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3 Tricks to Master the Tournament Game

Cheerful volunteers

Hosting a tournament is a great way to promote your club and area, while adding some extra revenue for your organization. But a tournament doesn’t run itself. Whether it’s Little League Baseball or semi-professional soccer, a successful tournament involves coordination, planning, and the right attitude. 

Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with Ruth Nicholson, the founder of GO! and tournament expert for over 30 years. To deliver an excellent event that people want to keep coming back to, Ruth spoke of three things that every tournament owner or manager should do. 

Follow these tips to help ensure your event is one that players and families will want to come back to year after year. 


One of the first elements of holding a successful tournament is defining what success looks like. Try focusing on the 3 Cs: Competition, Customers, and Cash.


No team wants to walk away losing 30-3. So you should clearly define what level of competition you hope to see. Are you looking to showcase the best of the best? Or looking to provide a more recreational, fun environment? Let potential teams know what to expect, and do your best to make sure you attract teams who match your goals.

Customer Service

Your tournament's success is ultimately defined by the experience of the players, coaches, and families attending. Everyone from administrators to volunteers should be friendly, energetic, and engaged. Make your visitors feel welcome and cared for and they will be sure to come back again. And probably tell others, too.


Your organization may be looking to the tournament as a major source of annual fundraising or it may be that the event is held to raise money for a charitable cause. Get the right mix of competition and a reliable team of volunteers that return each year delivers a superior customer experience and you’ll be well on your way to making money.



Playing soccer



The most common reasons why a tournament fails often come down to the simplest details. When people have a good experience they’re quiet. It's the failures that stand out, and cause the noise. Small failures can add up to a big negative impression. Things like difficult parking or hard-to-find bathrooms seem small, but can make a huge impact. 

Avoiding these problems starts with having a top-notch volunteer program. Planning on extra people, a floating staff of volunteers who can fill in when demand for services is high or there is a shortage of resources. 

Then make sure to collect information when your event is over. Get feedback from your players, coaches, families, and volunteers. You can either do informal questions at the event or send a quick survey to participants. This will provide a wealth of information on areas where you were successful and other areas you can improve. 


Start by figuring out what you will need. What jobs are required? What will the responsibilities of each job be? What skills are needed to get each job done?

Then find people who fit those skills and experiences. Some volunteers are great interacting with people, others are great at organizing behind the scenes. Much like sports, getting ahead is all about putting people in a position where they can succeed. So let your volunteers pick their jobs whenever possible.

And make sure your volunteers are both informed and empowered. If a volunteer doesn't immediately know an answer, with the right communications channels in place they should know how to get the info they need. 

At the end of the day, tournaments have the potential to build your brand and make a significant contribution to the bottom line. With the right plan in place and the right people on-board, you’ll be set up for success now—and for years to come. 

boys playing soccer