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.  
  • One thing I would amend,particularly for first time organizers: Bump up securing fields as soon as you're able (after determining need and whatnot) as opposed to just 4 months out. The city fields coordinators I've worked with normally have meetings to delegate fields for a year the December before. You can still get fields four months out, but it never hurts to let the people in charge know you're planning an event. It also helps lend credibility to the fact that you are on top of things and willing to communicate despite your potentially unfamiliar sport.
    9:27 p.m. on November 1st, 2011
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