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
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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
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