“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
—excerpted from Alice in Wonderland
After years of running highly successful tournaments my business partner at Premier Tournament Management, Louise Waxler gets asked frequently for advice on starting a tournament for a soccer club. Sometimes she is asked in a social conversation and other times we are called in for a consultation, but she always responds, “I am happy to help. Can you tell me why you want to start a tournament?”
This is always the first question we ask.
Some people who we ask have thought this through, but this question often surprises people. “Doesn’t every club want a tournament?” they reply. Well no, some clubs are quite content to simply play in tournaments. After all, it is more fun to play in one than it is to manage one.
Tournament creation and management can be hard work, especially early on when you are still learning the ropes. But it is gets a lot easier if you know why you want to start one and are certain of your goals. We have found over the years that most of the best tournaments are very clear on their purpose; the best clubs and owners know if they are starting a tournament for competitive, marketing, charitable or financial reasons.
Here are some of the reasons you may want to start a tournament:
Drive Income for your club.
Tournaments are a great way to create a funding source for your club. With proper planning, budgeting and a marketing plan, tournaments can quickly grow into a strong source of revenue. Without those same financial controls in place they can also fall into a break-even or loss category so you need to make sure that you are on top of things. While not all tournaments should be created primarily to drive revenue, no tournament should lose money.
Create a unique competitive environment.
There are many excellent tournaments available, but perhaps you have a very specific environment in mind? You may want to create an elite event that is limited in number of participating teams, or the opposite, a play date type event that allows a more relaxed approach and a greater emphasis on participation. Either way, it is important to define that from the start.
Build your brand.
From a marketing perspective, tournaments can be a great asset. Especially if you are clear about your club’s branding and are building a tournament consistent with that brand. Tournaments get your name out in the market that you are interested in growing. They showcase your facilities and your club’s organizational competence. But, a tournament would not be good for your brand if it is is poorly conceived or managed.
Your region needs a tournament.
The type of tournament you wish to participate in may exist but be far away or at the wrong time of year for your club. Why not create the same environment closer to home and on your own schedule?
Support a good cause.
This happens a lot. A club or community wants to put on a tournament to raise funds for a cause near and dear to them, either in their community or is important to their community. In fact, Waxler recently started a charity called Headers for Hope modeled on this concept. “Headers For Hope works with tournaments and teams across the country and within each sport to raise money, which is donated back to their local cancer charity or organization,” says Waxler It may take a bit of time to grow into the moneymaker that you wish, but with a strong commitment you can develop something special.
These are a few of the reasons for starting a tournament. You may have your own reason, but the most important point is that you must have a clear purpose for creating a tournament. If anyone tells you, “it’s for fun,” we say, “don’t believe him or her!”
In today’s competitive soccer-environment, full-time employees often run clubs, and the expectations on a tournament and its director are high. Running a quality tournament well, of any size, takes a lot of work and commitment. The kids, the parents and the participating clubs should think it was fun and had value when the tournament is all said and done, but between stating your goals and achieving that outcome, is quite a bit of planning and work. Knowing where you are going is vital and is the essential first step.
Next time, we will talk about the next steps. Our goal is to assist you by providing the tools necessary to create and operate a professional and successful tournament. It’s still soccer, but it’s also a business!