The Leaguevine Blog

Ultitrax™ Unveils New Leaguevine Data Connector!

Posted on March 26th, 2013 by Mark "Spike" Liu

This is a guest post by Scott Blankenburg. Scott is an Ultimate player, software developer, and the creator of Ultitrax™.

How does this affect the Leaguevine Community?

In short, Ultitrax™ provides organizers with a user-friendly way to create and manage Leaguevine game schedules!  Simply visit, answer four questions about your league's structure, and Ultitrax™ will automatically generate a Round Robin game schedule that can be exported to (and synchronized with) Leaguevine.  From this point on, all schedule, field, team, player, and score changes made via Ultitrax™ will be automatically replicated in Leaguevine!

What is Ultitrax™?

Ultitrax™ is a free sports management solution that allows organizers to schedule and add interactive scorekeeping to any website or Facebook™ Community in five minutes.  Learn more about the many great features of Ultitrax™ at

Origins of Ultitrax™

Ultitrax™ was created by Ultimate player and avid organizer Scott Blankenburg.  In the late 1970s, Scott was introduced to (and hooked upon) a then-unheard-of sport called "Ultimate." By the early 90s, he was captaining his college Ultimate team at the University of Miami where he majored in Computer Information Systems.  By the mid-90s, Scott founded the Connecticut Ultimate Club (CUC) --a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the sport of Ultimate in Connecticut.

While running the CUC, Scott developed several innovative league management tools including a popular software application called "Ultimeet" which integrated Friendster-like player profiles with sports management websites.  When Facebook™ exploded onto the scene, in the mid-2000s, Scott took the concept of Ultimeet to the next level by creating Ultitrax™ --the world's first free, professional-quality, cloud-based, Facebook™-integrated, end-to-end league/tournament scheduling and scorekeeping solution.

True to the "Spirit of the Game" (a code of  sportsmanship unique to the Ultimate community), Ultitrax™ is offered completely free of charge for all to enjoy!

iUltimate Integration

Posted on November 26th, 2012 by Mark "Spike" Liu
We are pleased to announce that the popular Ultimate Frisbee stat keeping app iUltimate now has Leaguevine integration! Right now the integration simply sends score updates back to Leaguevine, but full stats integration is coming in January 2013.

iUltimate is a native iOS application built by Jim Geppert, the dad of a couple Wisconsin Hodags. Other than its stat keeping capabilities, it is most well known for its auto-tweet feature. As a user is inputting the play-by-play for a game, the app auto-tweets what is going on during the game to a user's Twitter account. Check out @hodaglove's tweets during this game against Minnesota

This is the second stats-related app to be built on top of the Leaguevine API. The first one (and the one most of you Leaguevine users know about) was leaguevine-ultistats built by Chad Boulay. Any application is able to build on top of Leaguevine by connecting to the Leaguevine API and two more stats apps are in the process of doing this as well.

Please download iUltimate, try it at your next tournament, and take a few seconds to rate it!

Fantasy Ultimate: Reflections on our first go

Posted on October 29th, 2012 by Mark "Spike" Liu
This past weekend there was a massive Fantasy Ultimate contest using player-level stats. 1832 people created their teams of 7, and to our knowledge this was the first contest of its kind in our sport. Frankly, we’re as surprised as anyone that we (The Ultimate Page, Ben Demboski, and Leaguevine) were able to pull this off so I figured I’d write about its origins, the challenges we faced, and also the future outlook for this project. 

Origins of this project

In late August 2012, Lou Abramowski, Leaguevine advisor and creator of The Ultimate Page on Facebook, began searching for developers to build a Fantasy Ultimate application for Club Nationals that would live on top of the Leaguevine API. Given that the tournament was two months away, many thought this was overly ambitious but he pushed hard and recruited a handful of talented people who were interested in contributing to this. 

This would be a 3rd party application built on top of the Leaguevine API. Leaguevine’s involvement with it would simply be to make sure the API worked and that we exposed the right granularity of data to make this easy to build.

There was some initial talk about this on the Leaguevine-developer’s group but it soon quieted down. Lou continued pushing to make this happen by creating wireframes for the project and delegating various other tasks. By the time mid-october came along and the initial prototype still didn’t exist, everyone who knew about this project (including myself admittedly) was skeptical this would happen in time. Everyone was still hopeful, but clearly skeptical.

Enter Ben Demboski, co-founder of Gatherball. The week/weekend before the tournament Ben went to work on building the Fantasy Ultimate site and the Monday morning before the tournament he made a massive code push that convinced everyone that this thing was truly going to happen. 

The next two days, several of us devoted 100% of our time to getting it ready for deployment on Wednesday so people could draft their teams before the tournament started on Thursday. Lou rounded up tons of sponsorships, Ben made huge code improvements based on feedback from the Leaguevine-developer’s group, Leaguevine’s designer Andrew McIntee put in some work for free, I worked on getting the site deployed and making sure the stats system was working, and countless Ultimate players worked on finding folks who would be at Nationals who could take stats to populate this system.

We launched Wednesday mid-day and in under 24 hours, we had 1800 people create their fantasy teams. Thousands of others signed up just to see what all the excitement was about. These people were overloading our servers and we struggled to keep them up on Wednesday, having to refactor code, provision better databases, and increase the number of web servers to try and keep it online. We didn’t yet have Google Analytics set up, but we could sense from the Leaguevine API usage that this thing was going nuts, as this fantasy-ultimate site was making an average of 10 requests/second to our API over the course of a full day with spikes being far higher.

During the tournament (i.e. Challenges)

Now that we had tons of users and excitement, all we had to do was make sure all of the teams took real-time stats to populate the system. 

This never happened.

When I got to Nationals and began talking to teams, all of them knew about fantasy and most had assigned someone to take stats for their team. Finding this one helper to do this was hard for the teams to pull of because there were very few friends, family, or fans at Nationals. Almost everyone there was a player and players had to focus on winning games, not taking stats.

Nonetheless, most teams did find a stats keeper. The problem was that USAU was also short staffed and didn’t have enough volunteers to take the stats they always take for Nationals events. Because of this, USAU handed each team a stats sheet and asked them to take pencil and paper stats for all their games. The teams gave these stats sheets to the stats keepers they lined up, and these stats keepers ended up not taking any real-time stats on Leaguevine.

After the first round or two of having very few real-time stats for teams, it looked like fantasy-ultimate was doomed. 

To salvage this situation, we talked a bunch with USA Ultimate about getting images of these completed paper score sheets and manually entering all these stats onto Leaguevine. After some initial skepticism, USAU jumped on board and was very helpful at providing these sheets for us to use. 

While we were getting these images, a number of amazing volunteers stepped up to manually transcribe these stats sheets into stats onto Leaguevine. Keep in mind here, that Leaguevine has not yet been set up to easily accept post-game stats so these volunteers were simulating games using the Leaguevine-ultistats interface.

Every night after games, we would take photos of about 30 stat sheets, and email them to these awesome volunteers (namely Zach Rabin and Zack Purdy) who would turn those into stats on Leaguevine. 

Through this scrappy work, we managed to get significant statistical data onto Leaguevine which could populate this popular fantasy-ultimate application.

Future Outlook

This application got a huge amount of exposure within the Ultimate community in a very short time and it is clear people want more of this. Tournament-level Fantasy Ultimate is interesting, and various tournaments could use this to generate exposure for their events.

One thing that is clear, though, is that manually transcribing data from paper stats sheets is not the way to go and will not work long-term. It will be crucial for tournaments using this system to ensure that there are people at every field entering real-time stats into Leaguevine. This is the only way this can scale since there are only so many Zach Rabins and Zack Purdys out there who are willing to do the dirty work.

Assuming tournament organizers are able to get people to use Leaguevine-ultistats or other 3rd party stat keeping apps built on Leaguevine, there are a plethora of cool things that can be done with the fantasy-ultimate site: Positive and negative players, taking detailed stats into account (completions, completion %, etc.), and taking defensive stats into account (D’s, defensive efficiency, etc).

Beyond just tournaments there is a lot of potential in Leagues as well. We are working on a partnership with Major League Ultimate that would result in a full season’s worth of stats in 2013. This quantity of stats data spanned over many weeks opens the possibility for more traditional fantasy leagues that have drafts.

The future is definitely exciting for Fantasy Ultimate and it has the right leadership in Lou Abramowski and Ben Demboski to make it amazing. If you are interested in joining them in building this thing, please join the Leaguevine-developer’s group and introduce yourself.

Thanks to everyone involved for making Fantasy Ultimate happen and thanks to the Ultimate community for making it so popular!

Power Rankings in Ultimate

Posted on October 8th, 2012 by Mark "Spike" Liu
This is a guest post by tournament director Chris Schaffner.

The Question

What is the best way of ranking ultimate teams based on their performance? This fundamental question can be asked both in the context of a whole season or for a single tournament. While USA Ultimate's use of a season-based ranking algorithm has lead to quite some discussions, I will in this blog post focus on the simpler case of ranking teams at tournaments, where various factors such as home-field advantage, changing rosters over a season etc. play a smaller role. One possibility currently used in the Swissdraw format is that teams earn "swiss points" at the completion of every game. The number of swiss points awarded depends on the point differential (also called margin) of the game. So far, we have been using the following table to convert point differentials into swiss points:

There are a number of advantages in using the innovative Swissdraw format compared to the more common pool format. All teams can potentially play each other. The Swissdraw format is designed so that teams of similar strength match up quickly and within a few rounds, the ranking of the teams represents their level of play. This guarantees attractive games against different opponents of comparable strength. While I am personally a big fan of the Swissdraw format, I will argue that the currently used system to rank teams has the problem that teams are awarded the same amount of Swiss points for a certain point differential, independent of the strength of the opponent. This drawback has particularly bad consequences in big divisions with a widespread level of play, where in later rounds of Swiss draw, teams can still make big jumps in the ranking by winning/losing by big margins. In this post, I would like to suggest another method of ranking the teams which will make the Swissdraw format work even better.

Power Rankings

This method has been suggested already back in 1976 by Leake in the context of ranking American college football teams. A nice mathematical explanation of it can be found in Chapter 4 of Ken Massey's undergrad thesis.

The basic assumption is that every team can be assigned a numerical value representing its strength (or power) so that the point differential in a game is the difference in strength of the participating teams. For example, if Team Alice wins against Team Danny with a score of 15-10, this result could be explained by assigning a strength of +2.5 to Team Alice and a strength of 2.5 to Team Danny. (Of course, any two numbers with a difference of +5 would work, but let us try to keep the numbers as small as possible in absolute value.)

If there are more teams with many games played among them, it will become more difficult to assign strengths to the teams, but we can nevertheless try to optimize these numbers so that they fit the outcomes as well as possible. In fact, this problem is well-studied in the area of mathematical regression.
In more mathematical terms, we assume that the game outcome yij between teams i and j is the difference of their according strength βi - βj plus some error term ϵi,j which is independent and identically normally distributed for every game. Expressed in matrix form, we can write
where y is a column vector containing all game margins, the rows of the matrix X are all-zero except for a +1 in column i and a 1 in column j. The column vector β denotes the strength of the teams and ϵ is the column vector of the error terms with normal distribution.
There exist efficient methods (such as the least-square method) to compute strength vectors β that minimize the square of the errors:


Let us consider a simple example based on a made-up tournament with six teams. The game outcomes reflect the imaginary fact that their level of play is about evenly spread out among the top three teams and the bottom three teams where Team Alice is the best and Team Fred the worst team.
The results of the first round are as follows:

resulting in the following strength values and swiss points:

PowerRank denotes the team's rank according to their strength, whereas SwissRank is the team's rank according to the amount of Swiss points earned so far.

All game outcomes can be perfectly explained with those strengths. After the first round (and assuming no prior knowledge of the strength of these teams), it is impossible to compare Team Alice with Team Bob, because there is no connection between them yet.

After a second round with the following results:

We can compute the following strength values, Swiss points and according ranks:

Notice that Team Charlie would be ranked first if sorted according to swiss points, as it had the largest marginal of +5 in the second round among the winners of the first round. Analogously, Team Danny would be ranked last. However, the new method re-evaluates all previous games from the point of view of the latest results, with the (correct) outcome that assigning the biggest strength to Alice gives the best explanation of the results. In fact, the power ranks after only two rounds already reflect the order of teams we had in mind when making up the results.

The seventh column (entitled "predicted margin") is the difference in current strength of the teams involved in a particular game which can be interpreted as the margin predicted by the strength. The values in the last columns are the squared differences of the actually observed and predicted margins. If such a value is high, the model could not predict this game outcome well. Hence, big values stand for surprising game outcomes.
The least-square procedure tries to find strength values that minimize the sum of the surprise values in the last column.

Playing one more round with results:


By now the teams are clearly separated in strength. However, notice that the Swiss points still do not reflect the strengths of the teams correctly. Sorting according to number of wins as first criterion (and Swiss points as second) would put Alice on first place (she is the only one with three wins), but it would still place Team Eve ahead of Team Danny (both have one win and two losses).

Let us examine the example graphically in the following chart. Clicking on series in the legend will toggle its visibility. Clicking on particular points in the chart will show detailed explanations how that strength was obtained.
1: Team Alice2: Team Bob3: Team Charlie4: Team Danny5: Team Eve6: Team Fred123Rounds-6-4-20246Strength1: Team Alice: 3 (1st)2: Team Bob: 2.33 (2nd)3: Team Charlie: 2.33 (2nd)4: Team Danny: -2.33 (4th)5: Team Eve: -2.33 (4th)6: Team Fred: -3 (6th)Highcharts.comExport to raster or vector imagePrint the chart
For comparison, let us consider the graph of average Swiss points:
Average Swiss scores1: Team Alice2: Team Bob3: Team Charlie4: Team Danny5: Team Eve6: Team FredR1R2R3Rounds7.51012.51517.52022.5Average Swiss Scores1: Team Alice: 18 (2nd)2: Team Bob: 17 (3rd)3: Team Charlie: 20 (1st)4: Team Danny: 10 (6th)5: Team Eve: 13 (4th)6: Team Fred: 12 (5th)Highcharts.comExport to raster or vector imagePrint the chart
The Swiss score does not reflect the correct order of the teams, neither after round 2 nor after round 3. In contrast, the power ranking "gets it right" already after two rounds. The frequent crossings of the lines indicates that teams make jumps in their placement as illustrated here: (click on series in the legend to toggle visibility of the power ranks)
Ranks1: Team Alice1: Team Alice (power)2: Team Bob2: Team Bob (power)3: Team Charlie3: Team Charlie (power)4: Team Danny4: Team Danny (power)5: Team Eve5: Team Eve (power)6: Team Fred6: Team Fred (power)R1R2R3Rounds01234567Rank1: Team Alice: 22: Team Bob: 33: Team Charlie: 14: Team Danny: 65: Team Eve: 46: Team Fred: 5Highcharts.comExport to raster or vector imagePrint the chart

Here are the final evaluations of the games, based on the team's strength after Round 3, sorted by the upset/surprise value.

The first line can be read as follows: based on the strengths computed based on all game results, the biggest surprise of all games happened in the round-2 game, where Team Charlie won against Team Danny with a margin of +5 where the model predicted a margin of only +3.73.

Equipped with all this knowledge you can dive into the power scores for Windmill Windup and Wisconsin Swiss provided in the Further Analysis section at the end.


There exist a wide variety of sports ranking systems. Most of these systems do not reveal the details of their algorithms. The power-rating system presented here is a very basic variant that I suggest to use for ranking teams e.g. in the Swissdraw phase of an ultimate tournament. As outlined in Chapter 4 of Massey's thesis, the system could be extended in various ways to account for things like home-field advantage, blow-out scores etc. As illustrated in the example above, it converges faster to the real ranking of the teams.

Here is a list of pros and cons compared to the currently used swiss-point system:
  1. Your strength depends on the performance of your opponents. A large win against a strong opponent counts more than against a weak one.
  2. Converges faster to the "real" ranking, smaller jumps in rankings from one round to the next.
  3. Strengths say more about teams than swiss points (e.g. the difference in strength of two teams directly predicts the game outcome and point differential. This also allows us to get a sense of "surprising" results. This information might be of interest for spectators live at a tournament or when reporting about it afterwards.)
  1. Difficult to understand
  2. Games of previous rounds are "re-evaluated", you never have a certain amount of points for sure.
  3. Your strength depends on the performance of your opponents.
I think that the first concern can be mitigated by providing interactive graphs like the ones above to help the teams explaining how their strength was computed. The other two disadvantages are inherent to the system.

I am very curious to hear what you think about the suggested power-ratings in Ultimate. Do you see more advantages and disadvantages? Please leave your comments below.

Further Analysis

To see how these power rankings apply to events in the past, please take a look at some in depth analysis for 5 popular tournaments:

Further Discussion

If you want to get involved in discussions about ranking teams and devising optimal ranking algorithms, please take a second to join this new Google Group:!forum/sport-stats


  • Leake, R. J. (1976), "A Method for Ranking Teams with an Application to 1974 College Football," Management Science in Sports, North Holland.
  • Massey, Kenneth (1997), "Statistical Models Applied to the Rating of Sports Teams", Honors Project: Mathematics, Bluefield College.
Christian Schaffner has been managing the Swissdraw schedule and scores since 2009 at Windmill Windup, Europe's largest grass tournament. Since then, he has been involved in promoting and advancing the Swissdraw format for Ultimate tournaments. In his everyday life, he is a researcher in quantum cryptology at the University of Amsterdam. 

Our completely new design

Posted on August 9th, 2012 by Mark "Spike" Liu
We've been busy here at Leaguevine and are very happy to share with you what we've been building over the last several weeks. We hope you're as excited about this overhaul as we are. None of this would have been possible without all of your tremendous feedback and never-ending support. So here are some of the big changes you'll see around here:

New Logo and Design

Yep, we swapped out our logo. Our first one got us far, but we like this one a lot more.

We also have a brand new design that looks infinitely better than our original one. We worked with the awesome folks at draw history to get the concepts right. These guys worked at a fantastic price, gave us tons of revisions, and communicated amazingly throughout the entire process. We then worked with our design intern Andrew who helped us finish things off and he's been knocking it out of the park. We couldn't be happier with all the design help we've been getting.

Faster response times

Back in mid-June we had a big time wake up call and realized we needed to vastly improve our site's speed. We invested in some state of the art nerd tools, and sped up our servers' response times by 75%. Yes, that's not a typo. The average time it takes our servers to respond is 4 times faster than it was in June. This has resulted in a 45% improvement in average response time. Hopefully this makes our site much more enjoyable to browse. We still have many more improvements planned.

More control for organizers

There have been a few features that we've been meaning to get to for a while and we finally did. The first is the ability for anyone to add their own leagues or seasons. We've always allowed you to add your own teams/tournaments/games, but to add a league or season you used to have to email me. Thankfully you no longer have to do this, and you can create your own leagues and seasons whenever and however you want.

The second major feature we got to is that users can now add leagues for any sport, not just Ultimate Frisbee. Yesterday Roger and I created a ping pong league for The Iron Yard accelerator program we're in and people here are loving it. We're setting up an office tournament and giving the winners some vintage Leaguevine jerseys.

Focus on Player Profiles

It took us a while, but we realize now that your sport world doesn't necessarily revolve around the teams you're on, it revolves around you. So we're putting all the focus on you as a player now. Each of you now gets your own beefed up profile and you can interact directly with teammates. If you become a fan of someone, all of their games will show up in your news feed. And you can now give people props which will show up in their profiles.

Let us know on our community forums if you like or dislike what we've done with Leaguevine. We hope you enjoy our site's new look!

When it Rains, It Pours

Posted on June 18th, 2012 by Mark "Spike" Liu
As many of you probably noticed, Leaguevine had some major technical difficulties last Thursday night and Friday morning, and those troubles persisted to some extent well into the weekend. I just wanted to take a moment now to both apologize for our downtime and to fill you all in on what went down so you're not totally in the dark. Sorry if this post gets a little technical at times.

So to give you some back story, when we re-launched the site with stats functionality in April, we moved our entire platform to Heroku which runs on AWS. AWS is generally a rock solid Infrastructure as a service and Heroku is a rock solid Platform as a service so we have been extremely confident and proud of our site's uptime and reliability since April. We even boasted in our public support forums that we haven't been down for more than 60 consecutive seconds since moving to Heroku.

Then Friday morning happened.

Everything that could go wrong, did. And then some. And this happened just 4 hours before Windmill Windup was supposed to start. 

At midnight Eastern time (6am in Amsterdam), my phone started going nuts. I was sleeping, so I missed the first few voice mails and texts, but at about 12:45 I woke up to my phone buzzing and it was guys from the Windmill Windup in Amsterdam calling me in panic saying Leaguevine was down. I bolted up and went through all the regular fixes - checked the logs, restarted the servers, re-deployed. The site went online for about a minute but it was gone again. Completely inaccessible. Crap. Definitely no sleep for me tonight.

Chris Schaffner, a rockstar developer from Amsterdam quickly pointed out to me that Heroku as well as AWS were completely down. This is very rare for them as they boast 99.95% uptime, but apparently they had some huge power failure that took down a bunch of high profile sites as well. 

There was no telling when Heroku would be back up and Windmill was relying on Leaguevine for score reporting and swiss scheduling. The first efforts were just to get the site on Heroku back up. This ended up being impossible, as command line interface had been completely disabled by Heroku.

So the first real effort was to move all our code, assets, and database onto a completely different server. No problem, right? I'll just use my existing Webfaction account and put everything up on there. I set everything up, cloned my git repo, pointed the DNS records to this new site, and configured my settings to work on their servers. 

Now we just need to get the database up and running. First we need to push it onto the servers. But wait, why is our database backup so big? It's 9x bigger than it was at noon on Thursday. What the heck? Oh well, let's just push it and load it and deal with fixing whatever happened later. Our database is pretty big because of stats so this took a good half hour, but it succeeded and we were ready to load it and get up and running.

But it didn't load because the version of Postgres on Webfaction was different from that on Heroku. Turns out there are special ways to do a Postgres DB dump if you want to make it backwards compatible, so we quickly did this and then re-uploaded this to Webfaction. If only it were that simple. Doing the db dump in that manner caused the size of the sql file to be enormous and the upload was going to take over 2 full hours. I started the upload anyway, knowing it probably wouldn't finish in time for the swiss captain's meeting, but started fiddling with deploying our site onto some other services. Turns out doing a full deployment from scratch from a huge backup in an hour or two is hard. And I failed.

Then there was a glimmer of hope. Heroku's site said it was back up! I quickly pointed my DNS records back to Heroku, and started trying to do all the regular stuff on Leaguevine. I could access all my CLI tools and read logs and stuff. But the site was still completely down. Apparently our database was one of the unlucky few that weren't brought back online right away, and with just 30 minutes until game time, it looked unlikely that we'd be back up and running in time.

The Windmill Windup guys stepped up big time at this point and decided to run the first few rounds using excel spreadsheets with matchups calculated by hand. These guys are amazing, and were super supportive during this outage when they should have been outraged.

Eventually I am able to get through to the Heroku support, and they work one on one with me to bring our database back online. This takes about 30 minutes. We created a follower, synced it to the master database, and then promoted the follower to be the master database.

Phew, back online. People were submitting scores, and we had an instant rush of users who were probably trying to get online all morning. But we were getting complaints that people weren't receiving their registration emails. And worse yet, the site was so slow that the Windup guys couldn't create new swiss rounds without timing out. Oh, and no stats were being calculated.

Roger tackled the email problem, and I worked on the slowness. We decided we'd get to the stats after the other two were fixed. 

The email problem appeared to be completely unrelated to the Heroku outage, as we had been using the Webfaction email servers to send email. It clearly just wasn't working for some reason. Most emails were not being sent (but some were... weird.). And by noon Eastern, 48 people had already tried creating accounts without receiving the necessary activation email. We gave up trying to fix this after 20 minutes, and decided to just move all our email over to SendGrid. Roger managed to fix this pretty quickly and got our registration system back online. We then manually activated those 48 accounts and sent out apology emails to those folks that experienced these difficulties.

The slowness, however, wasn't so easy to fix. We revamped some code to speed lots of things up, and spent the entire day heads down in our computers doing whatever we could. We had to manually add and fix the swiss rounds for the Windmill tournament because the web interface was often timing out for them. Everything was just so slow. By the end of Friday we still hadn't fixed the slowness problem. It was just barely fast enough to be usable, but with Wisconsin Swiss coming up on Saturday, this would be unacceptable because they only had 15 minutes between rounds instead of the 45+ minutes between rounds that Windmill Windup had. 

So we stayed up another night coding and working on this issue. We did absolutely everything in our power to make database writes as fast as possible. The frustrating this was that on our staging server, the code was working beautifully and plenty fast, but our production server was slow even when traffic was low. 

One thing that improved performance noticeably was solving the issue with our enormous database size. Turns out on Thursday a user had been goofing around with our API interface testing things out and deleting the stuff he created, and this triggered one of our background processes to be executed on an endless loop. This process did some data book keeping and ended up making a couple million extra records. Worse, it was created a backlog of 70,000 worker processes in our task queue, making it so the background workers that process stats never made it to the front. This turned out to be an easy fix, and helped with performance. But only slightly. At least it fixed stats.

This whole time we had to be at our computers communicating to the TDs of both tournaments because they needed our system to create the next swiss round. And game play lasted from 3am-5pm Eastern time on Saturday. So I finally got to sleep at 4 or 5 on Saturday.

And then I woke up on Sunday and everything magically worked. Our site was back to it's normal speed, and apparently Heroku was fine.

In hindsight, we should have been more prepared. The AWS outage might have been beyond our control but there were other things we could have done. First, we should have noticed that our database was growing unreasonably fast before we went to sleep on Thursday. This would have meant our re-deploy would have been faster and we might have been able to be up before games started on Friday. To fix this, we're building better real-time monitoring and notification tools into our app.

Second, our site shouldn't have been so slow in the first place. When Heroku was struggling, page loads were taking about 5x longer than usual. If page loads and writing data normally took 1-2s, then this wouldn't be an issue. But because it was already slow and creating a round takes a good 5-8 seconds, we were hitting this Heroku 30s timeout limit and these rounds were not being created successfully every time. We're actively improving the speed of every aspect of our site, and it's more apparent than ever how important speed is.

Anyway, we are sincerely sorry for all of the stress we caused you over this weekend with your swiss tournaments. Thankfully the TDs this past weekend were incredibly competent and resilient and made it seem like there weren't any issues with scheduling rounds. For all you other players out there, thanks for bearing with the slow speeds and sticking with Leaguevine Mobile to enter your scores. 

We truly do have the best community of users that we could ever ask for. We love all you Ultimate players, and are crossing our fingers that when we venture into other sports we end up with users who are as passionate, kind, and understanding as you all have been.

Ultimate stats and our first funding

Posted on June 6th, 2012 by Mark "Spike" Liu
It's been a while since we've used this blog for general Leaguevine updates, but now that TD Tuesdays has finished this will be the blog's new focus.

The first thing we need to announce is the arrival of Ultimate statistics. We've been working with Chad Boulay, the awesome creator of Ultistats for iPhone to develop a new HTML5 stat taking app for Ultimate. Anyone (fans, players, coaches, staff, etc.) can log onto from any smartphone browser and instantly take stats for a game. These stats sync to our website instantly, giving real-time box scores for the games, as well as up-to-date aggregate stats for the teams and players. 

The AUDL has been using this stats software to some extent and we showcased this software at the recent USA Ultimate Nationals. Here are a few of the box scores this app generated from Nationals:

We hope you give this a try at your next game. 

In other news, we have been accepted into a tech incubator called Iron Yard Labs. They're giving us $18k, office space, legal services, design work, mentorship, and some part time MBA interns in exchange for 6% equity in our company. The biggest perk may be the demo day that they are holding at the end of the program where we will pitch to a room of 350 investors in hopes of jump starting our first round of funding.

This program starts June 11th and runs for 13 weeks. Earlier this week we moved to Greenville, SC and are now working out of an awesome shared office space with a bunch of other ambitious web startups. After the program we'll return to Chicago and likely set up shop in a shared office space in the west loop. Hopefully we'll have the funds to hire a few people at that point too!

What this means for Leaguevine is that our company is not going away and we're going to keep going at this at full speed for a long time. It also means that we will be broadening our horizons to increase the scope of what Leaguevine is. We will begin opening up our platform to non-Ultimate players and begin working on stats platforms for those sports as well. Ultimate remains close to our hearts, though, so we'll constantly be improving our Ultimate stats offering.

Wish us luck in this new program!

Wrapping up TD Tuesdays

Posted on April 24th, 2012 by Mark "Spike" Liu
It's been a fun ride, but we are out of TD Tuesdays articles and we are officially bringing this series to a close. 

We'd like to thank all of the tournament directors out there who put a great deal of time and effort into writing useful articles to share with the world. We believe that these articles taken together provide a wealth of knowledge to the small but crucial Ultimate tournament director community. We hope you feel proud of yourselves for continuing to contribute to this growing ecosystem that will always be at the heart of our sport.

To the rest of the TD community out there, we want to thank you for supporting this series. You've done a great job spreading the word, and it is a pleasure talking to so many of you about what your needs are. We know there are a number of other TDs out there who wish they could have contributed advice but simply did not have time in their busy schedules or felt like they were too inexperienced to contribute something useful. We understand your situations and are just happy you are working so hard to put on amazing events. We speak for the entire Ultimate community when we say: Thank you.

Here are all of the articles you have written over the past several months:
Even though this TD Tuesdays series is over, we would still be more than happy to post additional articles if any of you have the desire to write more. Regardless of when we receive them, we'll still post them on Tuesdays and we will still send them out to the entire TD email list. Just contact Mark ( if you'd like to do this. In addition to these articles, we will still occasionally write blog posts targeted at making your tournament directing endeavors easier. We are rapidly building out more features on Leaguevine to assist you at your events and we will try to keep you up to date with what tools are available to you.

Thanks again for tuning in, and good luck with all your tournaments this year!

Running Hat Tournaments

Posted on April 3rd, 2012 by Mark "Spike" Liu
This is a guest post by tournament director Fran Kelley
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From a tournament director’s point of view, a hat tournament is unique in that players will rely on the T.D. to provide the amenities and experience that they are used to getting from their team.  Without a captain or teammates that they have played with or even met before, players will look to the organizer for leadership and direction.  Because of this fact, the T.D. must be prepared to provide an event that meets the expectations and needs of the players on an individual basis.

One of the first questions a hat tournament T.D. must answer is what the goal of the tournament is.  Is it meant to be a fundraiser for a local team or event or is it meant to raise money for charity?  As a player in college I competed in multiple hat tournaments that were fundraisers for other college teams.  It was a great way for the local team to raise some funds but also establish ties with the greater Ultimate community.  Other options for tournaments might be a “hey its finally nice out, lets play some frisbee again” or possibly a tryout for your club team.  Each of these different options requires you to offer different things to the players.  

A fundraising or charity tournament requires an entry fee that will result in some profit after the fields and amenities are paid for.  Raffles, prizes, and other non-Ultimate frisbee games can be welcome additions as you try to make some cash for a worthy cause.  Players will usually not mind a higher than normal entry fee if they know it is going toward a worthy cause.  In my experience I have always tried to charge up to $5 per game provided.  A one day charity tournament with 4 games for a total of $20 is well within reason.  Any more than that and players start to think about saving their money and going to the local pick up game instead.  

Attendees at a “let’s just play” or a tryout style tournament usually do not want to pay more than they have to.  As a T.D. you must make sure to charge just enough to cover the field costs and any amenities you provide.  Less is more here.  Both these groups of people tend to care a lot more about the actual playing than the fact that you provided strawberry cream cheese, spirit awards, or raffle prizes.  

Once you know what type of hat tournament you are providing, an equally important question to ask yourself is who your most likely participants are. Knowing the answer to this question allows you to specialize the event in a way that will allow you to meet the expectations of the players. You want to focus on the experience level of the players.  High level club players will most likely not mind a lack of flair but will definitely expect their fields to be flat, close to regulation size, and lined.  At the same time, lesser-experienced players may not mind those 15 yard end-zones with the man-hole cover at one corner as long as you have provided other amenities (spirit prizes, raffles, give-aways) that still allow them to have a good time.  

There are a lot of different routes you can go if you lean towards the more fun/spirited type of tournament.  One of the things I really enjoyed at my first hat tournament was that the organizers had gone to Goodwill and gotten each participant cool retro shirts in their team colors.  I will say that I tried this the first time I ran a hat tournament and it didn’t go over as well because I hadn’t thought enough about who my participants were.  At that particular tournament, I ended up with a majority of club players who were unimpressed by Goodwill shirts.  Still, there are lots of options when trying to make a hat tournament fun or unique.  Often it is easier to do because you are usually dealing with less teams and people.  I have heard of hat tournaments that have themes for their teams like Power Rangers, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Holidays, or Wedding Party.  Unique twists like this make the tournaments fun for players and organizers alike and keep people coming back for more in years to come.

No matter the type of tournament or skill level of participants, one of the most important aspects of any hat tournament is making sure you have fair teams.  There are plenty of players who will not care if they win or lose, but most will care that they have a fair shot.  Losing is one thing; getting rolled by a stacked team is another.  There are plenty of ranking systems used throughout the country by various leagues that a T.D. can use.  For a one or two day tournament your ranking system does not necessarily need to be as specific as some of the league based ones that are meant to make season-long teams even.  The bare minimum you want to ask: years of experience (never, 1-3, 4+), type of experience (pick-up, league, college, club), athleticism (slow, medium, fast), and disc skills (shaky at best, steady forehand and backhand, can break the mark at will).  If you have a local league with a rating system in place, use that for reference or follow it exactly if you think a lot of players at the tournament will be familiar with it.

After the type of tournament and participants are set you will want to think about the size of the tournament.  At a regular tournament the T.D. does not pay much mind to how many players each team brings but with the hat format you must pre-determine how many players are on a team (consider playing time for each player).  While having more players = more $$ you do not want players to feel that they have paid to stand on a sideline.  Two full lines of players on each team should be sufficient for a one day tournament whereas two to three lines would be better for a two day tournament.  To provide players with as much game time as possible, the ideal hat tournament would have a minimum of four teams.  Four teams of fourteen players means you will need to have at least fifty-six people register for the tournament.  You can make it work with less or more, but it is your job to make sure your players are prepared for as much or as little playing time as they will get.  This is also the time to consider the formatting of your tournament.  In my experience, players more often prefer a strict round-robin style where they get to play as many teams as possible, instead of bracket play where there are possibilities for rematches of pool play.  The feedback I have gotten from players is that they would rather play more games (to a lower point total like 11) if it meant they got to play every team in attendance.

You’ll also want to consider whether you’ll allow baggaging or not.  Baggaging means multiple players signing up together and being put on the same team.  This can be a great way to encourage more people to sign up as everyone is more likely to do something if they have a friend with them.  In my opinion, you should limit baggages to two people.  A great aspect of a hat tournament is the ability to meet and play with new people.  I met a current club teammate of mine while playing in a hat tournament in Georgia over spring break back in grad school.  This is one of the great benefits of having the opportunity to play with new people.  It is hard to accomplish this if people baggage with half their summer league team.  

At this point you have gotten everything set and you are ready to think about day-of logistics.  Communication is key here.  If you have been using an online system for sign-ups you should have collected email contacts for your players.  Make sure they are well aware of what team they are on, what color to wear if you are not providing them with jerseys, and anything else they should bring or expect.  Try to have a schedule for them before they arrive.  Day-of have at least 5-6 schedules with game info and field locations for each team.  Designate a captain (through volunteer or appointment) but make sure multiple teammates have copies as well. A good rule of thumb:  the first people to show up to the tournament are often the most responsible; give them schedules for their team.  Communicate expectations to the whole group, and let them get to playing the game we all love.

Fran Kelley is a tournament director for Midwest Ultimate, a high school coach, and a co-captain of the mixed team NOISE.  He has organized multiple hat tournaments for Midwest Ultimate and has T.D.ed Wisconsin Swiss, Mad-Disc-On and the upcoming 2012 Chicago Sandblast.  

Volunteer Coordinator - Rules of the trade

Posted on March 20th, 2012 by Mark "Spike" Liu
This is a guest post by Chris "Bus" Olig, founder of Midwest Ultimate
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Running a successful event is only as good as your volunteers, and there are some general guidelines that I have picked up from personal experience and previous event directors. Tips from the small events are just as important for the larger events as well:
Small Event (Local/Charity event w/ 5 volunteers or less, 12 teams or less)
  • Try to arrange for dinner or a small party as a way to give back for their help.
  • If there is no party and they are participating in the event, make sure that they get the best fields/schedule you can offer.
  • You can also budget for miscellaneous funds and buy them a jersey/disc or something else they want.  An additional $5 a team goes a long way towards showing the volunteers the necessary appreciation.
 Medium Event (Regional event w/ 6-25 volunteers, 13 to 28 teams)
  • You need to delegate duties for this level and above as one person can easily get burned out arranging all the details.
  • Create a database of duties that need to be performed (e.g. water, marking corners, gear sales) and figure out the time for each duty.  This will help for future events as well.
  • Make sure you ask volunteers for their full schedule. You may be stranded if people say they can help all weekend but fail to mention that they can only help in the morning each day.
  • If you need somebody at tournament central to watch over gear or other aspects, it's best if you can split it up into one round per person. They can overlap if necessary.
  • An often forgotten job is to have somebody check toilets and porta potties for TP.  It's a simple aspect that means a lot to attendees.
  • Garbage and water detail are that much more important when it's 90+ degrees out.  Make sure not to neglect these duties as you are likely the attendees' only resource for them.

 Large event (Large regional event or a nationals type event w/ 26+ volunteers, 29+ teams)
  • When you're away, even people you trust won't stay on task.  Example: When I left my post I saw "on the job" volunteers laying down watching games and had no idea where the cart they were using was at.
  • If you're not 100% sure if somebody will work hard and do the job, don't assign them to it.  This is especially important for lead volunteers, as all your leads are able to speak up for themselves nicely but firmly to any rude people.
  • Nap time is necessary when you're there for 16 hours. A 20-30 minute nap makes a world of difference.
  • Figure out how to organize schwag handout ahead of time. Otherwise your vehicle will be filled with it for the 4 months following.  If possible, have one separate person in charge of only that. It's much more time consuming than anybody would believe. Tip: Give out local league gear or previous event gear as an alternate in case you run out of regular schwag. 
  • Google Documents is a godsend in sharing and organizing.  Have a volunteer signup sheet setup that pulls all data easily onto a spreadsheet.  Setting up a Google form for signup is fantastic, but ask volunteers to include more data rather than less.  Make sure people are specific on their availability as there will always be more jobs than you believe there will be.
  • Tell people to bring their own nalgene/reusable bottles and have jugs of Gatorade there to refill them.  Having enough bottled drinks for people is extremely expensive if you have them at your event.
  • Volunteer coordinator will receive more e-mails than one would think possible.  Example: At College Nationals (120 volunteers) my max was over 130 in a day, but averaged 50-70 most days.
  • Overlap your volunteer shifts as much as possible.  There will be twice as many jobs than you can think of to do and you can always give somebody a radio and tell them you'll call them if needed.
  • Use people who pledge more time first. People that say they want to watch one game in the middle of the day often do not workout in the reality of the event.
  • Also, make sure you have good working radios.  At least one for every cart and one for each organizer.  You will need radios for parking too, if that is an issue.
  • If you think parking may have an issue, parking will have an issue.  Parking turns sweet old ladies into foul mouthed beasts and players feel they deserve to park where ever they want.  It should be expressed that this event was made for them by volunteers sacrificing their time for them.  Instill in the captains at the captain's meeting that they should thank the volunteers, not cop an attitude because they are the 'talent'.
  • You should have volunteer shirts to identify your staff, and it's best to over estimate them by about 20.  Have extra shirts of the same color to have people look official.  Local league shirts work for most events, so long as they are the same color.
  • Volunteers need to be told ahead of time to remain professional.  This is common sense to most, but at College Nationals I still had a few incidents where volunteers were disrespectful to players.
  • Make sure you're not the one crying.  Example: In one event, I made 3 people cry because they were disrespectful, did not live up to their promises, or misused equipment (runaway golf cart). You can always make it up to them later, but often times a stern voice is required.
  • Flatbed golf carts are your best friend.  Regular golf carts make sense for when the tournament is going on, but setup and take down should be done as quickly as possible and for that you will want flatbed carts.
Related Article: The Ultimate Volunteer by Frans Passchier

Chris Olig (aka. Bus) organizes Ultimate events throughout the Midwest including the Wisconsin Swiss tournament in Madison, WI.  With over 16 years of Ultimate Frisbee experience, his directing résumé spans over 30 events of varying size including volunteer coordinator for the 2010 USA Ultimate College Nationals.  With his organization, Midwest Ultimate, he hopes to bring together events and coordinators throughout the region in order to harbor the high standard required for growth as a sport.

Running an Ultimate Clinic

Posted on March 6th, 2012 by Mark "Spike" Liu


This is a guest post by Michelle Ng, founder of Without Limits Ultimate
Photo by Hanna Liebl
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In Fall 2009, I organized an informal gathering of college leaders at an ice cream shop in St. Louis.  Having played in undergrad in the Bay Area and in grad school in Austin, I saw a huge gap in the overall level of play and number of playing opportunities available between the two regions.  Determined to change this, I decided to enlist the help of other leaders in the Midwest and South, and put out an open call to the leaders of teams attending a tournament I was running.

A couple dozen players and coaches from Texas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Kansas, Wash U, and Grinnell showed up to that meeting at Cold Stone.  Players currently leading the charge in the club division such as Keely Dinse (Riot), Tasha Parma (RevoLOUtion), Sam Huo (RevoLOUtion), and Courtney Kiesow (Nemesis) were all in attendance.  It was an awesome group of people with a lot of really great ideas.

I have a detailed set of notes from that meeting.  An excerpt:
  • How do players get better without someone to teach them?  How can we add to their existing base of resources and knowledge?
  • Definite need for captaining clinics to train captains/leaders on how to teach Ultimate and how to be more effective
Some notes I wrote after the meeting:
  • How can we create a culture of "paying it forward" and plant more regional tournaments where skills clinics can make a difference?
  • How can we develop all of these ideas?
  • How do we create buy-in from coaches?
  • How do get people to care enough to show up?
  • What is the first step?
  • What is the long-term vision for this?
In Spring 2010, largely as a response to ideas generated at that meeting, I organized a clinic opportunity at Midwest Throwdown.  We flew in eight of the best women’s club players in the country to guest coach and mentor teams in the Roundup Division, and used this group and other local coaches to run a skills clinic for all of the players at the tournament.  Anna Nazarov (Blackbird), Keely, and the Wash U women’s team were instrumental in making this happen.  

Over the past two years, the idea and execution of the clinics has continued to evolve.  Beth Nakamura (The Ghosts) introduced me to Eventbrite and helped me manage clinic registration last year.  I am running nine clinics this college season.  Six of the clinics are a 1.5 hour component of tournaments, one is a fully integrated tournament experience (Virginia is for Layouts), and two were weekend-long clinics for captains and team leaders (Texas Captaining 101 Clinic, Midwest Captaining 101 Clinic).

For a concrete look at what a Without Limits clinic is like, check out this video put together by Sara Jacobi of Brute Squad.

The rest of this article consists of thoughts on my approach to clinic planning.

Laying The Groundwork

  • There must be a relationship with potential coaches and event organizers.  A clinic is not a plug-and-play element of a tournament.  For every clinic I run, there are always a few key people who help me rally coaches and plan details.
  • A successful clinic cannot be an afterthought.  You must be thinking about the clinic when you plan your weekend schedule, lay out your budget, and manage logistics.
  • Have a handle on the market.  What is the general skill level of the teams attending the tournament?  Who are the “target teams?”  What are the specific needs of those players?
  • The quality of the coaches matters.  I hand-pick my coaches and rely on trusted friends to help me find coaches when I am running a clinic in an area where I don’t have a network.  I want coaches who are knowledgeable, enthusiastic, AND engaging.  The quality of the clinic and the players’ experiences are highly correlated to the quality of the coaches.
  • Surround yourself with people who think outside the box.  Over the years, I have been privileged to work with many people who have challenged my stance on what is possible and who feed me new ideas.

Navigating the Logistics

Shorter Clinics (Clinics integrated with tournaments)
  • Clinics integrated with tournaments should be no longer than 1-1.5 hours.  People are tired after a long day of Ultimate, so you have the challenge of managing time well and making sure you have engaging coaches and topics.
  • Here’s an example of stations and registration for a clinic I am running this spring:
  • Registration was capped at 210 and the clinic filled within 48 hours.  The tournament has 32 teams, 24 of which are “target teams” for the clinic. 
  • Recruiting for coaches begins 2-3 months in advance.
  • Registration opens 2 weeks before the event and closes 48 hours beforehand.  Registration is advertised on RSD, Facebook, Twitter, and in multiple emails to all team leaders.
  • Prepare your coaches and event organizers.  I give each coach an overview of clinic logistics, context for the clinic, a set of expectations, and a list of attendees (with team and playing experience info).  I provide the event organizer with clinic maps and a full list of attendees.  Players tend to not remember which clinics they signed up for or where the stations are, so over-prepare and find a way to manage this.
  • Coaches and participants are provided an opportunity to give feedback.  Over time, I have been able to refine the types of skills stations that people are most interested in.  Sometimes I’ll throw in a new station or two in to mix things up.
Longer Clinics (Virginia is for Layouts, Captaining 101 Clinics)
  • Plan, plan, plan.  A short clinic is relatively easy to put together.  A bigger clinic endeavor takes months of planning, and a mix of long-term vision and acute attention to detail.
  • Recruiting for coaches begins 6 months in advance.  It is good to recruit coaches before you announce the event so that you can ensure the clinic is feasible and so that you can use those coaches to promote the event.
  • Registration opens up to 6 months in advance.  1.5 months before the event, you should have a good sense for the final scale of the event.  Flexibility is good.  Chaos is not.
  • All of the communication listed under the shorter clinics is 100 times more important for a longer clinic.  For Layouts, I provided each guest coach with an individualized 3-5 page document outlining team goals, practice plans, and quotes from players they will personally be coaching.  I also put together a detailed weekend schedule, planned travel and hotel logistics, and set up a Google Group for communication with the coaches.  A longer clinic is a much bigger undertaking. 

The Big Question: Budget

Of the nine clinics I am running this season, here is how it breaks down:

Cost to Participants
  • The six 1.5 hour clinics are free to participants.
  • Virginia is for Layouts has a tournament bid fee, but there are no “extra” costs for the clinic components.  Each team receives a guest coach for the weekend and access to skills clinics and program building seminars.
  • The Captaining 101 Clinics had a registration fee and included lunch, housing, 12 hours of instruction, 50+ pages of clinic resources, and various prizes.
Coach Compensation
  • Coaches at my shorter clinics receive Without Limits gear as a thank you.
  • At a weekend-long clinic, the coaches are compensated for travel and given a stipend.
Costs Incurred
  • A short clinic has a low barrier to entry.  Your only costs will be fields, printing costs, and the cost of gifts for the coaches.  You can easily incorporate these costs into a tournament budget. 
  • On the other end of the spectrum, Virginia is for Layouts will cost approximately $9k to pull off.  Bid fees do not cover the costs for an event like this.
I see much of what I am doing as an investment in the future of women’s Ultimate.  Right now, I recognize that if I charge a nominal fee (say $5) for a shorter clinic, participation will probably drop 75-90%.  If I charge teams what it costs to create an opportunity like Layouts, bid fees would increase 3-4 times.  Affordability and accessibility are incredibly important to me, and I think there needs to be a balance between asking people to value what you are providing and accessibility.  I have definitely not found that balance yet. 

Closing Thoughts

  • Show appreciation to event organizers and coaches—they are the backbone of a clinic.  Many of my coaches have helped at multiple Without Limits events.
  • Be enthusiastic.  It is contagious to your coaches and participants.
  • Plan more than you think you need to.  When you are managing hundreds of people, anything can (and will) go wrong at any given moment.
  • It takes time.  Virginia is for Layouts took a few months to gain traction.  Three months into the planning, I was convinced we would have to cancel it.  A month later, the tournament was completely full.
  • Pay it forward!  Think about how you learned about the sport.  Who are the people and what are the events that shaped your playing experience?  Try to replicate that for others.
Michelle has run 25 tournaments over the past six years.  Her work has ranged from local hat tournaments to some of the biggest women's tournaments in the country, and from getting new tournaments off the ground to helping run well-known, established tournaments.  Her favorite tournament as an organizer is Women's College Centex, and she believes that the best tournaments are the events that bring together competition and community.

The 5 W's of starting a new tournament

Posted on February 21st, 2012 by Mark "Spike" Liu

This is a guest post by Jared DiMascio, a Tournament Director as well as the creator of New England Ultimate
For more td-tuesdays articles:
Photo courtesy of Alex Fraser

Hate waking up at 5am to drive 3 hours on Saturday mornings? Hate heading out at 5pm the night before to set up tents in the dark just for some Ultimate? Don’t go to the Ultimate, bring the Ultimate to you!

However, don’t go around thinking it’s easy; it’s a lot of work. The best/easiest way to plan a new/small tournament is to consider the 5 W’s: who, what, why, where, when (and how).


Don’t be a hero. Delegate! The first and most important thing to do is spread the load. No one person is superman and you can easily find yourself buried with responsibilities. As a college or club team, every player on your team should want to help out. A local tournament is great in so many ways: less travel, less costs, more sleep, and (hopefully) some fundraising.

Get a core group of players to take over specific roles for the tournament: finding field space, contacting teams, finding sponsors, gathering food, etc. Piece it all out and spread the work. A lot more can get done faster this way.


Pick a weekend where no other major or local tournaments are happening. Of course, this all depends on what kind of teams you are trying to reach out to. For example, if you’re trying to start a new elite tournament, maybe don’t try to host it during ECC or Chesapeake, or check to make sure there are no other tournaments being planned anywhere in your area.


Make sure you have enough field space for the amount of teams you’re trying to invite. If you get 20 teams for a 5 field tournament, most likely the teams will be upset about all the bye’s, they won’t come back, and bad word with spread about your tournament. Whatever fields you do get, get a contract in one way or another. Get anything written that says you can have the fields for the whole weekend.

Weather is a huge deal when it comes to tournaments. Check the weather constantly and know the climate for where you are planning to host your event. It might be hard to attract players to Maine in the middle of winter or even bring teams to Florida during storm season.


Once you have the when and where all figured out, you have to decide what kind of tournament you are going to host (playing for fun, competitive, fundraising based?). Let people know upfront. Get all your facts straight before you send out your first email. Show that you are serious and have everything thought out so you don’t keep changing ideas and sending out more and more emails. Other captains might just blow your tournament off if they keep receiving contradicting accounts.

Cost is a huge factor when considering tournaments, especially for smaller/new tournaments. Teams will repeatedly pay top dollar to play at Standford Invite or Easterns, but not a lot of teams will shell out $500 to attend a no-name 10-team tournament. Charging too little is always better than charging too much. Start low to attract teams and if the tournament becomes a staple then you can start raising the cost.

To cut down on your own costs try finding local places that will donate food, water, or anything that can help. Once, for a tournament in Keene, we got the local Panera Bread to donate their leftover bagels and cakes and had a friend get water donated from Stop and Shop so our food cost was zero. Contact Ultimate companies such as Breakmark, Savage, Spin, Five, Lookfly, or VC. A lot of these companies would love to help sponsor tournaments or might even send a small package of gear for prizes. Teams love competing for prizes. These can be anything from a small cash prize, a grab-bag of Ultimate swag, or even a handmade trophy to proclaim dominance.


Of course, the single most important factor with tournaments is what teams will be attending. No matter what kind of teams you are trying to rope in, whether they are elite, local, or somewhat competitive, always remember that any team is no more than a phone call or email away. The Ultimate community is such a close-knit group that it makes the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon game look like a long shot. We’ve all made friends through past tournaments, summer leagues or hat tournaments, and have connections with other teams. Use them!

Ask friends and teammates to talk to people and ask other local captains/TD’s at schools you know for their email lists. Send out as many emails as you can. If you only send out 10 emails for a 10 team tournament and only 3 submit bids, then you’re out of luck. So send 50 emails, and if more than 10 reply, just allow teams in on a first come first serve basis; tell other teams that they should try again the following year (hoping your tournament goes to plan).

There are so many new sites popping up for Ultimate. Use them too! RSD ( google group) is a great way to spread the word, and check on other tournaments. FFindr is another great site to post tournaments on. Create a Facebook event and even create a Twitter account for your team or tournament. I can’t even tell you how many teams have Facebook fan pages, groups, or even Twitter accounts. We are in a technologic boom and you should use it to your advantage.

The last who is you, the TD. It is your job to make sure all of this goes to plan. Its success or failure is in your hands. However, once all of this planning is done and it comes to Saturday morning’s captain meeting, it’s all a smooth ride from there (for the most part). If you and your teammates have done all the leg work, your small tournament should be a big success.

Jared DiMascio is an Ultimate enthusiast who has been playing for 5+ years. He captained at Keene State for 4 years and now plays Mixed for Darkwing out of MA. He recently started New England Ultimate to help promote New England teams and happenings.

Related article: Tips for starting a new tournament by Kevin "Bulb" McCormick

The Ultimate Volunteer

Posted on February 7th, 2012 by Mark "Spike" Liu

This is a guest post by Frans Passchier, the tournament director for the Windmill Windup
For more td-tuesdays articles:

To organize a good Ultimate event you need teams and players, solid facilities, entertaining parties, good food, shiny merchandise, a nice format and maybe some contributing sponsors or good contacts with local government. The most important factor of them all, however, is a group of volunteers with which you can run your tournament seamlessly. Volunteers are the heart and soul of your event, and they are the first point of contact for the players and guests. A happy, skillful, creative, and durable workforce is a great thing to have and the number one factor for a successful tournament.

At the Windmill Windup in Amsterdam, we manage a staff of more than 130 people, and have done so successfully using a step-by-step routine that helps us get the job done. It’s not rocket science, and could help you find and manage the motivated crew you are looking for for your event.

1. The organizing crew

Definition: The people who help you tackle the larger elements of your tournament. These people start working on their areas months in advance and report on their progress to the TDs.

We classify our staff in 2 groups: The Organizing Crew and On-site Volunteers. It is the Organizing Crew that fills the “skill positions” of your team.

Someone to organize the food? That’s a big one. What about your tournament’s format and schedule? Good to have someone for that as well. These are major tasks best delegated to people with those skill sets. This will happen naturally, of course – the IT nerd that orders in every night is not likely to want to be your tournament’s food man – but it is important to manage closely. For instance, the organizer of your volunteers (are you confused yet?) should be a people person, the planner of your parties should be into music or nightlife, and the guy who runs your schedule should be some sort of masochistic recluse who is into that kind of thing.

On the other hand, it’s quite possible that you’re unaware of the talents of the people in your Ultimate community. When you ask for staff, it is wise to give room to share their experience and skills with you so you can take advantage of their diverse skill sets.


Be clear about expectations from both sides. To make it an enjoyable experience for all parties involved, it helps to clearly define the tasks and responsibilities as mentioned before. It helps to work on time lines together and stick to them once they are agreed on.

As a rule of thumb, the amount of time spent on a job by a crew member generally exceeds the anticipated amount by a factor of 3! This is especially true when it comes to people taking on a role for the first time. Spend the time up front making sure that expectations are clear on both sides, and you will save yourself a GREAT DEAL of time closer to the tournament. It’s one of those lessons that you don’t want to learn the hard way.


Meetings are essential for all crew members to coordinate their efforts. As most of your organizers have regular jobs and do not have much time, it pays to prepare these meetings with care to make the most of the time. Also, it is wise not to forget that no Ultimate meeting is successful without enough booze, eats, and a post-meeting social plan. The best ideas and collaborations between organizing crew members are born while drinking a couple of beers.

2. The volunteer corps

Definition: The people who get sh*t done. These are the people that show up anywhere from just before the tournament to the end, and are willing to do anything. They are given various tasks by the organizing crew or a volunteer coordinator.

The Windmill Windup’s workforce has grown from 15 in the first year to 130 volunteers in 2011.  Managing 100+ volunteers is a big task but if you have a good strategy and a great volunteer coordinator the numbers don’t matter that much.  


It all starts with recruiting – 3 months before the start of your event is about right. You have a better chance that potential volunteers are still available and it gives you more room to set up schedules once you know who’s going to be there. Sending out an email is good, following up by asking in person is even better, and once someone agrees, make sure to confirm in the weeks before the event. About a third of yes-sayers will drop out if you don’t.

Ask everyone in your local Ultimate community. Ask your friends, and have them bring their friends. Ask parents, and maybe even apply for social projects at your local government. Once your tournament is more well-known you can recruit outside the borders of your city, state or nation on various disc mailing lists or on your website. When it comes to volunteers, the more the merrier! The more people you have at your disposal, the more time they can focus on a task at hand and more importantly, the more spare time they will have to actually enjoy the tournament they have been working for.

Payments and Appreciation

Regular Ultimate events would not be affordable if staff members or the working crew would need to get paid. But that doesn’t mean you can’t pay your volunteers in other ways! You can pay them with the currency you have at your disposal:
  • Party - Make the event itself a party for all volunteers. Make sure everyone has some time off to enjoy games and to party. Organize a thank-you social after the tournament and possibly a get-together in the weeks before so that volunteers can get to know each other.
  • Food and drinks - Make sure to provide food and drinks for your volunteers both during the tournament and in every other phase of tournament planning and production.
  • Tournament gifts - Take time to think of special volunteer and organizer gifts. A popular way to go is tournament merchandise, volunteer shirts, or special edition staff gear.  
  • Appreciation - This is the most important currency of them all (sounds corny right? True nonetheless).  Make sure you let everyone know they are appreciated, even if someone didn’t do the best job. Someone put in their time and energy for the betterment of the event and the sport in general. A great way to do this is to share the positive feedback that you receive from players with ALL volunteers and crew. 

In your day-to-day job, you probably enjoy clearly defined instruction: what is expected of you at what times? Who do I work with and what are my responsibilities? When do I get my lunch break? As volunteering is essentially a job like every other, you keep the workforce happy if you clearly define the volunteers' tasks. This needs to be done even if it appears that a certain task seems simple and unimportant (there’s no such thing as an unimportant jobs – now PLEASE go re-stock the toilet paper!).

It helps a great deal to make use of schedules (managed by the volunteer coordinator) in which you put all tasks along a timeline. Brief stand-up meetings in the morning can be very functional. They make people aware of issues, challenges, and also serve as team-building moments. Work with time slots with a clear start and end and make sure you can reach all volunteers by phone (i.e. set up a contact details database). 

3. A few pointers in general

  • There is a saying in Dutch that summarizes an important point: "Vrijwillig betekent niet vrijblijvend." Unfortunately, it is hard to translate into a memorable and catchy phrase in English, so let’s go with “Voluntary does not mean amateur!” Make sure to get this message across in a friendly way. A volunteer that does half-assed work can create a negative vibe and you would be better off communicating your need for quality from the beginning.
  • As a TD you are working to create a certain identity for your event. How do the players, volunteers, and organizers experience the tournament itself and the months before. The more the staff members find the tournament identity appealing, the more dedicated they will be. It increases the likelihood of retaining your crew for the future.
  • Ask for feedback during but mainly after the tournament. With so many eyes around, you can gather a great deal of information about the things that went well and those that went wrong. Volunteers are your eyes and ears!
  • You know you are doing well when volunteers return year after year, smiling and working hard as ever. If they don’t return you might want to ask for feedback to make sure it’s not on your account.
  • Volunteers make up a giant pool of talent. Keep an eye on what their skills are, speak to them when you can and in the end, you could ask them to take on a larger role the next year and strengthen your organization over time. “Promotions” within your staff help motivate others as well!
  • Empower volunteers and crew by informing them at set times (meetings, newsletters, or just plain e-mails) and ask them for their opinions.
  • Keep on rocking!
Potential job openings you might want to fill for your event:
  • Production manager - takes care of all rentals, logistics, electricity, A/V and all technical related stuff (massive job, could be split)
  • Volunteer coordinator - recruits volunteers, schedules their work, motivates them, makes sure that they are well informed
  • Entertainment - overlooks all fun stuff that’s not Ultimate related like bands, day-time entertainment and other activities like the beer race
  • IT solutions - website design and everything else related to 0’s and 1’s
  • Food/Bar manager - thinks and organizes everything food related (and if you throw in the bar, they won’t be hard to find)
  • Marketing - finding and working with sponsors and working the social media (see the first and second TD Tuesdays articles on sponsorships)
  • Financial officer - budgeting, expenses, bill paying, receipts – you know, the fun stuff
  • Team liaison - someone who keeps contact with all teams during registration and in the weeks leading up to the tourney
  • Coordinator of photography and videography - makes sure pictures are taken, proper photographers are in place, database of pictures is available. Coordinates the production of promotional videos and recordings of games
  • PR manager - sends out press releases for national and local media, mainly to increase awareness for the sport
  • Format Master - someone who can handle your brackets (see the first and second TD Tuesdays articles on scheduling)
  • Webmaster - it’s a great thing when someone takes this on with a vengeance
  • Prizes - cool prizes are a nice asset
  • Waste - when you’re going for recycling and waste diversion
  • Others - First Aid / Security / Cleaning
Frans Passchier has been involved with the Windmill Windup, Europe’s largest Ultimate tournament, since its inaugural edition in 2005 and has been TD since 2009.  He has organized several other smaller tournaments all with the goal of growing the Ultimate scene in Amsterdam and the rest of Holland.  He and his co-TDs Fred Spanjaard and Michael Cummings have also formed 2 student teams in the city, and head up various Ultimate growth related initiatives.

Spirit scores and why they are so important

Posted on January 17th, 2012 by Mark "Spike" Liu

This is a guest post by Patrick van der Valk, the Chair of the WFDF and President of BULA
For more td-tuesdays articles:

Many tournaments have some type of Spirit of the Game (SOTG) scoring system while others don’t. Should they?

What are spirit scores?

Spirit of the Game is, and always has been, a fundamental part of Ultimate. It is rule number 1. Yet, when teaching Ultimate, it has always lagged behind the rules. The rules on how to play the game are fairly easy to teach. You can simply give players a rulebook and they can learn it themselves.

SOTG is less straightforward. It is more of something that has been passed on by ‘the elders’ to their disciples. The principle behind SOTG and competitive play coexisting is as follows:

“Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of mutual respect among competitors, adherence to the agreed upon rules, or the basic joy of play”

The interpretation of this is in the eye of the beholder and Spirit has been taught and interpreted in different ways around the globe and even within local communities.

Nevertheless, many tournaments offer a prize to the team with 'the best spirit'. Over the years there have been many different ways Tournament Directors (TDs) determined which team should receive that prize. Most commonly, captains are asked to indicate who they thought the best spirited teams were and then some type of calculation is done on the results to determine the winner.

However, until recently, there was no common set of rules by which TDs could compare the results. There was no objective scoring. What one captain or team thought SOTG meant, was not the same as another. So how can a TD combine scores and feel comfortable awarding the SOTG prize to the right team?

History of the objective scoring sheet

Around 2003 an objective Spirit of the Game scoring system was developed in Montreal. This was a great step forward over the alternatives that were around. This system was adopted by the Beach Ultimate Lovers Association (BULA), and they further developed it to help promote and standardize SOTG.

The updated scoring system got a real boost when Lookfly (Ultimate Clothing) started offering TDs cool SOTG prizes in return for feedback about the new system. BULA collected a lot of input from tournament/league directors, as well as players from around the world. This lead to two significant upgrades to the scoring system: a major revamp in 2008 and an extensive translation effort in 2009 when BULA and the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) joined forces to translate the SOTG Scoring Sheet into 27 languages

According to the international community, Spirit should be broken down into 4 categories: Rules Knowledge, Physical Contact, Fair-mindedness, and Positive Attitude. In the scoring system teams were scored on each category resulting in a score between 0 and 20 for each game. 

How to use the scoring sheet consistently

The latest version of the SOTG Scoring Sheet has been used at many tournaments and championships, including all BULA and WFDF events. The biggest concern with this scoring sheet has been that different teams were still interpreting it differently from one another. Some teams gave out mostly scores of 20 points while others averaged 10.

People contemplated normalizing the scores but this was complex and didn’t adequately solve the problem. The best way to resolve it was through further education.

In December 2011 the WFDF Spirit of the Game Committee released a document that explained the objectives behind the scoring system and showed players how to score consistently. The underlying idea is that a normal spirited game should result in 10 points. That would be the average score.

The document also gave TDs advice on how to handle SOTG during a tournament, what to do with the scores, and how to deal with teams that have significantly lower than average scores. 

Why are Spirit Scores important?


One of the main reasons the SOTG Scoring Sheet was developed was for educational purposes.  As described in the explanation document, it is strongly encouraged that the whole team is involved in scoring. This way all players are taught what Spirit entails which, in turn, is key if we want to grow and promote a sport where Spirit of the Game is rule number 1. 

A big advantage of the WFDF/BULA scoring system is that it was also designed to help teams understand how they can improve specific parts of their Spirit. Getting a low Spirit score without feedback on why is not very helpful. By breaking down Spirit into several categories and allowing the opponent to score on each component individually, people can find patterns and teams can work on the parts they are struggling with.

As a TD, I am much happier to have the knowledge that a team gets a low score on a certain category such as Physical Contact than seeing just an overall score. I can do something with that information and so can the team. 


Naturally, it is not just education. Scoring also help celebrates Spirit by awarding a prize to the team that gets the highest score. This is an enjoyable addition to just about any tournament.

What kind of tournaments should use spirit scores?

Should all tournaments use a formalized scoring system? Ideally, yes. However, there is some effort that needs to go into implementing the system. TDs will need to chase down teams to hand in the score for each game, put this information into a computer and then determine the winner. To simplify this process, the WFDF is working on a phone application that will make life easier for both TDs and players. 

Further, there are tournaments where spirit is already understood and is consistently high. A formalized system such as the WFDF/BULA scoring system could be overkill.

Nevertheless, most tournaments will benefit from using a good scoring system. Spirit of the Game is something all players should know and take to heart. It is up to the TDs to help promote this and ensure that SOTG remains an integral part of the sport of Ultimate.

Patrick van der Valk is very involved disc sports and has more than 30 years of experience. He plays for several teams, including Paganello finalist SeXXXpensive. He is the Chair of the WFDF Spirit of the Game Committee and the President of the Beach Ultimate Lovers Association. 

TD Tuesdays and Leaguevine Updates

Posted on January 3rd, 2012 by Mark "Spike" Liu
Happy New Year everyone! First, I'd like to send a major thank you out to all the tournament directors out there who have written such great articles for us to post on our blog and on Skyd Magazine. I'll spend this week giving you all some updates on TD Tuesdays and Leaguevine so you have a better idea of where it's all going.

TD Tuesdays Feedback

We received overwhelmingly positive feedback when we ran our survey in November. Here is what we learned from people who responded:
  • Almost everyone thinks the quality/insightfulness of the content is great
  • People really like how specific and focused each article is
  • I need to improve my copy-editing skills a bit (I hope I've been doing better since the survey)
  • The posts are slightly on the long side
  • There are a lot more topics that people want covered
Slowing down the post rate

The original goal with this series was to post 10-15 articles. Thanks to you, we've already reached that mark, compiling 11 articles by 11 TDs so far. After receiving so much positive feedback, I'd like to push this forward and continue the series for as long as possible. Publishing an article every week seems to be putting quite a bit of strain on our small community of TDs, so I think we would be better off if we slowed down the series to two posts per month. Starting this month, TD Tuesday articles will be posted every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. I hope this change gives you all more time to write your articles and keeps this series rolling at a more sustainable rate.

Topics that need authors

Several of you suggested topics you would like to see. In no particular order, here is a compiled list:
  • Do's and Don'ts of any good tourney
  • Info on delegation of duties
  • Software that people use to make the job easier
  • How these jobs transition into the real world
  • How to use this on a resume
  • How taxes work for large events
  • When to file for a business and how to do it
  • How to manage volunteers
  • Options for acquiring insurance
  • How to network and get donations/vendors/merchandisers
  • Some comparison between tournaments in different parts of the world, for example between Europe and the US
  • Starting a new/small tournament
  • Player gift and merchandising 
  • Organizing a HAT tournament
  • Running a tournament party
  • Putting together a group of tournament admins
  • Checklist for tournament setup
  • Getting spectators and publicity for your event
It is okay for topics to have multiple authors. For a great example of this, see how Ryan Thompson and Benji Heywood's scheduling articles complement each other. 

It is also okay for authors to write about more than one topic. Some of you have suggested a desire to do this, and I can't thank you enough! 

We have three articles presently scheduled which will keep this series alive at least through February. Email if you would like to take one of the topics, and lets see how long we can keep this going!

Quick Leaguevine update

We spent a lot of time in 2011 working on getting real-time mobile score updates working well. Our original goal was simply to make it easy for TDs to collect scores, but we are happy to see that participants enjoy the experience as well. The main response we have been getting is that players like knowing what is happening on other fields in real time. Over the last few months, we've made it much easier to create pools/brackets/swiss formats, as well as making the Leaguevine Mobile experience simpler and more intuitive. 

On top of these continuous incremental improvements, we are currently building an API. If you are a software developer, you will be able to extend our functionality however you like. This API is not yet released, but there are people working on or planning on working on a stats app and a scoreboard app, both of which are open source and built on this API. To join in on this fun before the official release, just email

By March, our development crew will be up to two full-time core developers and 5+ part-time open-source developers, so we are excited that this is moving beyond a one-man project to become more of a community effort.

A few of you used Leaguevine to power your tournaments in 2011, and we really appreciate your confidence in our software so far. We know a larger number of you are already planning on using us to bring real-time updates to your 2012 events, and we're committed to giving you all the tools you need. Thanks for all your support so far, and have a great start to the new year!

Tips for Starting a New Tournament

Posted on December 27th, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu
Ultimate Frisbee Tournament Photo for TD Tuesdays

This is a guest post by Kevin "Bulb" McCormick who runs numerous events in and around Philadelphia
For more TD Tuesdays articles:
Photo courtesy of Alex Fraser

The increasing popularity of Ultimate has led to a myriad of new tournaments in recent years.  Some tournaments thrive, and continue to exist for years, while others falter and collapse after a single instance.  Much like in the business world, the success of Ultimate tournaments can depend on many factors, and today we’ll take a look at a few of them.

1. Have a purpose

Some tournaments exist as fundraisers for teams, some for charity, and some aim to break even.  Some tournaments provide a party, some provide elite competition, and some do both.  A tournament director should make it very clear to attending players why the tournament exists.  Deciding this purpose is the first step in establishing a new tournament, because it could potentially impact many downstream decisions.  If you know you want to have a competitive tournament, you may want to look into getting observers.  If you want to throw a big party, you will probably want to hire a band.  Once you have a well-defined purpose, many of the smaller details will fall into place later on. 

2. Start small

Sometimes tournaments fail because they tried to do too much in their first year: hosting too many teams, having too big a party, etc.  Unless you have the backing of a big organization like USA Ultimate, it can be difficult to manage some of the more difficult tasks that become easier with established relationships.  The biggest example of this is securing fields.  Owners of large complexes are often reluctant to rent a large number of fields to Joe Frisbee.  Assuming you can get enough fields, hosting 16 teams in a tournament’s inaugural year should be manageable.

Even if you have a reasonable number of teams, you still might try to do too much.  Providing something unique (whether through Saturday night dinner, a party, or some other aspect) is always helpful, but if you are doing it at the expense of what most players have come to consider “standard” tournament routines, you will be hurting yourself more than helping.  Make sure you have all the basics covered before trying to provide something unique.

3. Recruit early and often

This topic has already been covered in other TD Tuesday articles, so let it suffice to say that you can never reach out to teams too early.  Even if you just mention to a team that you are thinking of hosting a tournament on a particular weekend, that could be enough to influence their early take on their prospective tournament lineup for the season.  Identify an ideal list of teams you’d like to attend, get contact information for them, and try to get a verbal commitment as soon as possible.  If they back out later, that’s on them, but it’s always nice to be able to publish a list of interested teams that includes some familiar names.

4. Know when to delegate

Recruiting teams is important, but recruiting volunteers is just as vital.  Trying to put on a new tournament by yourself is feasible, but often unnecessary.  Friends and teammates are often willing to help out if you ask them to do specific small tasks.  If you can’t find anyone to do something for free, you can often get attending captains to help out for a small discount from their registration fee.   The closer you get to your tournament date, the more crucial and time-sensitive delegation becomes.  If you really want to ensure that everything goes smoothly, you should not plan to be doing ANYTHING during the tournament itself (except maybe playing).  If you plan to be the one collecting scores and filling water jugs and running ice out to injured players, you may very well find yourself overwhelmed.  Just be there to fill in the gaps in case of emergencies.

5. Take advantage of technology

As we move further into the 21st century, technology will become more and more capable of helping you run a new tournament.  You can use RSD, Facebook, and other social media to announce your tournament and hype it up.  Online collaboration tools (like Google docs) can help you work out a budget and to-do lists for you and your volunteers.  Score reporter can create schedules for both pools and brackets in almost no time at all.  Twitter makes it very easy to provide time-sensitive announcements, as well as let players post score updates.   After your tournament is over, you can assess how well you did by using free services like Doodle or paid services like Survey Monkey.

Almost anybody can muster together enough resources to put on a tournament.  If you want to establish a new tournament so that it continues to be successful year after year, you need to think big picture while starting small.

Kevin “Bulb” McCormick started playing Ultimate for Delaware Sideshow in 2002.  He helped run Delaware Showdown from 2004-2010, and has also helped run PADA Mosh, Bell Crack Coed Classic, and Philly Invite.  He has served in the Philadelphia Area Disc Alliance Board of Directors since 2008.  He lives in Philadelphia and plays for two time defending Mid-Atlantic Mixed Champions AMP.

Creating a Tournament Schedule

Posted on December 20th, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu
This is a guest post by Ryan Thompson, the TD for Stanford Open and Stanford Invite
About the photo: An early draft of Saturday and Sunday game scheduling for Mens and Womens Stanford Open 2011
For more td-tuesdays articles:

Creating the perfect tournament schedule is an optimization problem - we want to minimize the schedule stresses (moving fields, multiple byes, etc) subject to various constraints of our team and tournament: number of fields, hours of light, 6 games minimum for each team, number of field sites, competitive balance, teams with early flights, max number of games per day per team (4), min number of games per day per team (2), not scheduling many games during finals, a minimum round time (with built in time for caps and changing fields), etc. It's ideal that you do much of this before you even decide how many teams to invite to a tournament. If you have four fields and want to host a 20-team tournament, the schedule stresses on each team would be so great that it's not even worth it.

A quick back of the envelope calculation that every tournament director should do at the beginning stages of planning a tournament: the maximum number of games your field site(s) and hours of light will allow you to host in a given weekend. For a 14-field tournament that could conceivably host games from 8:00 am (a little stressful on teams) to 6:00 pm Saturday and 8:00 am to 4:30 pm Sunday, that's 6 rounds on Saturday with 100 minutes between the start of each game, then 5 rounds on Sunday. Then you can host 14*(6+5) games at the tournament. If you have flexibility in the number of fields at the tournament, you may want to have 12 regulation-size fields with more space between than packing in 14 fields. Similarly, teams definitely appreciate making rounds a little longer so fewer games go to cap (along with less time spent at the fields - 9:00 am starts are nicer than 8:00 am).

Of course, this is the maximum number of games your tournament can accommodate. Often times, the true number of games is less, especially on Sunday, when prequarters need to come before quarters need to come before semis need to come before finals. Right there, that's 4 rounds with limited opportunities for byes. So the next step in developing your schedule involves your format options, along with deciding a minimum number of games for each team. In our previous example, we have a max of 154 total games over the weekend. At 6 games minimum per team, that means a maximum of 154/6*2 teams (51.3 in this case), which seems to be leaning towards a 24 team Open and 24 team Womens division. If you want to have finals and only finals during the last round (which helps with teams travel flexibility), that drops to 47.3 teams (maybe a 24 team tournament in one division and 20 in the other). Moving the start time up to 9:00 on both days takes a round off of both days, and now we're down to 38 teams.

Again, these are maximum numbers of teams, and the actual format constraints and field site constraints can bring this number down further. We'll look at these now. Generally, if teams need to move between various field sites, they should have a bye between games. Because of that, it's helpful to schedule an entire pool's games on the same fields, then have a bye (or 30 min break in schedule) so that teams can move between sites for crossovers or play-in games. This also ties into format constraints - a pool of 6 requires 3 fields to finish in 5 rounds. If there are certain clusters of fields that can only support 2 fields, pools of 6 are not the best idea. However, pools of 5 only need 2 fields to finish in 5 rounds (and each team gets 1 bye). Useful for planning: pools of 4 require 6 games and 2 fields, pools of 5 require 10 games and 2 fields, and pools of 6 require 15 games and 3 fields. There's a little flexibility here - two pools of 6 require 30 games, so in 6 rounds they only require 5 fields (or six rounds on four fields on Saturday and one round on 6 fields on Sunday morning).

You can also play with your pool setup by having power pools - if there's a large competitive difference between the top 8-12 teams at a tournament and the bottom set of teams, power pools are sometimes a good option to a) encourage better teams to attend the tournament and b) to get more close games between teams. But be careful with power pools - at tournaments where teams are more evenly matched or seeding is more difficult, power pools provide unnecessary protection for higher-seeded teams and allows teams to back into the Sunday brackets. If you do decide to do power pools, they don't have to be the same size as the lower pools. Two power pools of 5 and four lower pools of 4 is a pretty good 26-team format.

While a general Saturday format is pretty easy to come up with, the Sunday format may present more headaches in scheduling. Even at high levels (although not at the highest), teams with a 10 am consolation game will likely not stick around for a scheduled 3:30 game, especially if flights are to be made or watching finals looks like a more appealing option. While this is frustrating not only to the tournament director, but also to any opponents who DID stick around, there are things a TD can do to minimize end-of-day bailing. The first is to schedule more consolation early in the morning, with as few byes as possible. Similarly, don't drag out consolation brackets for four games per team - give teams more games that matter on Saturday or Sunday morning with pool play and/or crossovers, rather than sending teams straight to consolation. Also, if you have the flexibility, try to set up games between teams that have had their prospective opponents bail on them. It generates goodwill with the teams for being accommodating, and it helps teams get their money's worth (especially if they're traveling a long distance).

Traditional Sunday bracket play is 3 or 4 rounds of A bracket play, with smaller consolation brackets for 5th-8th place and 9th-12th place (if there were prequarters). With a full round of 16, a 9th-16th place bracket can be played, but teams probably won't want to play out the entire bracket - 2 games per team in consolation is acceptable. For lower brackets, try to group teams in groups of 4 or 8, ensuring that teams get their 6 game minimum and making sure there aren't many byes. If you end up without multiples of 4, consolation pool play is an option, as are NFL-playoffs-style 6-team consolation brackets. As I mentioned before, try to minimize byes (especially for consolation brackets) and schedule as few games as possible during the finals. Don't schedule games after finals.

An extremely helpful tool in the tournament-planning process is an Excel spreadsheet with field numbers across the top and round times along the left side. There you can visually plot out where pool play games go, where games in various consolation brackets fit on Sunday, and make sure that pool games happen on adjacent fields. It takes some playing around to make sure you can fit all of the games in a manner that makes sense, respects the various constraints I've discussed, and minimizes the schedule stresses on the teams so they can focus on playing ultimate and having fun. Another thing to think about regarding seeding and formats: use the USAU formats manual to get ideas for how various seeds should be distributed in pools, as well as how different pools' first and second place teams should match up in the bracket. But be careful to only look at the 1-advance formats (and ignore their consolation brackets); the formats manual is intended to place teams at Sectionals and Regionals, not give the best consolation or bracket matchups for a regular season tournament.

It sounds complicated and complex, but a little work here can drastically reduce the amount of day-of tournament scheduling you do and team complaints you receive. It's also helpful to print out the game schedule by field (your excel spreadsheet) in addition to the score reporter brackets. A lot of people running tournaments for the first time (or stepping up to larger events) don't realize the number of things it's important to take into account when scheduling an event. And with that said, I'm more than happy to discuss formats, schedule, field layouts, and more via email ( Good luck, and happy TDing!


I spoke with Benji Heywood about how often (and at each level) teams play 3, 4, or 5 games in a row, since UK and European tournaments have very different practices and rules. Here's my email response--\n\nOur youth directives are very different. We have much stricter standards for youth events, see: USA Ultimate Youth Formats Guidelines . I was involved in drafting those guidelines, and I can help you interpret some of the more oddly-phrased requirements there.

Mens Centex has traditionally been a grueling tournament with 4 pools of 6, 5 games straight (to 13) on Saturday and 3 (to 15) on Sunday. Most tournaments try to avoid 5 games in a day (I advocate a 4 game max per day in my article). Middle to high level college teams take rosters of 20-30 players because tournament play is brutal and exhausting. This is also part of why USAU College Championships have so many upsets - teams with a strong 7-10 players can do much better playing 2 games a day, even against 30-man squads of fit players.

3 in a row is common at any tournament at any level (with the exception of HS championship events). 4 in a row is more of a hardship, and there is usually a bye if teams play 4 games in a day, but some teams get the last round or first round bye, which means 4 in a row. But those teams also prefer the first or last round bye. In 12-team tournaments with two pools of 6 (increasingly common), we usually see four games on Saturday per team, then everyone plays 1st round Sunday and then in 3 4-team brackets, for a total of 7 games.

Because travel costs are so great, I think TDs feel pressure to pack in 7-8 games per team per tournament, and on weekends because of school and jobs. That means 3-4 games each day, and when there are 5 or fewer games in a weekend, it's not worth the money to go to that tournament over a tournament that promises 7 games.

Ryan Thompson started playing ultimate at Columbia High School at age 13, before playing five years for Stanford Bloodthirsty. Ryan's first TD experience was the Delaware Valley Youth League finals in fall 2007 (and 2008), before helping Cultimate with Stanford Invite from 2008-2010, running Stanford Open in 2010 and 2011, and running Stanford Invite in 2011. Ryan currently lives in Washington, DC while playing for Philly Southpaw and coaching Georgetown University.

Tournament Merchandising (Part 2 - What to buy)

Posted on December 13th, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu

This is a guest post by Steve Giguere of Lookfly Ultimate and BlockStack TV
For more td-tuesdays articles:

Part 1 of this article gave some background on creating good tournament merchandise and choosing a merchandising partner. This second part goes into detail about what you need to do if you choose to buy merchandise and sell it yourself.

Playing it Safe

You could buy in a rather small amount of gear and risk selling out rather than having leftovers unsold. There are a lot of good reasons for playing it safe like this. It ensures a good first impression because you'll have a nice shop at the beginning, nobody will really know how much you ordered in, and if it sells out, people might simply think the gear was so amazing they just didn't get there early enough! Additionally you can take orders on the spot for sold out merch and ship them to people after the fact. This takes a bit of organisation but can certainly help boost sales if you feel organised enough to do it. Always document your sales so you can learn for the following year.

The downside is that you don't make as much money from this solution. It's a lot of effort to design the gear and staff the shop for little return. Further, if you don't make much merch, you won't have the fun of seeing it all over the Ultimate scene for the next few years.

Going For it - I want to see my merch all over the world!

As opposed to playing it safe, you might decide to try to sell a lot of merchandise. To get this right you need to not just order the correct number of shirts, hats, shorts, hoodies, etc. You also need to order the correct size distribution. The rest of this article talks about some guidelines.


How many mediums or smalls or XLs. A common mistake is to think everybody wears the same size shirts as you do. If you're 6'2 or 5'4 I can confidently tell you that you're in the extremes of sizing. Here's a hint...the size called 'medium' is called that for a reason.

For men's clothing I usually recommend a ratio of about:

  • 15% small
  • 45% medium
  • 30% large
  • 10% xlarge
For women's clothing:
  • 25% small
  • 50% medium
  • 25% large
This is for your average tournament. In the exceptional case that you're merchandising the World Championships of whatever then you might scale up the larger sizes because if you've ever been to USA Nats you'll notice that for a dude, 6 feet tall is almost below average! You have a taller class of athlete so for the mens gear flip the percentages upside down leaving you with:
  • 10% small
  • 30% medium
  • 45% large
  • 15% xlarge

Let's say you've got about 500 people attending your tournament. How many people will buy a bit of merch? This depends largely on the logo and shirt designs we mentioned earlier and also on the reputation your tournament has. Paganello has a sense of bragging rights associated with it, much like attending WUCC and USA Nats or even Wildwood or Potlatch. The merch you buy and wear to your next practice/tournament says to the world, "that's right I was there...suck it!" without your having to sound like a douche and saying it yourself. That means sales will likely be good and you can bet that almost every 2nd person there will buy something even if it's a commemorative wristband. Those who don't buy anything will be made up for by those who buy a few things. That means you'll probably want to bring in a range of merch items that scale in price from sweatbands and discs at the low end to jackets, warm-up gear and sublimation tops at the high end for those who can afford to get a bit more bling. 

In the end, shoot for a total number of about 250 items for your 500 person super popular mega mojo event. If you don't have the popularity and perhaps this your first year that's a different story.

What items to Buy

If you feel confident in your logo and your friends have all given your designs the thumbs up then start small anyway. With 500 people you can order a good spread of merch. I've broken down the the popular items here so you can decide what's best for your event.


It's difficult to go wrong with these. Many tournaments give a disc to every player as a free gift which, from a player perspective I love! I love it because it means I've got my souvenir already and I don't have to buy any of the other merchandise. A controversial thing to say in an article about merchandising your tournament but the fact remains if you give everyone a free event souvenir then you'll probably sell a reasonably lower amount of stuff in your shop. That's when we come back to your motivation for merchandising. For some TDs this isn't any great worry. For others perhaps it's better to consult the earlier Leaguevine articles about attracting sponsorship (see the original and the follow up) to get your free player gift. 

The great thing about selling discs is that everybody needs discs, they don't come in different sizes (just colours but we all know that white discs are generally preferred) and if there's any left over you can always donate them to development projects or sell them to local teams or other tournaments that aren't so crazy for merch but need some cheap discs. If you don't put a date on them sometimes you can just store them and sell them again next year. Discs are great!


Typically, this is the most common item and is a guaranteed great seller if designed well. The only drawback these days is that sublimated tops are the rage and they tend to cost a considerable amount more than basic single colour tops with a good logo. Additionally it's easier to make a pretty awful looking sub top than it is to make a great one. Some Ultimate companies offer design help in this area but this could cost you. Try to negotiate that into the merchandising agreement.


Sometimes more popular than shirts! More experienced players have so many shirts from playing on so many teams over the years, their closets are overflowing. Most people don't have that many pairs of shorts. Additionally, people can be a bit more flexible over what size they wear with shorts but be quite fussy over shirt size. Shorts are a winner and can be stocked in a variety of colours relatively cheaply.

Hats and Sweatbands

The one size fits all items are great for mass appeal and are generally quite inexpensive to stock in larger quantities. These are great items as last minute things to sell at the check-out.

Warm-up Gear (Hooded Tops and Jackets)

People’s buying tendencies are often are driven by what they feel they need at the moment. If it’s really warm out, you’ll struggle to sell items that when people look at them, the feel uncomfortable or they can’t wear it right away. Warm-up gear works well for a colder climate.

Consider the weather

Great weather means people will be in a great mood and between games will be looking for activities to fill the time. Your merchandising tent could be just the place for a bit of retail therapy or just a place to act as a meeting point. When deciding on items for your tournament, weather is a great decision maker. If you tend to have hot and sunny weather (lucky you) then technical tops (perhaps sleeveless) and hats to protect from the heat are usually a great choice. If you're in the UK and tend to get unpredictable combinations of rain and more rain then you might consider warm-ups like hooded tops for those who arrived unprepared. 

Keep in mind also that if it rains, you might be left holding the merch. Rain sends people seeking shelter between games so it can be a good idea to position yourself and your merchandising tent in place where people meet and seek such shelter so you're not left out in the cold.

I hope this was helpful.  It's impossible to cover all circumstances and situations, but hopefully this was helpful for those who are starting out with creating a brand of tournament merchandise.

Steve Giguere is the founder of UK based Ultimate gear company Lookfly ( and one of the self-proclaimed idiots behind the Ultimate video podcast BlockStack TV (  He's been running his local tournament, The Copa Cabana, in Nottingham, England for 8 years and has worked on the merchandising teams for tournaments of all sizes including major European events like Wonderful Copenhagen, EUCF, Windmill Windup, and Tom's Tourney in Brugge among others over the past 10 years.

Tournament Merchandising (Part 1)

Posted on December 6th, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu

This is a guest post by Steve Giguere of Lookfly Ultimate and BlockStack TV
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Creating an appealing and perhaps more importantly, sellable range of merchandise to support your already exciting tournament is tricky business indeed.

You might think the most important thing is the logo, or maybe choosing a good supplier with the latest gear, or perhaps all this thinking has already got you tuning out and you prefer the more holistic Kevin Costner approach of "If you merch it, they will come". The truth is, there's no tried and testing formula for success but I've put together some ideas to help you along.

If you want a successful merchandising effort you need to define what the goals of your merchandising effort are first. Some events just want to look cool by offering a bad-ass range of gear and the TD's real payback is seeing that gear for the next 365 days at other events and knowing his/her tournament effort was a success. Other events are offering the merch as a service to players in expectation that they will want a little bit of history as a souvenir of their experiences (on top of the 1530 Facebook photos documenting each embarrassing second at the after-party party). Finally, some tournaments are actually using the merchandising as an opportunity to make a bit of extra coin for their efforts. It's a business opportunity.

The truth is, there's an aspect of all 3 of these motives for any merchandising effort. Each TD knows that one of these is often the driving force behind the effort and regardless of which one it is, I think all will agree that nobody wants to lose money in the process.

How to Have Great Tournament Merchandise

(aka... how to not lose money on selling merch)

Have a great tournament logo

Get somebody you know with some talent to give your event some momentum. I don't mean your tournament name in a bizarre font you downloaded from (an awesome font website). I mean an actual logo. Check out an event like Paganello in Rimini Italy and their straightforward fish logo. It just so happens that a Paganello is a type of fish as well. This logo when slightly stylized each year looks great on everything from a burlap sack to a hot air balloon. You could whack that logo on a giant umbrella, call it a trophy and people would eat it up. Got the idea? Did you take that logo design seriously? If so, push the button, but ask your friends first because a good friend will tell you when your logo sucks.

Get a good merch partner

There's plenty out there. Ultimate companies have been multiplying lately and it seems no matter where you are, you can find one near you. My opinion is that if the company is nearby, there's one less risk for you as the TD. Nothing sells worse than a ton of sweet merch that didn't show up because of a customs issue or shipping delay.

Different companies offer different services. Some might offer a discount for you to buy your merch so you can sell it and make a good bit of a profit. Some will bring their own shop to your event and provide you with tournament perks like banners and perhaps even a player gift in order to sell your branded gear for you. Quite often they'll offer you a percentage of sales for the privilege of coming. This is great for you as it's no risk, little hassle and you'll make a bit on top! Quite often you won't make as much money as if you bought in the merch yourself. However, you also don't have any of the financial risk associated with making 100 hooded tops that might not sell and you don't have to deal with any left-overs. To draw this kind of merchandiser attention you typically need to be a rather large and note-worthy event (USA this...Worlds Championships of that...Paganello etc).

Some companies offer design help if your logo does happen to suck a bit and some companies are better for price. It all depends on your needs. Slightly pricier merch from a company that will hold your hand and give you design support to make some appealing and attractive memorabilia is worth far more than a company that sells you cheap gear with your sketchy logo that might end up not selling. Ultimate companies have typically made merch for far more events than you so it's almost always worth asking their advice.

The summary here is to start with local companies and at places with good service and work outwards from there until you find a company you like. Try to get an Ultimate company to back you and take on the risk of making it and selling it in exchange for benefits of some kind. If that doesn't work out, use the Ultimate companies for advice on design and quantities to order so you don't end up out of pocket. Once you've got something that works one year, stick with it.  

Present it well

All the good will, amazing logos, great designs and perfect weather won’t help you if your shop looks terrible. Borrow some clothing rails from friends, get some used hangers from the local shopping centre clothing outlet, bring a few tables from home and make the shop as easy and accessible as possible. Think about the things you hate about shops in the local mall like shop staff standing at the entrance waiting for you to enter, difficulty finding your size, having to ask staff for help, or not being able to find any price tags. Try not to reproduce those things and you’ll be rolling out the red carpet.

Buy the right stuff

There are a lot of things you must consider before making a purchase, so next week's part 2 of this article will focus on what items you should buy, why those are the best choices, and how much you should order.

Steve Giguere is the founder of UK based Ultimate gear company Lookfly ( and one of the self-proclaimed idiots behind the Ultimate video podcast BlockStack TV (  He's been running his local tournament, The Copa Cabana, in Nottingham, England for 8 years and has worked on the merchandising teams for tournaments of all sizes including major European events like Wonderful Copenhagen, EUCF, Windmill Windup, and Tom's Tourney in Brugge among others over the past 10 years.

TD Tuesdays Feedback

Posted on November 29th, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu
TD Tuesdays has been running for two months now, thanks to some great work by several experienced tournament directors. We don't have an article for you this week, so we would like to take a moment to get some feedback on how you think this series is going so far and how you think we can improve it. Please take a second fill out the short survey at the bottom of this article.

Also, in case you missed any posts, here is a list of all the great content produced by your peers:
We'd like to say thanks again to all of the TDs who are willing to take time out of their busy lives to share their knowledge and advice with the world. To keep this series going, we will need many more authors to step forward, so please get in contact with us if you have some advice you can share!




Getting Teams to Attend Your Tournament

Posted on November 22nd, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu
This is a guest post by Michelle Ng from Without Limits Ultimate
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Most teams take level of competition into account when deciding which tournaments to attend.  Elite teams choose their schedule almost purely based on what other elite teams will be attending, and even less competitive teams are likely to check out a list of teams who have attended your tournament in the past or see who else has committed to attending this year.  Teams usually choose events where they will get at-level games and/or have the opportunity to play teams a tier up.  Recruiting teams for a tournament can be extremely challenging, but is crucial to developing a top-notch event.  It is also one of the best opportunities to learn about players' and teams' stories, and to help create opportunities for their continued development.

How do you convince teams to attend your tournament?

  • Build relationships with players and teams. My friends have been crucial to the success of the events that I have run.  In the beginning, they took a chance on my events, and now players who were once their rookies support my work.  That relationship gets built over the course of a season, and over many years.  Take the time to learn players’ names, to chat with the winning team after the weekend, and to follow teams’ seasons.  Investing in the people who attend your events is both wise and extremely rewarding.
  • Contact teams individually - court the teams you want to attend.
  • Do your homework - every year, there is going to be a team or two that has a breakout year.  Make it your mission to find those teams before they blow up, and create opportunities for them.
  • Work hard to build an event that teams will want to attend. Get the right teams on board, draw sponsors in, generate excitement about the weekend, and when teams show up, run a quality tournament where they don’t have to worry about any of the logistics or details.
  • Get information to teams early, keep people informed, and answer questions and address concerns in a timely manner.
How do you attract top teams to an unproven tournament?
  • Before the season starts, the top teams talk to each other and plan their seasons around each other. Present these teams with opportunities early.
  • It takes time - a great tournament doesn’t get built in one year; it requires years of investment and dedication.
  • Don’t leave the local and regional teams out.  It is easy to become consumed with getting the best teams in the country to attend a tournament, but your relationship with the teams around you can be incredibly important to the long-term health of an event.  Develop a D-II with play-in potential or run a qualifier tournament. Don’t simply turn your back on the local teams.
  • Develop the “story” behind your tournament. Every tournament has something that makes it special. The tournament's "story" involves your vision for the tournament, your co-organizers, the players and teams who attend your tournament, and your event’s place among a season packed with other tournaments.  Develop a vision for your tournament, and build a team of organizers who believe in this vision and who can execute it.
How do you keep the top teams coming back?
  • Build relationships (this can't be stated enough times) - a tournament isn’t just about a weekend of ultimate. It’s a stepping stone in teams’ and programs’ development.  Take the time and energy to care about the players and teams who attend your event, and the impact your event will have on their season and on their ultimate experiences. For me, that perspective has been a game-changer in the way I think about planning tournaments.
  • Ensure that the level of competition meets people’s expectations (whether this be at the national, regional, or conference level).
  • Run an excellent event - your job as the Tournament Director is to serve the players and teams in attendance.  Go above and beyond - every moment of the weekend should be about making sure things go smoothly and troubleshooting problems before they happen.
  • Pay attention to the details - keep the line for the trainer manageable, fill water constantly, report scores every single round, blow the cap horn on time, etc.
  • Communicate well with teams before, during, and after the event.
  • Create an “experience” at your event - the Saturday night BBQ / dance-off at Women’s College Centex is my favorite example of this.  
How soon do you need to advertise?
  • 6-8 months in advance for an elite level tournament.
  • 4-6 months in advance for a local or regional tournament.
What are the best channels for finding teams?
  • Email teams directly - blast everyone, and write individual emails to teams.
  • Post on RSD / USAU message board.
  • Put up a tournament website and keep it updated with information.
  • Contact the teams who have attended your events in the past.

Michelle has run 25 tournaments over the past six years.  Her work has ranged from local hat tournaments to some of the biggest women's tournaments in the country, and from getting new tournaments off the ground to helping run well-known, established tournaments.  Her favorite tournament as an organizer is Women's College Centex, and she believes that the best tournaments are the events that bring together competition and community. 

Increasing Your Tournament's Fun Factor

Posted on November 15th, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu
This is a guest post by Fred Spanjaard from Windmill Windup
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As a Tournament Director, there is nothing better than those moments when you look around and see your tournament running as it should be – discs flying across the playing fields, the colossal cheer of a massive layout somewhere in the distance, the smiling faces of people enjoying each other’s company and their surroundings, and everything running smoothly.  Because let’s face it – there is quite some pressure when putting on a tournament.  Players and teams these days have quite a few choices when it comes to picking which tournament to go to, and as a result, they are getting critical in assessing the value for their money.  Tournaments need to be priced properly, provide solid playing and living facilities, and at the same time possess a seriously high fun factor.

The fun factor is something we take very seriously at the Windmill Windup in Amsterdam.  By leveraging the large core group of people that put in great amounts of work to make our tournament a success every year, we are able to make sure we fill the tournament with the best shows, bands, activities, games and all sorts of things to see, do, and read throughout the tourney.  Over the years, we have gotten better at choosing our entertainment. This article is a look into some of the insights we have gained over time. Please note, these suggestions are based on my experience with European tournaments – where players stay on site for most of the tournament. 

Activity Based Suggestions

Quality is better than quantity

You can fill a tournament with cool activities and this can be good, but if even one of the aspects of your tournament’s entertainment is shabby, this will be what the players remember.  I won’t try to get into the human psyche behind the phenomena, and maybe it says more about me than it does about the tournaments, but I more clearly remember the shabby parts of tournaments than the great things, so it is very wise to be sure that the quality of the show or activity is good enough to entertain your patrons.

The Main Event is essential

In Europe, it is traditional that tournaments host a Saturday evening party – a main event of sorts.  Organizing a tournament without a good Saturday party is like watching a Woody Allen movie without Woody Allen in it – possible, but extremely lame. You should assess your crowd and choose an act that balances accessibility with interesting and cool.  Poor extremes that I have experienced in Europe include a 2 hour long CD with 80s music (too accessible, limited coolness factor) and on the other end of the spectrum, a minimalist band that was interesting for 10 minutes – after that I just wanted to dance.  In the end you want at least 80% of your people to enjoy at least 80% of your party.

Bring the city to the tournament

It’s always an unfortunate paradox to go to a tournament in a cool city, and realize when you came home that you were in Pisa, for instance, and never saw the leaning tower.  Ultimate tournaments in Europe tend to be intense on-location events which require a player to add some days before or after the tourney to explore the city.  Of course players always can choose to go into the city, but during the Windmill, we try to bring the city to the tournament.  No, we don’t build a mini red light district, or dig canals around the fields – but we bring local artists, serve traditional Dutch foods, and incorporate Amsterdam themes into events like our beer race and pub quiz.  It makes the player feel like there was some local interaction even if they didn’t make it into the city.

Stick to the roots of the sport

The ultimate lifestyle has great appeal for a great deal of the players in our community.  For instance, at tournaments like the Windmill Windup, where players camp on or near the fields, there is always a heightened sense of community that makes putting on a fun tournament a great deal easier.  We have found other features that stay close to the “hippy” roots of the sport to be successful.  Example : this past year, we rented a hand-made tent made by a hippy from the dutch countryside, and filled it with acoustic musicians and shows. Very 1960s, and very nice to stop by and hang-out or sing.

Don’t forget to innovate

So while we had our acoustic throwback events in the hippy tent, we also added wifi access and live scoring in the main tent – one needs to keep innovative as well!  Innovation from a technology point of view and simple change are necessary.  People get bored of the same thing every year.  Just this year, I opted not to go to 2 different tournaments because I knew exactly what I was going to get, and it wasn’t enough.

Use your scale and demographic to your advantage

One time, we approached an up and coming band about doing a gig at our tournament.  They had just played the small room of the the Paradiso, a famous venue in Amsterdam.  As a result, their manager was hesitant to have them play a frisbee tournament.  When you put it like that, sure, it makes sense, but when I assured him that the larger part of 1500 people from all over Europe would definitely attend their show, they became interested and ended up rockin the 2010 Windmill party for a reasonable amount of money.  Your scale and captive audience can certainly be of advantage to you as you book entertainment.

Take the occasional risk

In choosing entertainment options, like in life, sometimes it pays off to take a risk.  Consider paying a bit more for a top act, choosing a form of entertainment never done before at a tournament in your area, demonstrating another sport or attempting to break a world record at your tournament. Of course there are certain risks in these decisions (time invested and other costs) but ultimate players are a very diverse crowd and are open for a lot of new stuff. If it’s a hit, you can build growth of your tournament around it. If not, then lesson learned, and it wasn’t that painful was it? A Windmill example was the mingle mingle – a game that one of our organization team assured us would go over well, even on a large scale.  The TDs debated, and decided to take the risk.  The mingle mingle has become a Windmill Windup classic.

It’s nice to have things to do

We make sure to fill our tournament grounds with all sorts of little things to do before, between and after games.  For instance, for the Windmill, we built a few cornhole sets, we bought a second-hand ping pong table, we posted billboards about the cool stuff that the tournament was up to (charity work, contests, tourney info), we rented a dunk-tank where a disc hitting a target sends someone on a plank into a bath of cold water, we built an accuracy grid, etc.  The more stuff there is to do, the better, as bored players tend to complain more!

Learn from events and tournaments that you visit

By keeping our eyes open while travelling to tournaments, festivals and other fun activities, the organizational crew of our tournament has learned a great deal about what works well and what doesn’t, giving us ideas that could be used at our tournament as well.

Operational Suggestions

Brainstorm with your team

The people in your organizational team and/or local disc community likely comprise an extremely diverse and interesting set of interests and friends. Give them a platform to share their ideas and connections, and you will find that cheap and interesting entertainment will come out of it. Facebook groups or local bar brainstorm sessions can be an extremely helpful means to get this accomplished, and TDs should not discount the value of ownership this creates among tournament staff. As an example, we have a guy on our team that sings in a choir, so this year we are looking into hosting the whole choir for some Sunday morning singing action…stay tuned Windmill public!

Maintain a database of ideas

It is very easy to forget about great ideas as a result of a small barrier that exists today, but may not exist in a few months. We have made this mistake before and now maintain an ideas document which we revisit from time to time.  This year, for example, we are looking into two ideas that were brought up more than 5 years ago, and are now feasible because of increased scale.

Create hype and build-up about an event or activity

It takes people a long time to get used to new things and ideas. This past summer, we added an event called the accuracy competition, by which a guy in an elephant suit rides a big transport bike across the field, and anyone who throws their disc in the bike’s container would win a hoody.  Cool idea, and a great event.  However, we under-promoted it, and maybe 1 in 8 players had a disc with them when the event started.  It was still a success, but we learned that next year, we need to make sure that every player is fully aware so that we can get far more participation – Windmill participants will read about it on the site, the Facebook page, the tournament booklet, in on-site promotion, and hear about it over the PA. Awareness is key, as people in general need time to get used to an idea, and they need to know that the person next to them is also aware and participating.

In conclusion, the entertainment that will work and is possible at your tournament will vary from other tournaments, and you know what will work best for your tournament.  By using some very basic ideas when it comes to thinking about the type of content, managing the idea flow, leveraging your scale and people, and making logical choices about what your patrons are interested in, you can make your event extremely memorable so attendees will always feel like they are getting their money’s worth.

Fred Spanjaard co-founded the Windmill Windup, Europe’s largest grass tournament, and has been TD since its inaugural edition in 2005.  He has organized several other smaller tournaments all with the goal of growing the ultimate scene in Amsterdam and the rest of Holland.  He and his co-TDs Frans Passchier and Michael Cummings have also formed 2 student teams in the city, and head up various ultimate growth related initiatives.

Cancelling a Tournament: The Best Worst Case Scenario

Posted on November 8th, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu
This is a guest post by Elliot Trotter, Editor-in-Chief of Skyd Magazine
For more TD Tuesdays articles:

You’ve spent months organizing your event down to the last detail. All the bagels and peanut butter have been purchased. After over 8 hours of lining fields and setting up tents in blistering heat, you’re finally ready to go. Day one goes without much of a hitch. A few clouds here and there but discs were flying. You check the weather forecast for day two of three before you get to sleep around 1am. You wake up at 4am and head to the fields to set up cones. After a couple rounds of play the rain starts to come down and you see the damage being created on the fields. In the back of your mind you know you have to cancel.

This article is all about helping TD’s provide the best service possible. I hope that this look into the internal processes is beneficial to TD’s and anyone who wants an inside look at decisions made by real people in real world situations. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Now back to our story.

Any tournament director knows that running an event is not a walk in the park. It’s a lot of hard work that almost always goes underappreciated and certainly underpaid. Anyone that says otherwise deserves a cleat to the face (figuratively speaking of course). When you’re sleep-deprived after having spent exuberant amounts of your life preparing for this one weekend so you can bring some happiness to a ton of awesome people, cancelling a tournament is the last thing you want to do. But there are many scenarios where this has to happen. Here are some ways to minimize risk and create the best possible scenario for all parties involved.

Selecting your field site

Before you even run your event, finding the right field site is crucial. While this will be addressed in other articles in this series, a couple things to keep in mind are:

  1. Do the fields drain water well?
  2. What are the risks of the site needing to cancel the event?
  3. How easily do cleats damage the ground?
  4. How easily can I get a hold of the site staff?
Assess Risk

There are a lot of reasons a tournament should be cancelled. Maybe there’s a risk of some toxic valley air, or the fields have accumulated too much rain-water. Acclimate weather is my personal favorite. The sooner you know that something is wrong the better. Know your fields. Know the staff that runs your field site and be in constant communication with them in the weeks leading up to your event. A good practice is to ask for a cancellation cut-off date from your field site. This provides you with a liability window that can give you some leeway and also gives you a date to share with others as well. Be as clear about your needs and intentions as possible.

Assessing the risk of a tournament is very much based on your investment, alternate opportunities, your backup plan, and determining what’s most reasonable. Sometimes 30% chance of precipitation turns into 100% and a blizzard. Look at historical meteorological records and consider the timing of your event. All these factors weigh into the risk of running your event. I can’t tell you whether or not you should run your tournament, but I can tell you to be as informed as you can be.

Making the Call

The sooner the better. With flights booked sometimes months ahead of time (sometimes week of), the more cancellation lead time, the fewer angry emails you’ll get. If you can allow for at least a week of notice, you can save a lot of players some cash and hopefully some trips out to Las Vegas (who would ever want to go there?).

Try not to gamble. Make decisions based on the best knowledge available. True, even the best laid plans are still at risk. This is why it’s always important to have a backup plan.

The Backup Plan

Went shit hits the fan, it’s important to have a contingency plan. This may seem like a no-brainer, but having a good backup plan is sometimes harder than running a tournament itself. In your initial field search you’ll want to find some alternates and stay in touch with the administration staff. Ask them about their reservation policies and what day of costs may look like. Let them know that you’d like to keep them in mind as possible backup sites and check in on their schedules to make sure the sites have room for your event in the worst case scenario.

This may sounds familiar – how exactly am I supposed to afford reserving three alternate field sites when I can barely afford to pay myself? Very good question. Unfortunately, there’s no perfect solution. But here are some ideas:

  • Include backup field reservation costs in bid
  • Reverse multiple field locations (that individually may not be large enough to hold your tournament)
  • Partner with a local school or university to get reduced cost or free alternate field locations
Getting Creative

In some scenarios your main field site will cancel on you. Often, your back up fields will not offer the same space and accommodation that your main site had and as a result you’ll need to augment the timing of the tournament. This is where ideas like shorter round times and switching up schedules to function more as a round robin come into place.

In some scenarios your back up fields may not even have the space to run shorter rounds. Maybe it’s too dangerous to even play outside. There are a ton of scenarios that put you as a TD up against the wall (and nobody puts TD in a corner). Yes, everyone came out to your tournament to play Ultimate but in lieu of that you want to create the best experience possible.

Here are some crazy ideas for the eleventh hour (when cancellation has to happen mid-tournament or after participants have already arrived):

  • Switch to an indoor tournament (a consideration in reserving backup fields)
  • Switch to a Goaltimate tournament (it’s really the best disc sport out there anyway)
  • Switch to a Dischoops tournament
  • Rent a party space or a restaurant and provide teams with free pizza and/or beverages
Switching tournament dates is very doable. However, doing so may force a lot of teams to drop due to conflicts and dramatically changed the success of the tournament from a participatory standpoint. That’s not to say that you won’t be able to run a great tournament on a different date. It’s just important to realize that often teams plan their season well in advance and don’t have the flexibility to attend a later date. This can throw budgets off and create other problems.

All of this non-sense brings me to another important point:

Communicate with your Participants

When tournaments are in the midst of cancellation, leaving your participants in the dark isn’t much fun for anyone. Bad communication can lead to confused expectations.

  1. Communicate in tried and true ways. Call each of your participants directly. Update your website. Send out emails. Make sure that you have a response from every participant representative that indicates they understand the circumstances.
  2. Be incredibly clear about options. If you’re offering an alternate plan from the original, make sure participants are aware of what’s available. Gauge what people are most interested in doing. If it’s Dischoops, it’s Dischoops. But sometimes people just want to play Ultimate. And when alternative plans aren’t going to work, sometimes you just have to offer refunds.

Clearly cancellations are a lousy situation for all parties. From a player standpoint, you just invested a ton of money to travel somewhere that may not be worthwhile otherwise and you don’t get to do the thing you paid for: Ultimate. From an organizational standpoint, you just invested a ton of money and months of planning only to have to ruin the weekends of a ton of Ultimate players. The money you’ve already put into renting fields, buying food, renting equipment, flying a staff out somewhere, etc. have already been invested.

Often, providing refunds is an impossibility due to invested costs. If you are able to offer a refund of legitimate amount and still cover your costs, then that puts a little bit of ease on your participants. This leads to our last point which is to communicate with your participants the stipulations and scenarios of your refunds.

Prior to the event it’s key to let your participants know the risks of paying for a tournament. Let them know what your refund policy is either on your website or explicitly in emails. If your participants are informed they won’t be surprised if you tell them that there won’t be any refunds. They’ll understand that they took a risk in deciding to participate in your event. This may hang on you or your organization as a result, but it’s not your fault for covering your own costs. NO TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR SHOULD GO INTO DEBT BECAUSE OF AN EVENT CANCELLATION.

In Conclusion

As the lack of flow charts indicates, this article isn’t meant to provide the perfect direction for tournament cancellation and how to create the best situation possible in its wake. The keys to taking a situation like this in stride are:

  1. Preparing for the worst (alternate field sites, field cancellation policies)
  2. Assess Risk
  3. Make cancellation decisions early
  4. Communicate with participants (altered tournament plans, refund policies)
  5. Cover your costs
  6. Play Dischoops
Elliot Trotter has run and organized over 20 tournaments nationwide, both as a regional coordinator and with the tournament management company Cultimate. He is now the Editor-in-Chief of Skyd Magazine.

Creating a Tournament Timeline: Big Picture Organizing

Posted on November 1st, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu

This is a guest post by Joe Mulder, the tournament director for Colorado Cup
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One of the first steps after agreeing to run a tournament is to develop a working timeline.  This will lay the groundwork for the many tasks ahead and ensure they are done in a timely and efficient manner.  In turn, following your timeline will minimize your stress and workload.  If the tournament has been run previously, gather notes, invoices, emails and any other past tournament information you can find to help you develop a manageable timeline.  If this is a new tournament, start planning early.  Be creative but realistic in your timeline goals.  

Start this process several months in advance so that you can spread out the work.  If you’re like most tournament directors, you have to juggle this sizable role while maintaining your personal and professional life also.  Help yourself as much as possible – start sooner rather than later.  

Find the “pieces”

One of the first tasks is to gather all the information you have on the tournament.  If it is a new tournament, then create a list of all the different elements of the tournament.  Mentally walk yourself through the day(s) of the event writing down all of the various components that come to mind. Be sure to include parts of the tournament that are “behind the scenes”, such as insurance, recruiting volunteers, booking the fields, etc.  

Once you have gathered all your different “puzzle” pieces, take an educated guess for about how long each component will take to complete.  Note the ones you plan to delegate to other tournament volunteers and the ones you plan to take on yourself.  This will allow for better time management and a more accurate timeline.  

If you are unsure what timeframes to allot for various pieces, make an educated guess, ask people who have tournament experience, or talk through the series of events and discuss reasonable times.  A little internet research and a few phone calls can usually provide enough information to make a good educated guess.  However, if it concerns one of the major components of your tournament, such as field availability, it is worth digging a little deeper to get rock solid information.  If you must guess on a timeframe, guess conservatively.  It is much better to give yourself a few extra days to get something done than the other way around – a few extra days you can work with, too few days will create big problems.  

Be sure to schedule a few times to check in with your volunteers to ensure their tasks are getting completed.  Delegating tasks to others will help balance your workload, but don’t assume all those tasks are magically done.  Schedule a couple checkpoints throughout your timeline at which point you dedicate time to helping volunteers with any of their assigned tasks.  It is far easier to help a volunteer complete their task than to get it dumped back in your lap at the last minute.  

Put the puzzle together

Print out a calendar from the present until the tournament date.  After filling in personal and work events, fill in tournament tasks according to the timeframes you associated with each of the elements. If you see one week that looks daunting or overwhelming, try shifting a few tasks sooner or further out on the calendar.  Or explore the option of delegating an assignment to a volunteer.   Spreading the tasks out can really help to maximize your time for all the surprises that pop up along the way.  Be sure to build in extra time on your calendar so that you are not inundated with last minute work right before the event.  

Don’t be afraid to deviate from or modify your timeline.  If you can get a task completed ahead of time, then do it. If you find that you need to bump a task back, make sure it can still be completed on time.  If not, delegate the task to one of your reliable volunteers.  

Check off the tasks as you complete them.  It feels good to be able to glance at your timeline and see tasks checked off.  It can also alert you to something that might have been put on hold before it becomes a large problem.  

Take notes

As you work through your timeline, make sure to keep notes on each individual task.  Whether it is contact information, more accurate timeframe dates, or task efficiencies – write it down next to the task so that you can improve your timeline next year.  

Building a document of tasks and notes that correspond to a specific event timeline can help to minimize your workload.  This level of organization is important to allow you the time to devote to improving the tournament in future years.  As your timeline becomes more condensed and efficient due to your scrupulous notes, challenge yourself to add a new element each year, or to build extra time in specific areas you wish to improve.  

Whether hand written or typed, a well thought out timeline can be a big help.  As you sift your way through the many intricacies of running a tournament, you will find a need for organization, thus your timeline gives you something to rely on.  Keeping good notes as you go will help you delegate tasks to others in the future.  Make the role as Tournament Director as easy and smooth as possible by creating a tournament timeline for yourself.  This basic element of organization does not take very long to create and will end up saving you several headaches along the way.  

Model Tournament Timeline

4 months prior
  • Secure fields
  • Arrange insurance
  • Design logo for gear, merchandise, etc.
  • Recruit primary tournament volunteers
  • Develop sponsorship packet
3 months prior
  • Build website (for larger tournaments)
  • Create budget- setting bid amount and budgeting money for different components 
  • Order discs, jerseys, merchandise
  • Continue recruiting sponsors
2 months prior
  • Create tournament guide
  • Send out bid announcements or invitations
  • Arrange tournament party and/or dinner
  • Order tournament prizes
  • Put event info online (custom website, Leaguevine, Score Reporter, etc)
1 month prior
  • Create tournament schedule
  • Begin recruiting Tournament volunteers
  • Rent tents, tables and any other equipment needed
3 weeks prior
  • Place field food orders
  • Send out press releases
2 weeks prior
  • Secure remaining volunteers
  • Confirm with vendors, volunteers, etc. 
1 week before Tournament
  • Line fields
  • Pickup any field food ahead of time that you can
  • Pack player/team packs

Joe Mulder has served as Tournament Director for Colorado Cup and the City of Boulder’s Hook the Chinook Disc Golf Tournament.  Currently, he serves on the Board of Directors and as Youth Program Coordinator for Grass Roots Ultimate (GRU) in Boulder, Colorado.  

Writing a Tournament Schedule

Posted on October 25th, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu
This is a guest post by Benji Heywood, Director of Competitions for UK Ultimate
For more TD Tuesdays articles:
Photo courtesy of Windmill Windup

First things first - this isn't going to be a format-manual kind of article. That would be very long, and there's sure to be some particular constraint at your venue or with your number of teams that makes your case different... Instead, I'm just going to talk about some of the things that might help if you're inexperienced at writing schedules. First, and most important:

The Golden Rule of Scheduling: 
You WILL get it wrong

I've written hundreds of schedules, for big events and small, and the most crucial advice I can give is to get someone else to check it. Really check it, not just glance at it and assume you've got it vaguely right. No matter how careful you are, there'll be an error in there. I still miss something every single time. It might be that a game is missing or played twice; it might be that the pools are seeded so as to have rematches in the Quarters; it might be that you moved some games around to avoid some other problem and now a team is playing two games at the same time. 

It might be something tiny, like the order of games in a pool (usually best to play the most important games last) or the fact that you could rearrange it so that quarter-final opponents could watch each other. There are a million ways to make a complete mess of it, and also a million small improvements that could tidy up an already usable schedule. It's like writing an essay - there's always something else you could tweak, right up to the moment you hand it in.

An example from this year, which I particularly enjoyed: I put the women's matches on the far pitches at a big tournament, and got complaints that it was too far from the toilets - girls can't go in the woods so easily. There's always something...

Schedules are complicated, and you cannot keep the whole thing in your head; when you make a change, it's very hard to go through and check that you didn't cause another problem, because it's all so familiar already and checking is boring. Get someone to look at it with fresh eyes.

Games and game-breaks

Different countries accept different schedules. In the UK, we run schedules that mainland Europe wouldn't consider; USAU run schedules that we wouldn't touch with a 30-foot pole. The UPA format manual, for example, might have you playing in a pool of seven, then a bracket with as many as 3 games to finish - 9 in a weekend. The player base is perhaps used to that, and will bring huge squads that can cope with the demands of playing maybe 4 times in 5 slots; at UK tournaments, or indeed at fun tournaments with smaller squads, that sort of schedule is not going to be popular - we have an absolute horror of 3-in-a-row at official tournaments. In the UK we always try to play 3 games per day, 2 of them back-to-back (so that you only warm up twice); in much of Europe, playing even 2 in a row would be considered a shockingly bad schedule. So i guess a big thing to think about is your intended audience - squads of 20 or squads of 8? Athletes or drunks?

The type of schedule you run depends on the type of event - at fun tournaments it's crucial that everyone gets a similar number of games, whereas at a regional event it might be more important to qualify the correct 3 teams, and who cares if the guys who got knocked out on saturday just go home? Again, I can only speak for the UK, and say that any schedule in which the busiest team would play more than 2 more games than the least busy team would be no good to us. Whenever possible, we try to write so that there is no more than one game difference between the team who plays most and the team who plays least. You all pay the same entry fee, so you should get the same number of games (within the constraints of funny numbers of teams or additional qualification games).

Basic advice

You cannot write a fair schedule. All you can do is decide where to compromise. Anyone who's seen a full round-robin, like for example in English football, will know that teams rest players for certain games  - so even the league is not completely fair. The order of matches matters. And it's clear that any schedule where you don't play every opponent is open to unfairness in seeding. There is no such thing as a fair schedule. Give up on that idea now. Constraints (such as a maximum number of games without exhausting players, or maximum number of fields or time-slots, or horrible odd numbers of teams) merely add to the unfairness that is already somewhere in there. But here's a couple of things that might help a little...

First off, unless you're running something complicated (like an event that qualifies a certain number of teams for another event - and let's face it, if you are part of a bigger championship there'll probably be scheduling help available anyway) then the first thing you look at is how many games you want people to play. Set a maximum and a minimum, and then choose your pool sizes, number of crossover rounds, and brackets to meet that number. It's a non-trivial task to fit a fair schedule to the right number of games, but it's always a far better idea than wasting your time inventing fabulously fair schedules with multiple crossovers and power-pools and then realizing you'll need until next Wednesday to play all the games.

Deal with teams in multiples of 8 wherever possible, and multiples of 4 at worst. If you've got funny numbers, 99% of the time you're better off pretending that you've got a multiple of 4 and putting byes in the schedule. We've tried a whole bunch of times to write schedules with clever bits where pools of 3 go into power-pools of 3 then a modified bracket etc... it almost never turns out well, and I don't think we've ever really used one of those schedules at an actual tournament. They lead to things like rested teams playing unrested teams, people having three games off in a row, fields lying empty, and all sorts of weird stuff. That may be fine for a qualifier where the most important thing is simply to make sure that the best x teams qualify, but it won't wash at an ordinary event. If you want to finish with neat brackets, start off simple, in 4s and 8s. 

If you put in any form of crossovers, triple check what will happen in the next matches. Seeding the pools is non-trivial if you want to avoid rematches later on.

Remember that odd-numbered pools eat up pitches - for example, 2 pools of 4 (8 teams) can be played on 2 pitches in a day (6 time slots); 1 pool of 5 also requires 2 pitches all day (6 time slots again - 5 slots if you're prepared to make some people play 4 games in a row). It still frustrates me, but that's just the way it is. Thinking of nice 3, 5 or 7 team pools in your head is no use until you actually sit down and squeeze it onto your pitches - more often than you expect, it won't fit.


I could go on. I could write about 50,000 words on the intricacies of scheduling - for example, the UPA format manual is a fantastic document that tries to cope with any number of teams, and it's looong; and even then it doesn't come close to covering all the possible situations that might apply at an event (e.g. not enough pitches, constraints on back-to-back games, the team from far away can't start before midday) and doesn't touch the finesse parts of the schedule itself (as opposed to the format) like making sure that back-to-back games are not at opposite ends of the venue, making sure there's a decent lunch break for every team, making sure that the girls are near the toilets...

All I can say to you here is keep it simple, only accept entries in 4s where possible, and if it gets complicated, find an expert. Offer to pay the guy who wrote that great schedule at that other tournament you went to, even - you'll get no thanks for writing a good schedule, but the abuse you get for a bad one means it's worth doing what you can to get it right. A genuinely well-written schedule is of real value to every player who shows up, even if they only notice it when it's gone wrong - so if you need to pay someone to make sure it's done well, I'd say this isn't a place to be scared of spending a few dollars. A good schedule might not make people come back next year, but a bad one might well put them off.


Benji Heywood has chaired the UK Ultimate Scheduling Committee since its inception, and is regularly consulted about events both large and small. He has also TD'd a number of events, and as Director of Competitions oversees all official UKU tournaments.

Creating a Tournament Budget: Cost Estimates

Posted on October 18th, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu

This is a guest post by Chris Olig (aka. Bus) from Midwest Ultimate
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Ultimate has the exponential growth to become an international household name, but it’s how we grow the sport that will affect how quickly and in what way this will occur.  Tournament Directors play a large part in expansion of the sport, in that every player has to start someplace, and it’s the best experiences that harbor the most growth.  This is not the answer all of how an event should be ran, as every event is different, but this should cover many of the bases in order to start a successful event.
Any tournament director’s first concern should be not losing money and their second concern should be keeping the cost reasonable for players.  This creates a fine line for providing enough to keep players happy while providing a low enough cost to draw teams in.  To accomplish this, it's best to create a list of necessary aspects vs things to make your event stand out. 


Field cost is the main issue that can come up, and depending on how many teams you want to come can dictate the number of fields necessary.  For 6 fields or less, you can likely get city parks or the fields donated, but for numbers higher than that you generally need to look at soccer parks, polo grounds, and other complexes to find the space and resources you need.  These aspects will make your tournament easier, but many of them rent out for between $1000 and $5000 a weekend.
Facilities (Porta potties, showers, camping)

Your next cost will be toilets at a general cost of $100 per unit per weekend.  If you're at a complex that has facilities, that can help, but park representatives are not a fan of public urination, so you will want additional if your fields are spread apart.  For 6 fields or less, you can get by with one per day.  As you add more teams, fields, and time they will be there (ie. tournament party, camping) you will need to take that into consideration.  Here is a best estimate of how many will be necessary:
  • 4-8 teams = 1 porta potty
  • 9-12 teams = 2
  • 12-24 teams = 3
  • 20-28 = 4
Past that, you want a porta potty between every group of 4 fields.  If you have camping or a tournament party away from a shelter with running water, you will want to figure 3 porta potties per 6 fields with another set of 3 near tournament/party central.  Invest in 2 spare rolls of TP for each one as well.
Food (Bananas, bagels)

Ultimate players expect bananas and bagels, and everything past that is generally considered 'above and beyond'.   Numbers for food is 20lbs of bananas (one case) for every 12 teams at a general cost of $18 per case and 12 bagels per team at around $5 a dozen.  Players don't need lunch provided, but should be warned ahead of time.   However, if you do need to feed your participants it can be very expensive, and can run $10 a person for food, beverages, etc.  All inclusive pasta meal is a great choice, but even if you go for a less expensive option such as sub platters, additional costs such as chips, cookies, and beverages can quickly bring the cost up.  Also be aware that some teams will bring more players than others, so you must either let these teams know you will only provide enough for a certain number of their players, require a count/roster from those teams, or have a plan to feed those extra players.

With water, you always want more rather than less.  Heat obviously plays the biggest factor, but a general rule is to give access to 4 gallons of water per day per team for average or low temperatures and 8+ gallons that if the temperature is above 85 degrees Fahrenheit.  5 gallon water coolers at around $30 each are a good investment for any annual event, but require a lot of storage for the off season.  Individual gallons of water are a great reusable resource at around $0.50 per gallon, but are frequently difficult to transport.  Feel free to talk to local supermarkets and water distributers, as often times it’s a great way for them to offer support for your event.
Other Considerations

As a tournament gets larger, so does the cost and there is a reverse bell curve between number of attendees and cost for additional amenities, with the bottom cost at around 12 to 16 teams.  Local charity events (6-12 teams) can run at a cost of around $50 per team, as often times the fields will be donated, but as the event gets larger there are other requirements that come up.  Directors of large tournaments need to consider aspects such as insurance requirements, signage, tournament guides, schwag for volunteers and staff, gear sales, golf carts, field lining, tents, tables and chairs, and entertainment. 
Take a 32 team tournament as an example.  It's generally safe to estimate 20 players a team, which makes 640 participants to plan for.   To charge $250 a team would give you an $8000 budget, in which case you will need to make some tough choices on where to allocate the funds.  Sales of schwag and others can make up for the difference, but it's tough to estimate shirt, food, and beverage sales, with overestimating having a possibility of costing you money in the long run.  In past experiences, it’s a good idea to plan for one in every thirty dollars to go towards miscellaneous funds, as there is always an unexpected cost that will come up. (ie. $500 for every $15000)

In order to advance the sport, we need to hold every event to a standard that offers the same experience to the top tier teams as the newer, less experienced teams.  And, every tournament director should have a dream for their event that should grow as the event grows.  Taking these things into account, the decision still remains ‘what you want your event to be’, and it’s likely that the best tournament ideas have not even been born yet.  

Chris Olig (aka. Bus) organizes Ultimate events throughout the Midwest including the Wisconsin Swiss tournament in Madison, WI.  With over 16 years of Ultimate Frisbee experience, his directing résumé spans over 30 events of varying size including volunteer coordinator for the 2010 USA Ultimate College Nationals.  With his organization, Midwest Ultimate, he hopes to bring together events and coordinators throughout the region in order to harbor the high standard required for growth as a sport. 

Acquiring Sponsorships (Response from Frans Passchier)

Posted on October 14th, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu
This is a guest post by Frans Passchier from Windmill Windup.
After every TD Tuesdays post, if you send an insightful response to, it will get posted on this blog for all to see.

Hi there Adam,
Thanks for writing an article on sponsorship, I just learned a number of things that I could do to increase the value of our sponsorships. I’m the TD of the Windmill Windup in Amsterdam and we have experienced a similar growth over the past 7 years (hosting 1400 players from all over Europe in 2011). We’ve learned most by trial and error and managed to build  a solid core of loyal sponsors.
I’d like to add some of our own experiences and tips for others to take notice of. Hope it helps:
Go through the list of current suppliers and see what you can get from them.
A few advantages:
  1. No need for introduction,  you’re already acquainted and hopefully you’ve established a good rapport with your vendor.
  2. Vendors and suppliers want to keep you as a customer and are willing to take less profit if this will guarantee a continuation of the partnership.
You may also offer longer term deals, start with 2/3 year as this will provide continuation for both parties and it will save some energy to go through negotiations every year

What to ask? Could be anything as long it is of value to your event. Products, discounts, samples, sponsor money etc.. I always ask for discounts to anyone, surprising to see how many times you can get one. Don’t be shy or afraid you look gready, it’s quite ok to drive a hard bargain as long as you keep the relationship intact.
Ask for a bid (in which you ask for sponsor value as well)

For instance, we have Bavaria as one of our sponsors which is the second biggest brewery in Holland (trailing Heineken obviously). Once we realized that our beer sales were substantial (around 3.500 liters) we have asked a couple of beer companies to make a bid for the exclusive sales. This resulted in a discount (10-15%), free use of all materials (worth around E 1500) and a value of E 1500 yearly.  So we got a total of 40% discount basically which saves us much money every year. And it was money that was up for grabs once you have a position with regards to beer sales. This would work too with smaller amounts although volume helps big time.
Another good idea is asking crew and people around you where they work and what the sponsor strategy of their organization is

We have added a major sponsor just because someone knew someone. Larger organizations especially have budgets for charity/projects they can spend on a yearly basis. If they like your event and your goals they might just give you some money. If you ask for money make sure though you have a great story and presentation.
Creating extra value to your partners/sponsors by offering a link to your green policy or charities

If you have a strategy towards CSR you can offer organizations to link them to it. We have done so with Lookfly and Bavaria as they have a great track record on green en clean production processes. This works both ways. You can offer value to (potential) sponsors AND you add value to your own operation by showing that you make an effort to reduce your carbon footprint/work ethically.
Hope this helps.
TD Windmill windup Amsterdam

Acquiring Sponsorships: Playing the Percentages

Posted on October 11th, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu
This is a TD Tuesdays guest post by Adam Levy of Ultimate Performance Chicago.
For more TD Tuesdays articles:
For more reference materials on sponsorships:

My name is Adam Levy and I have been the Event Director of Ultimate Chicago Sandblast since 2003. Sandblast is a co-ed beach ultimate Frisbee tournament held on the sandy beaches of Chicago, Illinois that has increased to 60 teams and more than 1,000 player participants, volunteers and spectators in 2011.

Based on the number of high quality ultimate Frisbee tournaments on the calendar for our community, I have always been driven by the opportunity to differentiate Sandblast and maintain the highest reputation and rate of return of player participants. To that goal and in addition to the increase in quality and quantity of our teams and players from across the United States, a large focus has been on driving the value towards those player participants through the generous support of many national corporate sponsors.

The goal of this article is to share some of my experience and perceived success in this area of event sponsorship such that other national tournament directors can become EVENT directors and take their EVENTS to another level of success for all involved.

History of Sandblast

More than eleven years ago, the trend of beach ultimate picked up across the country and the world as new and friendlier surface for our ultimate Frisbee community to come together. In the summer of 2001, a pair of Chicago ultimate players, Nate Volkman and Jet Quennemon, came up with the idea of hosting a 16-team two-day co-ed tournament on Montrose Beach. The first year was very successful and the second even more so as they offered core tournament amenities of water, fruit, bagels and a Saturday night tournament party.

At the time the tournament had started, I was living in Southern California and after returning back to Chicago in 2002, I reached out to the guys in early 2003 offering to help. They had enjoyed their experience and were ready for something new so they handed the reins over to me and the rest is history.

What was a 16-team, all Chicago-based tournaments quickly expanded to outside of Chicago through my recruiting into Wisconsin, Michigan and other bordering states. Over the years, I am proud to have recruited teams consistent from across the Midwest as far south as Texas, Coast to Coast, from Canada and even overseas players and teams.

In 2011, we welcome 60 teams from across the country with more than 1,000 player participants, volunteers and spectators. Here are some of our recent highlights and achievements from our sponsorship programs:

  • In 2010, Chipotle Mexican Grill donated 1,200 burritos, 800 free chips & quac cards and gave away 200 more free burrito cards on-site.

  • In 2010, Goose Island donated 40 cases of 312 beer, Svedka donated 5 cases of vodka and Kilo Kai donated 5 cases of rum In 2011, FUZE donated 3,000 bottles of yummy fruity goodness.

  • In 2011, Qdoba Mexican Grill donated 1,000 naked burrito bowls in one day.

  • In 2011, Goose Island, Shiner Bach and Landshark Lager donated 12 kegs of beer collectively

Cutting Costs

As I reviewed the tournament history, my first attempts at sponsorship were to review the balance sheet and see where costs could quickly be eliminated with the goal of maintaining team registration fees while increasing player value and battling economic pressures. The first stages of sponsorship were reviewing common tournament goods like water, bananas, bagels, lunch supplies and the tournament party. To find potential partners, it required a significant amount of research to find local providers of these goods that were interested in supporting the community and making a positive impression. Fortunately, you can get a lot of research done by doing what you already do, but just being more observant! Going to the grocery, attending street festivals with different vendor/merchant booths or surfing the web. When I would be grocery shopping and I would see new products on the shelves, people may have thought I was a bit strange as I would be writing down names and websites for each so I can email them and introduce myself.

Positioning Statements

At the start, it helps tremendously to have a good elevator pitch about your event and most importantly about your product…the attending player participants. We have it very, very easy as our demographic is one of the most attractive in all of our communities due to TWO key factors.

One, our sport/community is made up of 40% female. I cannot cite the specific study, but there are two factors here on why females are important. Number one, they make your event balanced where your potential sponsor can hit multiple audiences versus a football or basketball game where it tends to be much more dominated by men. Number two, there may be a factor when marketers understand the reality of influence that females have over men in decisions and potentially doing the future shopping. (My apologies if this comes off as sexist, but I do have a daughter and know she is the boss and gets what she wants for the most part.)

Two, unlike basketball, soccer and football where you started learning in your driveway or backyard with family and friends, our community learns ultimate in college. College equals college degrees. College degrees equal better jobs. Better jobs equals more disposable income which is music to potential sponsors ears!

As an additional element to the “story,” I usually like to drop references to X Games and other sports that have recently taken off with a focus on how supporting and loyal the community is to those partners supporting ultimate at the ground floor. Once you start reaching out to prospective sponsors, it is important to be patient and, more importantly, persistent.

Devil in the Details and the Data

Once you secure a sponsor for your event, it is always important to be organized, responsive and thorough in summarizing their involvement. Get pictures, get quotes, get stories. Once the story was secured and as any Ultimate Chicago Sandblast attendee can testify, year after year, I have been more and more successful in increasing the level of sponsorship in the event to control registration costs while increasing player value. How did I do that? Data.

There is no greater weapon to be successful than capturing and sharing the DATA about your attending demographic audience. You will find that based on the tight economy and the death of non-DVR television (no commercials), potential sponsors are looking for unique channels to hit their target demographic and not just “spray and pray.” We have a valuable audience and it is just about proving it to them.

Doing player surveys after an event can be very tricky because you need to balance having enough questions about them and their product experience without being too many. At the same time, it also helps drive response if you have a carrot like offering tickets to a local activity, leftover event merchandise or some prizes as supplied by one of your sponsor partner. Your prospective partners understand the value of data and will support you if they know what the output will be.

Another key element is to understand what “experiential marketing” means. The easiest way to explain it is that it’s about putting products in potential consumers hands. I would include a reference to it in your positioning as it helps qualify you as knowing the lingo versus other people asking for hand-outs as there will definitely be others.

If your tournament has the fortune of raising or donating money for a charitable partner, that is important to include in your positioning as many companies can account for those donations as charitable. I would also recommend speaking with your charitable partner as they may also have relationships they can leverage to secure food, drinks and other items for your event.

Quality versus Quantity

As much as Frisbee players like free stuff, I came to learn in time that it was not necessarily about the quantity of free stuff as it is the quality. A few years ago, I started doing player packs that included samples of Advil, Chapstick, sunscreen, gum and more. Unfortunately, as the economy has gotten tougher, so has the ability to get certain product donations. It is tempting to think that more is the best, but you will find it is more work for you managing delivery, distribution and post-event follow-up in addition to sharing marketing exposure with so many logos.

As an additional note regarding the quality versus quantity, think about yourself at an ultimate tournament and the things that you bring, use and want to have with you. Food is clearly number one and then you go down the line with things like advil or medical tape. You will find that there are potential partners that will offer anything with a strong interest in promotional flyers and those are the things that proved more trouble than they were worth over time. Once again, leverage the community for ideas on what they would like to see and receive.

Target Practice

As reference above, the key is to start small and to start local. The larger national companies have gotten much more process oriented as well as focused their donations into the largest not-for-profit organizations. One of your lowest hanging fruit will be to leverage your local ultimate community to see which companies they know or may have connections. As also referenced above, in my first years, I reached out to a local fruit warehouse for bananas, apples and oranges and grabbed end-of-day bagels from the local Einstein’s. I would also recommend checking your local grocery stores as they look to compete against Target, Walmart and other super-stores, they have access to a wide range of products with a smaller, if any, marketing budget, so a trade is a great option for them.

Take advantage of how competitive and challenging the commercial landscape is and how competitive it is for all product categories, so food and drinks are a prime target and hitting the local street fests are a great opportunity to get ideas AND contacts. Keep in mind that to represent themselves at a street fest to give away product can cost several hundred dollars or more and you are offering it for FREE (to start) and again focus on the quality of the demographic.

Closing the Deal

Thank you very much for taking the time to read about my experiences as the Event Director of Ultimate Chicago Sandblast. Over the years, I have enjoyed expanding the value of my event for the player participants that return year after year and using some of the same success in support of other national events like Lei Out (Los Angeles Beach Tournament, January) and the Chicago Heavyweight Championships (Chicago Grass Tournament, September). Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions, comments or stories about your sponsorship successes and failures. It would be a pleasure to hear and potentially work with you to enhance the value and financial return of your own ultimate Frisbee experience.

Best ultimate wishes, Adam/Twirly

Adam J. Levy
Ultimate Performance Chicago Founder

Introducing Tournament Director Tuesdays

Posted on October 4th, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu
We're proud to be starting up a series of articles geared towards Tournament Directors. The articles will start next week, so we figured we'd tell you a little bit about it first.

The goal of the articles

These articles are meant to provide clear, concrete advice for Tournament Directors. Instead of simply giving general advice, each article will focus on a single discrete aspect of managing a tournament. Examples of topics include: "getting teams to come", "finding trainers", and "canceling a tournament". We hope these articles will lessen the learning curve for new Tournament Directors as well as provide useful insights to experienced TDs.

Who the writers are

These articles are written by Tournament Directors who are generously offering their time to share their expertise. We ask each of the writers to share advice in an area where they believe they are particularly knowledgeable. You can look forward to articles from a number of the most experienced TDs in the world including:

  • Klaus Auracher (Australian Nationals)
  • Dave Branick (Chesapeake Open)
  • Caleb Edwards (CCC)
  • Steven Giguere (UK tournaments, Owner of Lookfly)
  • Benji Heywood (UK tournaments)
  • Danny Karlinsky (Labor Day)
  • Adam Levy (Chicago Sandblast)
  • James Melzack (UK tournaments)
  • Joe Mulder (Colorado Cup)
  • Michelle Ng (tons of Without Limits events)
  • Chris Olig (Nationals, Wisconsin Swiss)
  • Skip Sewell (ECC, tons of others)
  • Ryan Thompson (Stanford Invite)
  • Elliot Trotter (Cultimate)
  • Melvin Wang (Houston Ultimate)
We are looking for more contributors, so if you or anyone you know has advice pertaining to one or more aspects of tournament directing, we would love to hear your thoughts!

When and where articles will be posted

These articles will be sent out via email to all Tournament Directors on our Leaguevine TD list. To add yourself to the list, please just go to our blog and enter your email into the TD List box on the right hand side. By adding yourself to the TD list, you will have an article sent to you every Tuesday and we may contact you about other things you'd find useful. You can of course unsubscribe at any time.

In addition to email distribution, these articles will be posted to our blog each Tuesday, and to Skyd Magazine the following Friday.

This series will continue each week until we have run out of articles to post.

What we need from you

We'd like to keep this going for a long time, and to facilitate that, you can help in three ways:

  1. Go to our blog to comment on the articles. Say what advice you agree or disagree with and provide any additional insights you can.
  2. Forward these articles on to your friends, share them on Facebook/Twitter, and bring as many TDs into the conversation as possible.
  3. Contribute an article. Yes, this is a bit of work, but if you've been a TD for a while, there is probably a ridiculous amount of information cooped up in your head that aspiring young TDs out there wish they had access to. We encourage you to put on your teacher hat and write articles on as many different topics as you can. Even if someone has written about a topic you'd like to write about, we still want to hear your insights. Having multiple perspectives on the same topic is a good thing. To get started, email
    We fully realize that Tournament Directors are the driving force behind the sport of Ultimate. It is incredible that so many people are willing to give up their nights and weekends to put on amazing events without earning a dime. We hope these articles lessen the burden and help TDs feel like they are not alone out there.

    The New Leaguevine Blog

    Posted on September 29th, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu
    We felt our old blog was a bit lackluster and wasn't built into the core of Leaguevine nearly enough. People didn't seem to like leaving the site just to hear about what we've been up to. And thus, not many people were reading the old blog. We feel like improving our channel of communication is important enough to warrant spending a full couple of days building our own customized system.

    With this new blog, we have some interesting things planned that I'll talk about next Tuesday. So not only will we post updates about new features, but we'll have quite a few guest posts talking about Ultimate specific things (especially geared towards Tournament Directors) that you've expressed interest in hearing about. 

    I hope you like the look/feel, and we look forward to communicating with you easier! Please make use of our commenting system to let us know what you think!

    Easily viewing your Twitter history

    Posted on August 16th, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu
    We've gotten some requests to do some more interesting things with the all of the Twitter data we've collected. I just checked, and we now have over 50,000 tweets in our database to work with! It's about time we organized these tremendous updates better.

    As of today, when you click on a twitter link within Leaguevine, you will be taken to a brand new Leaguevine page just for that Twitter user. You can view what teams that account is associated with, view all of the games that this account gave updates for, and when you click on those links, you can get a timeline of only the relevant tweets for that game. Here's an example page of what I'm talking about:

    With this new functionality, it is even easier to go back in time and look back at the point by point history of your favorite games. If you click on the link to look at a single game's history, you get the full Twitter feed for that whole game.

    Please keep the suggestions coming!

    Swiss Tournament Scheduling: Leaguevine's New Algorithm

    Posted on August 10th, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu


    This post is geared towards those of you who are curious about Swiss style tournaments, and want to learn more about Leaguevine's new algorithm. For even more information on the swiss format, Christian from the Windmill Windup has put together a great wiki page.

    For the recent Madison Swiss Tournament, the tournament director Chris Olig decided to use Leaguevine exclusively for the score reporting. A swiss format is totally different from a regular Ultimate tournament, and thus the regular pools and bracket scheduling techniques do not apply. Nonetheless, we decided to build a swiss tournament generator into Leaguevine. We used an innovative approach to build this scheduler, so I thought I'd share it here.

    If you do a simple google search or look through one of several lists of swiss tournament scheduling programs out there, you'll find that there is no shortage in this arena due to the abundance of chess, go, and card tournaments using this format. Swiss scheduling is clearly a difficult problem and is one that a lot of people attempt to build programs for. My first instinct was thus to use an existing program and just manually add a bunch of games to Leaguevine each round during the tournament. Yeah, I know, keeping track of games on both Leaguevine and an external scheduler sounds awful. What makes this approach even worse is that after looking into these existing programs, they tended to do a very poor job of scheduling because they did not ensure that there were no rematches.
    Thus, we built our own.

    Before I explain our solution, I should briefly explain how a swiss tournament works. Each round, all of the teams are matched up with another team based on a pairing method that the tournament director chooses. The winners of that round received points which are used to rank the teams. Typically, a team is rewarded one point (we'll refer to this as a "swiss point") for a win, but there also exist variations based on point differential. If multiple teams have the same number of swiss points, the tiebreaker is usually how many swiss points each team's opponents have scored, which essentially rewards teams for their strength of schedule.

    To schedule a round of matchups, the teams are first separated into groups based on either their win/loss record or swiss points. Unless point differential is taken into account, the groups will likely be the same for win/loss record and for swiss points. If point differential is taken into account, then the groups are formed based off of win/loss record and the point differential (aka swiss points) determines the team's ranking within that group. The teams will then play the other teams in this group. If a group has an odd number of teams, a team must be added or removed from that group. For deciding which team plays which other team within the group, there are four common group pairing methods.

    The difficulty in scheduling occurs when we introduce two almost universally accepted constraints:

    1. No team should play another team more than once during the tournament
    2. No team should have more than one bye during the tournament

    Because of this, the matchups that are generated by a tournament scheduler using any of the group pairing techniques will result in matchups that violate either of these two constraints. Almost every piece of existing software I've seen simply points out which ones violate the constraints, but leave it entirely up to the tournament director to resolve the problems. There does appear to be one program   out there that resolves these conflicts, but I didn't notice it until well after I finished coding the algorithm up. Luckily it only took a couple days!

    I've seen many articles explaining how to resolve any conflicts with these constraints. They tend to list a sequence of steps for either changing the matchups until you find something that works or reordering the standings until you find something that works. However, at the end of these steps usually comes a line that says "this approach usually works but doesn't work all of the time.". Another problem I see with these approaches is that it is very difficult for a person to manually change a matchup and have that change be the optimal possible change. There is just too much room for error.

    Leaguevine's Algorithm

    The approach taken by the Leaguevine scheduler is much more mathematically sound. First, the Leaguevine scheduler builds a set of "weights" that determines a cost penalty for each team playing against each other team for that given round. The penalty is zero for matchups between sets of teams that are supposed to play each other (according to whatever group pairing algorithm is used) and whose matchups are not rematches. The penalty increases for matchups that are not ideal according to the pairing algorithm.

    Let's take a look at a sample vector of weights for a given team in a given round. Lets say there are currently 8 teams, and fold pairing (aka. slaughter pairing) is used (FYI, Slide pairing was used for Wisconsin Swiss). If the teams have an initial seeding of team 1 being ranked 1st through team 8 being ranked 8th, team 1's weight vector for this first round will simply be [100000000, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0]. We see that the preference for team 1 is to play team 8, it's second preference will be team 7, it's third will be team 6, and so on. The penalty for team 1 playing itself is set outrageously high to ensure that this never happens. For this same round, team 2's weight vector for this round will be [6, 100000000, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0, 1]. Since team 2 should ideally play team 7, the weight for that matchup is 0, meaning it is team 2's first preference.

    After all of these weight vectors are created for a given round, each corresponding pair of weights is added to make the matrix of weights symmetrical. In other words, the weight for team 1 playing team 6 will be added to the weight for team 6 playing team 1 and vice versa. Finally, these weights are squared for added effect. For this first round, the matchups will come out to be 1 vs 8, 2 vs 7, 3 vs 6, and 4 vs 5.

    Now that we have a symmetric matrix, this matrix represents an undirected graph where each node is a team and each edge is a weight. Finding the ideal solution then boils down to finding the set of edges that splits this graph into pairs of nodes and has the smallest possible combined weight. Thankfully, this is a well studied problem in graph theory. Leaguevine uses a minimum weight maximum matching algorithm to determine to solve this problem and arrive at the final matchups. Thanks to Abraham Flaxman, this algorithm has already been coded up in Python!

    Okay, so now that we've generated the initial matchups for this 8 team tournament, how do we generated for the second round? First, we should note there will be four 1-0 teams, and four 0-1 teams. We can assume that there is some tie breaker that ranks the teams within these two groups. The default tie breaker for Leaguevine is Victory Point scoring conceived by Christian Schaffner (edit: Christian tells me it was actually created by Michael Cummings and/or his Australian Ultimate buddy). Further, if there are still ties after sorting by the number of wins and the number of victory points, the next tie breaker is the team's strength of schedule determined by the sum of all previous opponents' victory points.

    So getting back to scheduling matchups for these teams after the first round is over, we assume the teams are again ranked 1-8 and we will continue using the fold pairing grouping method. The ideal matchups will be 1 vs 4, 2 vs 3, 5 vs 8, and 6 vs 7. The weight vector for team 1 will look like [100000000, 2, 1, 0, 23, 22, 21, 20]. The weights against teams 2-4 are self explanatory. The weights against the teams in the 2nd group were calculated by determining what the weight would be if that team were moved down as the top seed in the 2nd group, and adding a penalty of 20 for each group it had to move down which in this case was just one. As a second example, the weight vector for team 2 would be [2, 100000000, 0, 1, 23, 22, 21, 20]. After calculating all of these vectors, they are again run through the minimum weight maximum matching algorithm and the output is the ideal matchups for the next round. 

    There are a couple of other finer points of interest that make the lives of schedulers difficult if they are doing this by hand. First, if there are an odd number of teams, then the groups will be odd and on top of that there is still a chance that teams will have to switch groups to avoid rematches or double byes. The Leaguevine algorithm makes these groups even by creating groups of the same record starting with the highest ranked group, and if a group size is odd, the highest ranked team outside that group is then added to the group. This continues until all groups have been created. To ensure that teams do not play the same team twice and do not have more than one bye in the tournament, a large number (100000) is added to the already calculated weight of the matchup.

    Determining optimal matchups as rigorously as this by hand is nearly impossible and certainly not practical, which gave me the motivation to build this algorithm. Because Leaguevine's internal framework had already been built, and a python version of the maximum matching algorithm was available for free, the entire process of devising this algorithm and coding it up took only two days, which I am really happy about.

    We were very pleased with how well it performed at Wisconsin Swiss, as all of the teams kept telling us how difficult and evenly matched all of their games were after the 2nd round. In fact, if you look at the results, 11 of the 15 games in the 5th round were "close" if we define close to mean 13-8 or closer. We were really happy with this considering the pool of teams ranged from Drag'n Thrust who finished 3rd at Nationals last year all the way to MUFA recreational pickup teams that were not playing in the competitive division.

    One Final Note

    While all of this scheduling might sound complicated, from a user's perspective it couldn't be easier. Since Leaguevine takes care of all of this programmatically, all a user has to do is click "create next round" and wait a few seconds.

    Day 1

    Posted on August 1st, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu
    Today is my first day of working on Leaguevine full time. I am extremely excited to take Leaguevine to a whole new level and am committed to bringing you the best possible product.

    Prior to today, I had only been able to give Leaguevine my partial attention since I had school and various other commitments that took precedence. This is no longer the case, and all of my energy will now be put into Leaguevine for the foreseeable future. On top of my efforts, an extremely talented person (who I'll introduce later) will also be joining me full time in a few months. So get excited for some huge changes!

    To give you a glimpse into the future, you can expect to enjoy a customized experience where you will not only be able to easily view the most relevant, interesting, and up to date information available, but also be able to engage and interact with the rest of your Leaguevine community. 

    Wisconsin Swiss 2011

    Posted on June 13th, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu

    Wisconsin Swiss in Madison, WI will be the first tournament to use Leaguevine's scheduler and score reporting to fully manage the tournament. Several tournaments have used it in the past as an aid, but Chris "Bus" Olig of Midwest Ultimate is the first to use its full functionality. By using this innovative score reporting system, absolutely everything will be taken care of using smartphones!

    For players/captains/coaches, this means you will never have to walk back to tournament central to report scores. All of the score reporting will be done on your smartphone, and you will be expected to update the scores of your games multiple times per game. To update a score on your smartphone, visit, create an account, and simply find and update your game. Leaguevine Mobile is a simple web application that runs in your browser and thus you do not need to download anything. As you and others update scores, you'll be able to see the live results coming in from other fields. Your schedule is posted on as well. Because each round depends on the previous round's results, the schedule for the next round will be posted 10 minutes before game time. Leaguevine Mobile will work on almost any smartphone from mid 2009 or later. If no one on your team has a smartphone (iPhone, Android, Palm Pixie, Blackberry 6, Windows Mobile 7), please stop by tournament central before games start and we will find a solution for you.

    For the tournament directors, this means they will never have to input any scores. Scheduling will be as easy as clicking "Add a round" once each round completes. 

    The Wisconsin Swiss tournament format uses 5 rounds of a Swiss format then has bracket play with the seedings for the brackets determined by the Swiss games. The format is inspired by the popular Windmill Windup Tournament and the specifics for the Wisconsin Swiss Saturday scheduling can be seen on the Standings page. Players/captains/coaches do not need to know how the scheduling works because we will generate it automatically for you, but the information is there if you are curious. 

    Here is the tournament format specific to Wisconsin Swiss:
    • All games to 13, win by 2.
    • Each team has one time out per half as well as a floater.
    • Games last 90 minutes, with 1 hour and 45 minutes between start times. Games will begin at 9:00, 10:45, 12:30, and 2:15 on both days.
    • The Soft cap is at 80 minutes and the hard cap is at 90.
    • Schedules for each round of play will be posted 5 minutes after all teams have submitted their scores. Because generating schedules relies on teams entering scores, please enter your scores as often as possible (preferably each point) at and once a game is done, check the "Final Score" box when you submit it.
    • There will be 5 rounds of Swiss play. Four will take place on Saturday and the final round of Swiss play will take place on Sunday.
    • The teams ranked 1-8 after Swiss play will move onto the Swiss Bracket (1st place).
    • The teams ranked 9-16 after Swiss play will move onto the Sharp Cheddar Bracket (9th place).
    • The teams ranked 17-24 after Swiss play will move onto the Mild Cheddar Bracket (17th place).
    • The teams ranked 25-32 after Swiss play will move onto the Aged Cheddar Bracket (25th place).
    • Winners of each bracket will receive a wheel of cheese. The top three teams in the tournament will receive monetary prizes.
    • The schedule is located here:
    If you are attending the tournament, we hope you enjoy this swiss format and the mobile score reporting! Please let us know what you think. 

    College Nationals - I'll be There!

    Posted on May 23rd, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu
    I am extremely excited to see Leaguevine in action this weekend at College Nationals. This is always the most exciting tournament of the year and there are always a ton of fans who are avidly broadcasting updates from the fields. I decided today that I'll be one of them, and will be making the 15 hour drive out to Boulder, CO with a few Madison friends!

    The biggest difference between the Leaguevine experience for this College Nationals versus last fall's Club Nationals will be the impact of Leaguevine Mobile. Over the past few months, I've been building and revising the Leaguevine Mobile web application based on both user feedback and my personal experience. Now, instead of a team or spectator needing to spend so much time and effort typing in the team names and scores of the teams playing, they can instead just use Leaguevine Mobile to generate these tweets automatically. The score can be changed with just a couple quick taps, and the user can focus more energy on actually describing what happened.

    Based on the positive feedback I received from some new users during the Regional tournaments, I believe Leaguevine Mobile is ready to take on a larger workload at Nationals. I will be walking around the fields and talking to spectators to get more feedback on how they are enjoying the experience. I'm going to work my hardest to ensure that the folks following along at home can receive the best possible updates.

    I've talked with many of you users over email and phone over the past several months, and am really looking forward to finally putting some faces to names. Feel free to shoot me an email at if you'd like to let me know you're also going to be at Nationals. I'd love to meet up with you and hear your feedback or simply hang out!


    Leaguevine Mobile

    Posted on March 17th, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu
    Leaguevine has gone mobile! We've made it as easy as possible to send and receive score updates using your smartphone. Just visit in any mobile browser.

    To kick things off, two large Ultimate tournaments this weekend will be using Leaguevine Mobile for their score reporting. You can follow along with the live updates from Easterns or Steakfest either from your home browser or from Leaguevine Mobile. If the players at this tournament actively report their updates (and we really hope they do!) then we could see some of the best and most easily available Ultimate updates ever. Many of you players and tournament directors have been calling for a Mobile app to take care of this real time reporting, so we hope that Leaguevine Mobile lives up to your expectations!

    So, what exactly does Leaguevine Mobile do? We have a bunch of information on our site at but the best way to learn about its capabilities is just to play with it yourself. Even if you do not currently have a smart phone, you can still visit it in a regular web browser and get the same experience. Basically, the web app allows you to update game scores, and since Leaguevine and Leaguevine Mobile are synced, everyone at home or at the fields will see your update immediately. Further, you can optionally have these updates posted to Twitter so you can kill two birds with one stone - reporting official score updates, and informing your fans.

    If you would like to have this kind of functionality at your next tournament, you are free to create an account on and simply enter the team and game information for your tournament. It takes just a few minutes and will allow all of the players at your tournament to have access to real time score updates from all the fields, assuming you tell other teams to use it too.

    We hope you enjoy this major addition to Leaguevine and please tell your friends about it!


    Huge College Open Tournament This Weekend

    Posted on February 11th, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu
    This college season is starting to get underway and the first event with tons of big names is this weekend in Florida. The tournament is called "Warm up: A Florida Affair" and you can read a nice preview of it over at Skyd Magazine.

    Every team at this tournament has a twitter account so we should expect to get a real nice feed from the fields starting tomorrow. You can follow along on the tournament page on Leaguevine

    I love seeing how many great teams are buying into this idea of real time updates, and it looks like this movement is picking up steam. This is the first tournament I know of that has every single participating team tweeting results. If you are part of an ultimate team, please consider joining up before your next tournament and adding to this new community! The more Ultimate players tweet, the more fun it is to be a fan.

    Go Hodags!

    Survey for Tournament Directors

    Posted on January 14th, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu
    Leaguevine has been gearing up for the 2011 college season and has been gathering many feature requests from users and tournament directors. The two things that Leaguevine is focusing on most right now are:
    1. Making the lives of tournament directors as easy as possible.
    2. Making the fan experience as enjoyable and easy as possible.
    There are a lot fewer tournament directors than there are fans, and thus if you are a TD, I would love it if you could help me out by taking this survey:

    I will seriously consider any suggestions or feature requests you have. Thanks!


    The Interview is Now Online

    Posted on November 11th, 2010 by Mark "Spike" Liu
    The interview I recently had with Skyd Magazine has been published! Here is the link:

    I ended up talking a lot more than I thought I would :P

    Just completed an Interview about Leaguevine

    Posted on November 5th, 2010 by Mark "Spike" Liu
    It has been 2 weeks since the official launch and I'm getting a bit of publicity for the site now! Skyd Magazine, which is set to launch in a few days, just interviewed me for a features story. After talking to one of the founders of the magazine, it sounds like an awesome project and they have a lot of people contributing to it. I'm definitely honored that they chose to interview me.

    I'll be sure to post a link to the interview once it's up!


    New Feature: Retweet Buttons Next to Every Tweet

    Posted on October 29th, 2010 by Mark "Spike" Liu
    I got a lot of good feedback from lots of people yesterday. The traffic spiked as soon as USAU Club Nationals started thanks to a lot of people spreading the word about Leaguevine. As the traffic went up, so did my list of user suggestions.

    The one suggestion that I figured I could implement quickly last night was retweet buttons on every tweet. Now if you want to share a twitter update, you can just click on the "tweet" button that shows up when you hover over any tweet on Leaguevine. It'll jump to twitter for you and enter the text RT @someuser: (text of the tweet you want to retweet). Further, it'll append a link back to Leaguevine to help spread the word about the site. You are welcome to delete this link if your tweet is too long or you think it makes your tweet look ugly.

    I hope this is useful to a bunch of you!


    New Feature: Can add links to tournaments or teams

    Posted on October 27th, 2010 by Mark "Spike" Liu
    Users on Leaguevine now have the ability to add links to tournaments or teams! Each link can be specified as a certain type, such as 'tournament preview', 'photo album', 'team website', etc. When you are browsing tournaments or teams, you will find links associated with them. These links will also show up in other places you might expect, such as the homepage.

    There are several motivations for this addition:

    1. This was the #1 feature request since the site launched last Thursday. Hardly anyone is using Leaguevine's feedback area, but plenty of users have been emailing me with requests like this! 
    2. Links on Leaguevine will be beneficial to people who want more exposure on their sites. Bloggers, Photographers, Webmasters or whoever wants to drive traffic to their site can add their url on Leaguevine and that link will show up in multiple places on the site and remain there indefinitely. I'm guessing this was the reason why it was the number 1 feature request. :)
    3. Leaguevine becomes a lot more useful as an information aggregator because now users can find more information about their teams or tournaments easier.
    4. It gives the non-twitter users more opportunities to contribute relevant information, which will hopefully help in building our user base.
    I hope this is what you all were looking for when you requested this feature!

    Leaguevine's Blog, Twitter, and Facebook are synched!

    Posted on October 21st, 2010 by Mark "Spike" Liu
    Technology is so cool these days. I'm sending this post from my gmail and as soon as I click send it shows up on the Leaguevine blog, on Leaguevine's twitter page, and on Leaguevine's facebook page immediately! Awesome.

    Everything I post on the blog will always show up in the twitter/facebook pages. I'll use the twitter account @leaguevine to connect with other tweeters and the facebook account to talk to people who prefer saying things on facebook. So basically the blog will show up in facebook/twitter but the facebook/twitter stuff won't show up on the blog.

    Oh, and if you have feature suggestions or comments on other users' feature suggestions, please check out our support forums! I'll do my best to communicate as quickly as possible with you all. Thanks for all the feedback and support so far, it means a lot to me.

    The Site is Almost Ready for Nationals!

    Posted on October 20th, 2010 by Mark "Spike" Liu
    USA Ultimate Club Nationals is coming up in a week (October 28th-31st) and Leaguevine is just about ready for it!

    So far I've still only told a limited number of people about this site. Those people are my beta testers, some people from Madison, and a handful of others who have expressed interest in this project. I really want to have Leaguevine working well before I expose it to the masses, so I've taken it upon myself to actually use it a lot first. While my beta testers pointed out some problems and offered suggestions here and there, only one of them actually added significant amounts of content to the site. By adding a lot of stuff myself, I have been able to see first hand what kinds of things became repetitive or annoying. I'm just about done improving these areas, and am really excited to see what the masses think!

    Along the way, I've also made several friends who will be attending nationals and are enthusiastic about providing the Ultimate community with tons of updates from Sarasota. I'll be in contact with them throughout the tournament to ensure everything is working well and that their updates reach as many people as possible. We hope we can make this tournament (along with others) extremely easy to follow from your computer at home.

    Stay tuned for more updates really soon!

    Leaguevine's Design is Finished

    Posted on October 18th, 2010 by Mark "Spike" Liu
    Most of the bugs have been worked out, and Leaguevine's new design is now finished so it looks like it won't be long until it's ready for some real users! Within the next week, I'll be telling a lot of people about this site and am really looking forward to hearing peoples' feedback.

    If you are one of the few who is already aware of the site and are helping me test it, please play around and try to break stuff! I'd rather you find bugs now than later.



    Posted on September 30th, 2010 by Mark "Spike" Liu
    Welcome to the official Leaguevine blog. This will be the primary source for all updates and changes to Leaguevine. There may be various other kinds of announcements and posts also on here, but we will play that by ear as the site evolves.

    For now, please check out, play with the features, and leave some feedback so I can continue to improve it. Thanks!