out sport and directly contributes to a lack of stories and documentation about how the sport is developing. While we benefit from the very limited cable TV exposure we now enjoy, we have an opportunity to utilize the technology available to us to distribute information and publicize the sport. Don't take it for granted. It is an easy way to contribute to legitimizing the sport.

2) Publish seedings and formats early- My opinion is that the LATEST the format and seedings should be published is 7 days before the start of the tournament. This gives teams the minimum time necessary to prepare for the weekend.

3) Communicate potential issues or anomalies early and often- I went over this earlier, but teams want to know what is going on as early as possible. Be clear about when decisions will be made, especially if teams are flying or driving long distances.

These are just three examples of some of the things a TD can do to communicate with the participating teams in a manner that respects the participants time, and will go a long way toward creating an quality atmosphere for a tournament.

9 comments:

Jeremy Redburn said...

George,

This sounds a lot like a discussion of 2006 college regionals without mentioning it by name. I don't really feel like turning this into a long-winded discussion of the issues we ran into at college regionals this year, but if I'm right I'd be happy to discuss why things were so last-minute with you anytime.

Just drop me an email at jredburn+blogger@freeshell.org.

gcooke said...

Hey Jeremy,

Thanks for writing. I think NE Regionals went off fine and it was a great weekend. I did feel frustrated by the lack of information leading up to the event, but I don't feel you have to explain yourself to me. My purpose in the post was not to point fingers, but to bring forward my experience both as a participant and as a TD. Being a UPA coordinator is a largely thankless job, and it doesn't help if folks just complain. Hopefully, my post doesn't come across solely as a bitch. Increasing the quality of UPA events is a step by step process, and our previous experiences inform us for the future.

The UPA spends a lot of time working on guidelines and training materials to help our coordinators manage their events. Many times, language such as how to develop a rain plan is drafted after a problem has occurred, and problems and soultions will continue to develop. My points about communication, which, again, were not meant to indicate that you feel any differently, were meant to remind us that players really care about things like seeding, formats, and the logistical minutiae.

gcooke said...

oops...I hit enter too fast.

So, thanks for your efforts and time spent on behalf of all of us. I hope I wasn't too much of a pain in the ass.

-G

Tarr said...

Jeremy,

Whether or not 2006 NE college regionals went smoothly, I shouldn't have to tell you that these issues extend to far more tournaments than one.

The Carr said...

One quick thing about NE regionals is that the town had built baseball fields complete with dirt infields and fences on fields we had reserved, which led to confusion on how many fields we could have. This issue couldn't be resolved until the day or so before games because Dartmouth wouldn't let us know which of the school fields we could use. Hence the delay on the format and schedule, our bad.

These are all great points about pre-tourney communication between TD's and teams. I learned my lesson the hard way running ENE sectionals this year. I was afraid of barraging teams with e-mails about rosters, assuming they'd be on the ball, but our section ended up only getting two on-time rosters and one bid to regionals. I don't believe that was entirely my fault, but more e-mails from me certainly wouldn't have hurt the situation.

I also ran into another format communication issue this weekend as the TD of White Mountain Open. The biblical deluge forced me to close fields after day one, so I had to change the format for Sunday on Saturday night to accomodate fewer fields and try to keep the fields from being destroyed. Half the teams didn't know about this change until Sunday morning. Most teams were fine with it, but one Canadian team decided to leave as a result. What would you say is the best way as a TD to deal with unpredictable situations such as rainfall amounts and how much a field gets damaged during the day?

-Brett
Dartmouth

gcooke said...

Adam said what I was trying to say with far fewer words. Thank you, Adam.

Brett,

I also have been burned by unpredictable weather. What we drafted in the UPA training materials basically says to set a drop dead point at which you will make the call as to whether the event will be cancelled.

The need to make an early call will vary greatly depending on the venue, and the diatance and manner in which teams are traveling. If the venue is at all sensitive to field damage or teams are flying to the event, I would recommend being extremely conservative in deciding to proceed with the event. I think we can all look to the Penn State situation as something we do not want to get near as college club teams.

While it sucks to cancel an event and then have the conditions be OK in the end, it is much worse, in my opinion, to err on the other side and damage relationships with teams and field hosts.

-G

Jeremy Redburn said...

George + Adam,

Sorry if I came across the wrong way - I just wanted to pre-empt a long discussion I was worried might develop about regionals this year.

That said, I agree 100% that all the issues brought up are extremely relevant going forward, UPA series or not.

What I find particularly interesting talking with other RCs is how different the concerns are on a regional basis. The last 3 years I've probably spent 75% of my time if not more trying to track down a single field site that can accomodate both divisions. Elsewhere, the big issue is deciding between 8 different possible sites and rotating among them to cut down on travel and cost for the teams.

In the Northeast, we're basically playing with fire every season and eventually we're going to get burned. The last two years at regionals (weather last year and field mixups this year) we've come awfully close to having to entertain canceling regionals. Without Devens as an option in the Spring, and with zero schools (until Dartmouth this year) willing to host, I'm not sure what our options really are.

gcooke said...

Jeremy,

I agree that field space is a huge issue and I think it is difficult for the average player to realize how much time the NE UPA coordinators spend trying to get fields.

The club div is lucky to have Devens, and in case we forget, we should remember that the only year(2002) in which Regionals was not held there in recent memory, it was pretty much a disaster. Rained out fields, last minute change of field locations, game to go's postponed, etc.

Just curious...when do you start looking for fields every year? I know that my coordinators in the NE Mixed Div start VERY early.

-G

degs said...

As to the last-minute communication ... I think every team needs to have a cell phone number in the hands of the TD. This is done for big tournaments (Nationals of all kinds, HS Easterns/Westerns), but really it should be required at all tournaments. It is an easy way to communicate things last minute (esp for traveling teams w/o e-mail) and who doesn't have a cell phone now?