Hosting a Volleyball Tournament

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Have you ever wondered if hosting your own volleyball tournament is something you should consider for your club? The answer is a resounding "maybe". Tournaments can run the gamut from a three day convention center mega event to a simple one day round robin scrimmage where the participating teams provide their own referees for free. The one common element that all tournaments hold in common is the need to attend to 100 little details, any one of which can sabotage your event if mishandled. Fortunately, you do not have to start from scratch as there are many wonderful resources available to you that can help you prepare your tournament checklist.

Perhaps the most valuable aid is the Junior Volleyball Association's (JVA) comprehensive publication entitled 'The Tournament Director's Guidebook'. All tournament directors should refer to this document religiously as it contains time-tested guidelines for everything from tournament formatting to which scoreboards to use. Since most tournaments follow the policies and rules put forth in this booklet, your tournament will run more smoothly by virtue of the fact that most teams are accustomed to this structure.

Once you have compiled your tournament checklist, complete with a timeline dating back from your tournament date to the present, it is a matter of methodically checking off each task as it is successfully completed. Your first year tournament is the most critical one and you want to make sure that your participants have a positive experience so that they want to return in the future. Remember, first and foremost that the success of your second annual event will depend on the customer satisfaction with your first annual event.

For our purposes here we will look at running a two day convention center tournament since it will require all the planning required in a larger or smaller event. Planning should begin the summer of the year before your event.

  1. You should designate a tournament director who should be compensated for his or her work.
  2. The first task should be to identify a weekend that looks to be underserved tournament-wise in the general area of the host city. You can consult the JVA event schedule on their website to help identify that weekend and location.
  3. Then, after you have identified a couple of weekend possibilities, you should contact the convention center in your host city along with flooring/net suppliers to make sure that they are both available that weekend. Remember, that fortune favors the prepared so the sooner you can contact these entities the better are your chances for procuring them.
  4. Convention centers typically have concrete floors so you will need to contract a flooring/net supplier to rent their turnkey equipment as soon as practicable. This will be one of your major expenses, and will require you to pay shipping to and from your event along with the services of flooring supplied supervisor who will oversee the set up and take down of your courts. You must also supply a crew and here is where you can be creative and employ the services of personnel within your own club. You can choose to do a trade out with them whereby their participation fees are reduced in return for the labor they provide. This can turn out to be a win-win situation.
  5. Once you have established your tournament weekend and successfully procured your critical suppliers you can begin to work on signing up enough teams to, at least, break even and, hopefully, make a fair profit. Some people possess the mistaken notion that tournaments are a license to print money and all one must do is 'hang out a shingle' and everything else will take care of itself. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There is a lot of hard work and planning that goes into running a successful tournament and the emphasis should be on 1) affordability, 2) safe and completive play carefully calibrated by pool, 3) good officiating and 4) timely games that permit teams to play their last game early enough on Sunday to allow families to get home in time to get a good night's rest for the upcoming work week.

That said, tournaments should be given careful consideration within the framework of a club's business plan. Simple one day, low cost, scrimmage events where teams are obligated to provide their own officials, scorekeepers, etc. resonate with regional teams that are looking for an inexpensive way to engage in meaningful competition.

Over the years, clubs have established 'first mover' advantage by hosting quality events that become the preferred tournament for a given weekend. For this reason, it is, in most cases, a better strategy to try to outflank the existing benchmark tournaments by identifying a weekend and location that is underserved.

Let us now consider our two-day event. You have selected your weekend and contracted with a convention center that can accommodate 15 courts. It is located in a city of 1,000,000 residents and is within a four hour drive of fifty significant clubs. It offers enough hotel rooms, restaurants, shopping and entertainment options to make it an attractive destination for your families.

The convention center will present you with a contract that will spell out what they can provide and how much they will charge. Oftentimes, they will provide ticket takers and allow the host club to keep all admission proceeds. Usually, the convention center will keep the parking revenue. Convention centers are in the business of hosting events so the good ones will be able to provide chairs, tables, concession stands, trainer areas, stages, internet service, closed circuit television, partition netting, etc. They will usually charge for these provisions on an a la carte basis along with their basic rental charge.

Before you sign the contract, I would encourage you to forward a copy to the JVA Executive Director who will review your agreement and offer meaningful feedback. Are the charges fair? Are they requiring too much insurance and absolving themselves of any liability whatsoever? Are they allowing you an adequate amount of time for set up and takedown and can they provide you with a forklift, water and the other tools needed to accomplish these tasks?

Promoting Your Tournament
At this point, you should contact the Visitor's Bureau in the host city to avail yourself of their assistance and resources. Almost every medium size city has a Visitor's Bureau whose job it is to promote their city. Moreover, they recognize that attracting significant sporting events to their community is a huge boon for local business. So much so that they will often open the pocket book and offer a sponsorship incentive for anywhere from $1000 to $10,000 depending on the size and attractiveness of the event. Youth volleyball tournaments are very desirable in the eyes of the Visitor's Bureau.

In addition to sponsorship money, the Visitor's Bureau will be your liaison with the hotels and provide you with a list of them along with what they charge and a list of amenities. Families prefer hotels that provide breakfast, for example. In addition, they will share with you their policy for complementary rooms that is of particular importance to you as a director as you will be required to provide free rooms for your officials and tournament staff. Typically, hotels will offer one free room night for every twenty room nights booked. For this reason, you should concentrate your room reservations to a few hotels within close proximity of the playing site. It would be great if the hotel were close enough that your families could walk to the tournament and avoid the convention center parking fees. Lastly, hotels will sometimes offer additional incentives in the form of a rebate per room night sold. This varies widely but it is possible to receive $5 to $10 per room night booked in the form of cash or credit.

To promote your event, it again behooves you to start planning the summer before your tournament year so that you can set up a tournament website which will contain all the essential information that potential club participants will need to know including:

Name of Event
Date(s) of Event
Divisions Offered
Location – City, State, and site
Contact Person Phone/Fax (both if being used)
Email Address
Sanctioning body (JVA, AAU or USAV)
Entry Fee
How to Enter
Where event information will be posted
Last date the entries will be accepted (closing date)
Acceptance procedure that will be followed
Start time of event
Explanation of any format deviations
Amount of Admission Fee if any is charged
Officials: will officials be provided all day or for semi's and finals only or not at all?
Information on fines for facility violations must be listed (excessive garbage, bringing food in, damage, missing work assignments, etc.) Optional – strength of participating team

You should list your tournament with the JVA who will include it on their website tournament menu that JVA members consult when they put together their club season tournament schedule in November and December. The JVA will also let you borrow their mailing list to promote your event to their membership. You can even buy your awards from the JVA. Perhaps most importantly, it will be important for the tournament director and staff "to work the phone" and call other club directors to ask them to participate in their event. First on your call list should be those club directors in whose tournaments you have sent teams in the past. Reciprocity is a big deal in the tournament business.

Budgeting / Number Crunching
For our purposes, let's assume that you were able to sign up 100 teams to participate in your 15 court event. You must now construct a tournament pro forma income statement that will require that you get very detailed, a practice that can make the difference between a successful tournament and a financial debacle.

Here is a proximate sample of a pro forma income statement for a 100 team convention center tournament.


Tournament Income                                          Estimated

Tournament Entries (100x $400.00)                  $40,000.00

Admission Total (100 x 10 x 1.5 x $5 x 2 )         $15,000.00

Sponsorship Revenue                                       $1,500.00

Hotel Rebate                                                      $1,000.00

Total                                                                   $57,500.00

Tournament Expenses                                     Estimated

Facility Rental & Staffing                                    $12,000.00

Trucking                                                             $5,200.00

Court Setup & Takedown                                   $4,000.00

Court Rental (including net systems)                 $7,500.00

Director & Staff                                                  $4,000.00

Technology Hardware (comp.wireless, etc.)      $1,000.00

Awards                                                               $1,000.00

Trainer (2 x 10 x 2 x $20.00)                              $800.00

Advanced Event Systems ($15.00 per team)     $1,500.00

Tournament Supplies ( office,tape scoreboards) $1,000.00

Game Balls                                                         $500.00

Officials (100 x 5 x $28.00) 2                              $7,000.00

Head Officials                                                     $540.00

Tournament Insurance (20 teams x $25.00)       $500.00

Official & Staff Hospitality Food ($15.00 x 30 x 2) $900.00

Admission Wristbands                                        $250.00

Miscellaneous                                                     $1,000.00

Total                                                                    $48,690.00

Net Income                                                          $8,810.00

One should not assume that it will be easy or, even possible to attract 100 teams to your regional tournament in the first year. If, instead you are able to sign up, say, 80 teams you can see that your profit would evaporate pretty quickly. That is because there are fixed expenses associated with running a tournament that you will incur whether you host 200 teams or fifty.

Also, in my hypothetical income statement I assume that you were able to score enough free rooms to house your referees and staff. Your tournament insurance can be purchased very reasonably through the JVA and must meet the requirements of the convention center contract. Any JVA teams that sign up for your event are already covered, liability – wise, under their JVA membership insurance. We always hire a head official whose job it is to gather his team of referees and organize them with regard to their court and room assignments, etc. Make a careful checklist of all the supplies you will need like flip scoreboards, tape, office supplies, volleyballs, laptops etc. so that you are not scrambling at the last minute in a foreign city to find critical odds and ends.

We contract with Advanced Event Systems (AES) to manage team registration along with pool scheduling. They will charge about $15.00 per team for these services and provide an application for your phone which teams can consult during the tournament to keep abreast of pool results and estimated start time for the games.

To help older players in your tournament you should compile recruiting packets for visiting college coaches. Ideally, these would include vital data on all prospects along with their court assignments.

There are several ancillary benefits to hosting your own tournament. Employing club parents as ticket takers, concessionaires, set up and takedown labor and tournament staff persons can be some ways to help them trade out their club dues. A well run tournament can give a club some prestige and visibility in the competitive world of club volleyball. If you host the event in your hometown your community benefits from the patronage of the weekend visitors. Finally, if you are fortunate enough to make a profit from your tournament you can consider whether it is possible to reduce your club fees to give more kids a chance to play club volleyball.

In some ways tournaments are the glue that binds our volleyball community together. Hosting a great tournament benefits all of us by promoting the sport and elevating the level of play in a responsible and safe way. Let's support each other's events to the extent we can to foster viable clubs and a strong industry.

For more junior volleyball education, visit the JVA Educational Library for Club Directors and Club Coaches.

About the Author

Tim Kuzma is the JVA Financial Advisor and Asics Munciana Business Manager.


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