Thanks to Zachary Woodward for the photo.
The above picture is from COMOPOLO’s first Wingman 4v4 tournament back in 2012. This was the first tournament that Chirstian Losciale, Johnathon McDowell, and I organized and ran as hardcourt polo players. I remember being nervous about everything surrounding the tournament from the moment I announced it on League of Bike Polo up until we handed the last prize on Sunday evening. We were young newbie players back then but we still wanted to throw a tournament that players from all over the Midwest would talk about and look forward to attending the next year. While this isn’t entirely a 100% realistic goal, it’s something good to strive towards. Lucky for the three of us, we started playing polo in a city with a thick hardcourt history, so it wasn’t as hard to fill all of the team spots. For all of you new and young-blood clubs around the world, it might not be as easy to fill the roster of your first tournament, but with the help of this guide, it might make things go a little more smoothly.
The most important thing you can do before hosting your first tournament is to travel to other tournaments. See how they are ran; pinpoint all of the things that the hosts are doing that are making it enjoyable for you. Also, find out what annoys you about the tournament (no food, no water, not enough partying, etc) so that you can provide these amenities at your tournament. Chances are if there is something that you don’t like, then many other participants aren’t enjoying it as well. The first Wingman tournament came out of the frustration of the 2012 Midwest Regional Qualifier. Madison charged through the roof for the tournament and only provided minimal amounts of water and a few snacks. We wanted to show how it is possible to stretch every dollar that you have, so we turned a $10 entry fee per person into a free t-shirt for them, as well as breakfast and lunch at the courts, and a keg on Saturday night.
While at the tournament, make sure you’re interacting with members from other clubs. An important way to guaranty a full tournament is making friends. Talk to members from other clubs, buy them drinks, cheer for them to win, kick their butt on the court and then give them a hug afterwards. We are all losers looking to make friends, it just takes someone to make the initiation. Don’t be afraid to talk to your polo idols; they won’t think less of you because you’re just a newb. That being said, it’s unrealistic (but not unheard of) to expect the Beavers or Call Me Daddy to show up to your tournament. Don’t get upset if you don’t see all those big name players you see all over Mr. Do signing up for your tournament. Honestly, it may even be better that way. You don’t want a team coming in and walking all over the competition. It’s more fun to have equally matched teams playing against each other.
Now that you have all your new polo friends signing up for the tournament, use the above mentioned lists of dos and don’ts to make the tournament enjoyable for all of the participants. To cross off of the dos (food, swag, etc), it helps to pull all of your club’s resources. At the time of the Wingman, I worked as a Pizza Delivery Driver for a local shop. I talked to my boss about trading two days worth of pizza (~15 pies a day) for having the players drink the place dry at our registration party (which they did). Johnathon worked as a screen printer for a local company so he was able to print event shirts for dirt cheap. Another club member worked at a bike shop and was able to get his shop to donate spare tubes, cables, and even a Brooks saddle for a prize. While you’re club may not have members who work in these industries, you can pull benefits from where you do work. That is, unless you all have boring desk jobs, which in that case it could be harder to do so. For that scenario, don’t be afraid to talk to local businesses (especially establishments that serve alcohol) about trading registration/after-parties for food/money/cheap drinks. If there is one thing you can guaranty about a polo tournament, all of the players are going to be looking for a place to drink.
After getting players signed up and using your local resources to get amenities for the player, it’s important to make sure that the tournament, itself, runs smoothly. Again use your list of dos and don’ts to make sure that the tournament is up to par with other well known tournaments. One thing that all of these tournaments have in common is punctuality. As much as I hate it, we all know that tournaments run on polo time. Even with this in mind, it’s important to keep them on schedule to the best of your ability. There is nothing more annoying than organizers who slack off and let tournaments self destruct. It was an embarrassment at World’s this year when the lights shut off before all the games had finished. While you’re tournament isn’t as big as Worlds, people will not want to come back if you mismanage your time and are unable to complete the tournament.
It’s not hard to successfully throw your first tournament, you just have to put in the time and energy before hand. Go to other tournament, see first hand what should and shouldn’t be done as an organizer of a tournament. While you’re there be sure to make friends with other clubs! Then pull your resources to make sure that the participants are well taken care of while visiting your town. And finally, stay on top of running your tournament and keep it on schedule! It’s a simple formula, but when done correctly you will see buzz form about your city’s tournament hosting abilities and you can guaranty more players interested in your tournament the next time around.
Best of luck in your tournament hosting endeavors and remember, in the end, polo players are just looking to have a good time!