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Thread: National Tournament Management

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    Senior Member telkanuru's Avatar
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    National Tournament Management

    This came up in the Natl's Results thread, but it kind of petered and died before it actually became either useful or interesting. In the vein of the "What would you do if you were ED" thread, I am curious as to others suggestions as to how we can improve the running of national tournaments, both in terms of the prep work (day schedule) and actual management. As people have figured out, I'm fairly opinionated on this, but would be very interested in other POVs.

    The largest things in my mind are:
    1) Clear BC command structure with assigned jobs. One person needs to be In Charge of the tournament. People should be assigned jobs of data entry, running of the tableaux, etc. Someone in the BC area should have the sole task of fielding questions from curious parents.
    a) Appropriate use of delegation. Some tasks should not be centralized at the BC table. National venues are large, to the point where it does not make sense. If you are running the D1WE table, you should be in an arranged place by where D1WE is fenced.

    2) Isolate the people doing the work. Running a tournament is stressful enough without questions flying at you from all directions. In most regional events I've worked, we keep the people actually doing the work (computer monkeys) behind a second row of tables. We put the people who are around to answer questions in the first row, too.

    3) Post results/seeding in a more manageable fashion. This has gotten somewhat better, with some events having up to 4 posting locations, but even in these cases, results are only posted on one side of the board. In an event like ME, that's still 50 fencers trying to see size 10 font in a crowded area. Large, obvious posting of results reduces misseeds, enabling the tournament to run much smoother.

    4) One slow ref destroys an entire tournament. Develop and implement strategies to identify and accelerate slow pools. If you aren't aware of how done your pools are, you aren't running your tournament well. Be able to allocate resources where they're needed.

    What've you got?
    "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit." -Aristotle

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    thoughts i brought up, and thoughts i liked from other threads:

    - improve the known problem areas. for example, don't do check-in by hand. have it be based on a computer scanning barcodes. have fencers verify their information at the computer, and if something's wrong, go see a live person. this will streamline the whole start of the event process, allowing events to start much more immediately after close of registration (instead of the standard 30min to an hour), and helping to prevent cascading effects.

    - analyze events better in order to maximize efficiency, profits, and minimize strain on everyone involved. use alternate formats based on levels of fencing

    - create another division - division 4. division 4 = U&E, division 3 = D&C, division 2 = B&A + no points, division 1=points. smaller events makes scheduling easier, and removing the overlap in competitions helps to curb size and prevent dead zones. division 1 NAC = B,A,points.

    - run events on a network. network printers, networked computers, etc.. everything. use fencingtime. improve the IT practices to help make things run more efficiently

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    Put the tree on a projector, fill it out as it develops, keep the tree up the whole time. No so much a suggestion to save time as another thing to do, but it's amazing to me it's not standard to do this. We used to do it on a big sheet of paper, for goodness sake. Now no one does.

    K O'N

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    Quote Originally Posted by K O'N View Post
    Put the tree on a projector, fill it out as it develops, keep the tree up the whole time. No so much a suggestion to save time as another thing to do, but it's amazing to me it's not standard to do this. We used to do it on a big sheet of paper, for goodness sake. Now no one does.

    K O'N
    or a large LCD monitor.

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    Posting Hound oiuyt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noodle View Post
    don't do check-in by hand. have it be based on a computer scanning barcodes.
    In Atlanta check-in WAS being done by scnaning barcodes.

    -B
    "Oh but you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you!"

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    Senior Member dekko's Avatar
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    Wow, you guys have bounced around this for a while but just can't land on the correct answer. The projector is cute but not that big a deal. Unfortunately there is no way to project an image on a wall at an event of this size for everyone to see what is going on and have it be useful. The checkin stuff is what it is and really isn't going to improve that much, scanning is nice but....

    The best way to help an event of this size run better is scheduling. There is useful data from the past to predict the relative size of these events and make a schedule accordingly. Slow downs due to equipment, injury, etc happen and there really isn't a good way to 'speed that up', sure double stripping that last pool or two does help but those kinds of delays are unavoidable. Having very large team events, that have been very large team events for some time, close registration mid-afternoon is dumb(yes the men's team epee event from this past summer comes to mind). There is no real good way to run a team event faster, they are slow by nature. Each round getting the team order, having the paperwork filled out for each round and input each round...you get the idea. Having very large events in the am causes resource bottlenecks in the midday when smaller events try to start and progress, they get bogged down. Having very large events, 150-175+, have a close of reg around 2 let's them have most, if not all, of the resources they need, refs/strips/etc, to progress without going very late. Having smaller events, 50-75ish, close reg at the 8am-9am time frame let's them have what they need but 2-3, or more, can happen at once. Let's say 3 of those happen in the am then the huge D3MF event with 225ish comes in later, by the time it wants to start all the others will either be done but need very few resources.

    Bottom line, when scheduled correctly, this very large summer events can happen without midnight or later releases for those running the event, TC/WC/refs/admin/etc. In fact, when scheduled correctly, it can have more fencers in each event and cause very little resource crunch and not need people to stay as late as we did this past summer.
    YEAH I SADI IT!!!!!

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    Senior Member telkanuru's Avatar
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    Sure, but isn't that basically saying that we shouldn't let people who don't know what they're doing write the schedule? I mean, it's true, but it's not particularly helpful. I confess to not having any idea how the national office decides the day schedule for events. Perhaps if we could figure that out, more direct commentary could be made on the process?

    I'm actually not a big fan of projectors for large events. You either have to have them rotating displays (which takes forever to find names, especially on a long list) or have one displayed on pretty much every available surface, which takes a lot of projectors.
    Last edited by telkanuru; 07-16-2010 at 07:41 PM.
    "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit." -Aristotle

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    Senior Member dekko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by telkanuru View Post
    Sure, but isn't that basically saying that we shouldn't let people who don't know what they're doing write the schedule? I mean, it's true, but it's not particularly helpful. I confess to not having any idea how the national office decides the day schedule for events. Perhaps if we could figure that out, more direct commentary could be made on the process?
    Works for me. Anyone who tried to schedule this thing care to answer this question? It's a good one and be sure to emphasize why on god's green earth you decided to put a 60 team event close reg at 4pm. Where 'listening'!!!!
    YEAH I SADI IT!!!!!

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    I suspect the size of the event wasn't clear when it was scheduled.

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    Senior Member darius's Avatar
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    That can't be the excuse -- the times aren't published until after the close of registration!

    (For the record, I don't know if there was a better time; that was an exceptionally busy day.)

    darius

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    Quote Originally Posted by darius View Post
    That can't be the excuse -- the times aren't published until after the close of registration!

    darius
    But the day was. Would it have worked better at some other time?

    (yeah, I forgot that detail)

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    Don't post strip assignments at all. Or at least don't have a published list be people's primary vector for finding out where they're supposed to be.

    Instead, set up a system where people can query just what they're interested in: their own strip assignment. Start with a few little kiosk PC's hooked into the BC network (on the outside of their firewall, of course). Each is equipped with a simple barcode scanner and receipt printer. You scan your membership card, and in two seconds it prints out your pool and strip assignment. Next!

    If you're not a USFA member (foreign fencer at NAC, for example), an ID of some sort would be generated as part of the registration process and printed as a barcode on your confirmation materials.

    Coaches can have a special club barcode. They scan it once and get the strip assignments for all of their club's fencers. Then, for teams that are so inclined, none of those fencers have to check their own listings, they just ask the coach.

    Or you have a simple HTML front-end on the pool and strip assignment database, and wireless access points. Anyone with a wireless-enabled device can query where they're supposed to be from any corner of the venue. This can also be used for anyone who wants to generally see what's going on ("What round is DV1MF down to?") or where they finished, etc.

    Or you register your email address or your mobile number when you check in. Pools are posted, you get an email or a text message telling you where to go.

    The solution to the scrum around the boards isn't to print bigger, it's to get rid of it entirely.
    "There's this kind of adrenaline rush when you really create something. I mean, why do you think Albert Einstein looked like that?" - Robin Williams

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    Try locating the BC on a raised platform "in the round" at the center of the venue with the strips laid out around them. Computer monkeys in the center, communicators/decision makers in the outer areas. This puts the BC closer to most strips and makes it more accessible to/from the strips and also gives the BC a better view of what's happening. I have seen it done this way at national karate events running 28+ rings simultaneously.

    -r

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    Equipment check line: Each check station has a pole with a number and two lights -- a flashing green light indicates they're available, a flashing red light means they need help from the head armorer. A box with two buttons for the checker to turn each light on or off. This is the sort of thing your average armorer should be able to knock together in their sleep.

    When they test your last body cord or whatever, they set their green light flashing. A volunteer standing at the front of the line gets the teenager at the front of the line off their cell phone and tells them to go to station #5, giving them a polite shove in the right direction if necessary. Said volunteer can also remind the fencers to unwrap their body cords, help cut off old inspection tags, etc.

    Armorers should be armoring, they shouldn't be yelling "Next!" and waiting for people to hear them.
    "There's this kind of adrenaline rush when you really create something. I mean, why do you think Albert Einstein looked like that?" - Robin Williams

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    Senior Member Allen Evans's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by telkanuru View Post
    1) Clear BC command structure with assigned jobs.
    Already being done. The BC is broken out into a "command structure" (for lack of a better term), people responsible for individual events, and people who work the computers. The jobs have seemed well separated to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by telkanuru View Post
    2) Isolate the people doing the work.
    Already being done. Do you notice that the people running the computer usually are on the side of the BC platform next to the ref corral, where they can't be bothered, and the people running events are out where slips can be exchange, questions answered, and so forth?

    Quote Originally Posted by telkanuru View Post
    3) Post results/seeding in a more manageable fashion.
    Definitely agree about this, though I have to say, it won't save a lot of time. I still beat the referees to the strip every time, even when I'm looking after two or three students. I think that's one of the big slow downs. The referees seem to be the last one to the pools.

    As to other comments. As Brad mentioned, I was checked in by bar code in my event this year. I don't know about the other events. I understand that (from Mary's blog) there might have been some software issues earlier.

    On the computer end, things are already "networked", in that everyone running a computer can access the files they need, and files for other events as necessary (I believe). What hasn't been done is reaching out to other areas of the process, as AllezCat mentions. I think the kiosk idea is a not a good one however. I 'd think it would be smarter to explore a way to hand out a pool assignment at registration. That is fraught with difficulty however, considering the number of no shows that large events often have.

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    Senior Member IanSerotkin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Evans View Post
    Definitely agree about this, though I have to say, it won't save a lot of time. I still beat the referees to the strip every time, even when I'm looking after two or three students. I think that's one of the big slow downs. The referees seem to be the last one to the pools.
    (snip)

    I 'd think it would be smarter to explore a way to hand out a pool assignment at registration. That is fraught with difficulty however, considering the number of no shows that large events often have.
    When I competed in Taekwondo, instead of posting ring assignments, what they would do is have a staging area where all the competitors for a particular event would be corralled. Then the tournament runners would come over and take the appropriate fencers to the right strips where the judges were waiting. Everyone knew that you just had to be at the staging area at the scheduled event time.

    Now, this was a totally different paradigm, since:

    (1) There was zero seeding or individual ring assignments in advance.
    (2) The ring assignments in an event were just based on putting competitors of the similar height together, so the runners would just come over and eyeball it to figure out ring assignments.
    (3) The events were so granular (e.g. Ages 18-25 Green/Purple Belts) that the largest events would only have perhaps 36 entrants.

    Much harder to corral 300 Div III foilists in the same fashion, but maybe someone has a bright idea on how to do something similar.
    "PiL is the Blue Screen of Death for ROW." --jeff

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    Senior Member Allen Evans's Avatar
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    Ian, it doesn't seem that it's the fencers slow to the strips when pools are announced, but referees. What's the hold up, generally?

    I know one year at Nationals they had (for the DE's) someone checking weapons before you got to your strip, and when your name was called, you simply hooked up and started fencing. What happened to that idea? An experiment that didn't work out?

    Corralling fencers? Maybe they could use dogs?
    Last edited by Allen Evans; 07-16-2010 at 10:06 PM. Reason: my usual terriable spelling

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    Posting Hound oiuyt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Evans View Post
    Corralling fencers? Maybe they could use dogs?
    Hey, they can handle herding ducks or sheep, how much harder can it be to herd D3MFists? I think you might be on to something there, Allen!

    -B
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    Senior Member dberke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Evans View Post
    Already being done. The BC is broken out into a "command structure" (for lack of a better term), people responsible for individual events, and people who work the computers. The jobs have seemed well separated to me.

    Already being done. Do you notice that the people running the computer usually are on the side of the BC platform next to the ref corral, where they can't be bothered, and the people running events are out where slips can be exchange, questions answered, and so forth?
    We need to eliminate this separation. The only reason we have so many computer specialists is because the current software is so hard to use. If we solve that problem, then we could make the front-table and computer people interchangable. We should also be able to get by with fewer staff overall. When I worked the comptuer side of things, I was stunned at how there would be long periods of "do nothing" time while wating for pools to come back or as the DE slips trickled in. If we could eliminate that by reallocating people to other tasks as needed (such as front-table work), we'd save a lot of personnel costs.

    We still do need one computer expert on the BC who knows how to deal with computer problems if they arise, and to help with things like seeding. But everyone else shouldn't need to be computer experts, especially since 75% of their work is data entry.

    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Evans View Post
    Definitely agree about this, though I have to say, it won't save a lot of time. I still beat the referees to the strip every time, even when I'm looking after two or three students. I think that's one of the big slow downs. The referees seem to be the last one to the pools.
    Let the software assign the refs - it can handle division/club conflicts automatically*. Then have the FOC/assigner look over the assignments and make minor changes if necessary. Then, have the ref pool assignments display on a monitor in the ref lounge area or text message the refs with their strip assignment (which is especially useful if they're at lunch or out for a smoke.) The refs just look up their strip and go there, just like the fencers do now. Meanwhile, use runners to deliver the pool sheets out to the strips. This eliminates paging the refs, and the chaos of the BC calling out names to hand out clipboards. I'm sure some time will be saved there!

    * - Some software can do that, not the current software.

    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Evans View Post
    As to other comments. As Brad mentioned, I was checked in by bar code in my event this year. I don't know about the other events. I understand that (from Mary's blog) there might have been some software issues earlier.

    On the computer end, things are already "networked", in that everyone running a computer can access the files they need, and files for other events as necessary (I believe). What hasn't been done is reaching out to other areas of the process, as AllezCat mentions. I think the kiosk idea is a not a good one however. I 'd think it would be smarter to explore a way to hand out a pool assignment at registration. That is fraught with difficulty however, considering the number of no shows that large events often have.
    The current level of networking doesn't make the data available to the customers, who are a key player in all of this. Strip assignments, seedings, tableaus, etc. in an electronic format available to all would help everyone - get rid of the crowd around the bulletin boards by letting people look up their strips on their phone and I guarantee people will get to their strips more quickly. Text messages to the fencers stating "report to strip #x" would be great.

    Dan

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    Senior Member IanSerotkin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Evans View Post
    Ian, it doesn't seem that it's the fencers slow to the strips when pools are announced, but referees. What's the hold up, generally?
    In usual circumstances, perhaps 70% of the time, the fencers arrive at the strip for pools and the referee arrives 5-15 minutes later. This has a lot to do with the order of operations at the bout committee table--the pools are posted up as soon as they're finalized and printed off, which is also the same time the head referees get the pools and make ref assignments to those pools. You could delay sending out the pools until the referees had been definitively assigned to each pool, but that would only help the perception that the referees were arriving late.

    10% of the time, usually late in the day when things are rushed or when there was a delay in posting the pool assignments, the fencers and referees arrive at the strip at the same time. This almost always results in waiting for stragglers.

    The other 20% of the time, you run into a situation where the head referees are cannibalizing a DE tableau to find refs for a different event that is just starting pools (i.e., taking referees from a tableau of D2WF once it gets to the later rounds and using them to start pools of U16MF.) This is where the most egregious examples of the fencers waiting on the pool referee come from. Invariably, one DE quadrant is running behind and can't release enough referees, or a referee has just started a DE bout and so is stuck there for up to the next 20 minutes until it ends. So this is where you get fencers waiting around for big chunks of time.

    I know one year at Nationals they had (for the DE's) someone checking weapons before you got to your strip, and when your name was called, you simply hooked up and started fencing. What happened to that idea? An experiment that didn't work out?
    We absolutely still do this ("The Alperstein Method"), when we have the manpower for it in the pod. I didn't go to Nationals this year, but my guess is the referee shortages might've precluded this from happening in many cases? At the Virginia Beach NAC, several times I had the Mighty Power of the Asterisk next to my name, but without having an extra ref assigned to the pod that would've allowed me to facilitate check-ins and run the tableau.
    "PiL is the Blue Screen of Death for ROW." --jeff

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