Tag Archives: soccer

The cost of the “inner circle of experts”

Originally published at: TourneyCentral.com

The lifeblood of a successful soccer tournament is the army of volunteers who run the concession stand, sell the sponsorship ads, stand duty as field marshals, sell t-shirts, direct the parking and generally make sure your guest teams feel welcome and cared-for. But, how many of these volunteers are the same people, doing the same jobs year after year?

If your soccer tournament is like most, the same folks are doing the same jobs every year. On one hand, that is good because you have consistency. On the other, it is bad because there is no new talent to take over these critical jobs if the veterans were to leave.

I read Chris Brogan’s blog regularly about social media. For the most part, he is considered an expert in social media technologies such as Twitter, blogging, Facebook and the like. But I don’t think he is an expert on human behavior. Yesterday, he posted a rant about people using robots to reply to a new Twitter follow. There was (and still is) some discussion going on about his opinion on using robots, but I think Jeff Crites’ comment (#182) sums up the issue most closely aligned with soccer tournament would-be volunteers.

Most volunteers just want to help out and have some fun. Having been involved in soccer clubs for a number of year, both in the inner circles and on the outside, there are mainly two reasons people do not volunteer, regardless of the excuse they may use.

1. They are afraid that if they open their time to one or two things, the tournament will take advantage of their time and inundate them with responsibilities. So, it is easier to say no and keep the door shut.

2. They do not feel accepted by the “inner circle” of folks who already run the show. This is perhaps the most common reason.

A soccer tournament, like Twitter, is a scary place. There is a lot going on and a lot of folks who are experts at making it happen. They know all the rules — written and unwritten — and they make it all look easy. They are intimidating to new folks. And — like the Twitter community — the veterans have little patience with anyone who is new coming in and shaking things up. (If this does not describe your soccer tournament, consider yourself very, very lucky. Be honest with yourself; this is all part of that human condition we’re cursed with.)

New volunteers do threaten the status quo. They threaten the existing “power circles” the veterans have built. And that is a good thing because they also bring in new blood, new energy, and a different perspective. If there is no change, there is no growth.

Sure, the veterans will rant about these “new guys coming in and wanting to change everything,” but experienced, seasoned leaders will do it in private and as a release of their own fears of becoming irrelevant and obsolete, not as a rant against new blood who may not quite understand the rules but have good intentions. There may be a few new folks who step up to volunteer for the wrong reasons, but for the most part, they will be found out quickly and either corrected or asked to leave.

Our advice: Running a soccer tournament is more about leading people than it is about finding teams and scheduling games. Stop and think about how you felt the very first day you volunteered. Think about how scary it was being among all those people who were so sure of how to do things. Did you feel comfortable? How long did it take you to become the expert you are now? Did anyone take you aside and show you the ropes?

As a tournament director, identify those areas in your organization that have built walls to new volunteers. Actively seek to tear them down. And, if you have built a wall around yourself, start tearing that down. Pair new volunteers with those expert veterans who are open to change. Establish a new volunteer system that encourages change.

And try the new ideas suggested by new volunteers, but make them responsible for executing their own ideas. If they work, you’re ahead of a lot of soccer tournaments who are doing the same-ol’, same-ol’ every year. And, if they don’t, then they don’t. Don’t make a big fuss, don’t point fingers, but do encourage change, personal responsibility and innovation. If other volunteers see that you rant on unsuccessful ideas, they will be less apt to propose them and your tournament will not grow.

And never, ever use the phrase “We tried that once and it didn’t work.” If a new volunteer is willing to put in time and effort on an idea you tried a few years ago, perhaps times have changed and it will work this time.

Whatever you do, never publicly rant against new people who are enthusiastic and bright-eyed, even if they get stuff wrong and tick you off with their energy and excitement. It will make your soccer tournament look stodgy and you will scare off entire generations of potential volunteers. And your tournament will stagnate as your current experts get older and more resistant to change.

Make this year the year you resolve to try new things and break the status quo. In a down economy, the worst product to be selling is a commodity that anyone can get anywhere. Resolve to be different, to be special. Resolve that new people with new ideas will help you get there.

Meet us in St. Louis for the NSCAA. Jan 14-17, 2009
We’re in booth 1735 and we won’t even try to sell you anything, so you can stay and chat as long as you want. Really. And, if you want to make a podcast promoting your soccer tournament, Back of the Net will help you with that. You don’t even need to be a TourneyCentral tournament.

The ROI of “social networking”

Soccer photo from the Mead Cup Soccer Tournament in Dayton, Ohio

Soccer photo from the Mead Cup Soccer Tournament in Dayton, Ohio

I received a panic email from a graphic designer at a local city magazine yesterday who desperately needed some photos of a soccer tournament. “Anything you have showing local kids playing soccer!” she said. Since she was referred by someone who had faith that I would come through for her, it was hard to say no, even though I really didn’t have the extra time.

Fortunately, we had commissioned a photo shoot for TourneyCentral a few months back and the photos were still on my MacBook Pro. So, I opened the folder, pulled out a few dozen photos, threw them in a gallery using Photoshop, put them up on some Web space and sent her the link.

“Email me the file names of the ones you want, give the photographer credit,” I wrote back.

Within an hour, she had her local photos, I made another contact in the local publishing community who sent me back a huge “sigh of relief and gratitude” email (on a holiday week), reaffirmed my value with the local chamber contact who referred me, gave some more exposure to a local photographer, subtly plugged the Mead CUSA Cup Soccer Tournament and maybe created some business opportunity for myself later on down the line.

What I did not do was calculate an ROI for this act of networking.

Why didn’t I? I’m in business and the responsible thing to do — I’ve been told — is to have an ROI for everything I do. What was the return on my spending an hour of time and effort I did not really have to spare? How did your actions affect the bottom line of your business? You paid to have those photos taken; why did you just give them away to a publication? What is the ROI on spending another hour writing the blog post you are reading now? All of these things I heard in the back of my head as I was doing this act of kindness for this very desperate graphic designer who probably was behind schedule through no fault of her own.

Again, knowing all this, I did not calculate an ROI.

Is what I did considered social networking? Yeah, I think it is. It is no different than sending folks tweets on Twitter and helping out with requests for code or software recommendations or sharing a MacBook Pro power adapter when someone sends out a “help me” tweet. Nor is it any different than spending time commenting on a blog post that may not have examined all the facts entirely.

I propose a new standard for ROI on social networking: If you ask what the ROI is for social networking, you are already convinced emotionally that you need to do it. Go with that, jump in and tweet, blog and link in and the “financial ROI” will fall into place.

Originally published at: DogWalkBlog

A funeral dirge for trade shows?

maclogoApple announced today that will no longer participate in Macworld Expo, the largest annual show for Mac enthusiasts. In a press release, Apple says:

Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers. The increasing popularity of Apple’s Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the Apple.com website enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways.

Are trade shows becoming obsolete? Apple seems to think so.

At TourneyCentral, we’ve scaled back from a couple dozen local shows and two national shows (NSCAA and US Youth Soccer) to just one per year, the NSCAA. In short, much of the material was a repeat of the shows, the exhibitors — with the exception of the NSCAA — were treated like second-class citizens that were allowed to pay, but not participate.

Perhaps this was Apple’s experience, but most likely not because of their size and heft. But, for smaller companies who have other choices to reach their audiences, this sounds like “permission” to break away from the “must show” trade shows.

Yet there still exists that fundamental human need for touch. As trade shows become less and less attended, what will replace that? Tweetups? Webinars? Live TV shows? More likely, the answer will be some combination of all of these, initiated or complemented with Twitter, blog comments and posts.

With any luck, we’ll start meeting people again in laundromats, grocery stores, bars and dog parks. And, maybe we’ll even unplug the cell phone from our ears and turn to them and have a real conversation.

What do you think is the future of trade shows?

Originally posted at: DogWalkBlog.com

The recession will affect soccer tournaments

Make no mistake about it; the current recession will hurt some soccer tournaments. Attendance will be down as teams will travel to fewer and fewer tournaments. And some tournaments, especially the ones that attract teams from more affluent areas where wealth is based on stocks and high home value may feel especially high pressure to limit soccer tournament travel.

The only bright light in this whole financial mess is the low cost of gasoline. Or, is it?

While teams may be cutting the number of tournaments in their schedule, it really only matters if they cut yours. If you have worked to create a must-attend tournament event, most likely you will survive the cut.

Here are some must-attend qualities:

1. You have consistently worked to make the teams feel at home while they are guests at your event.
Have you worked to make sure their questions were answered quickly via email? If they have had hotel problems, did you help to resolve them? When there were disputes about scoring, rules, etc, did you work with each party to resolve for a win-win-win? Are your volunteers cheerful and helpful? At the end of the tournament, did the most loosingest team remark in some fashion, “We lost every game, but had a blast! We’ll be back next year!”

2. Your organization is solid.
You have control of your data and everyone knows what is going on, from the host coach at a league game to the advertising coordinator to the person in charge of registering the teams. Your web site is up-to-date at all times, even to the minute during the tournament weekend. Your front page has news, maybe even hourly during the competition.

3. You have solid sponsors
This may seem like a little thing, but adidas doesn’t just sponsor anyone. And, once you get their sponsorship, you don’t get to keep it forever without working hard at it, especially in this economy. Parents and coaches are fairly savvy about what it takes to convince a corporation to spend sponsorship dollars at a youth soccer event that only takes place for 2-3 days in a limited geographic area. A display of some well-heeled sponsors get you respect.

4. Games are played on time and are well-controlled
Don’t underestimate the power of keeping a tight control of the games on the field. Many teams have been to a lot of tournaments where nobody seems to be in charge, games are played when referees stroll onto the field and all sorts of loosey-goosey standards. Don’t be one of those events! Expect everyone to show up on time, schedule enough referees to over-cover the games and make sure the volunteer field marshals know the times, locations and duties. And, if you can’t find volunteers, pay your field marshals. They are that important, for safe play and for your brand protection.

5. Advertise and market, market, market
A lot of soccer tournaments are going to be scared of this economy and pull back their advertising. DON’T LET YOUR TOURNAMENT BE ONE OF THEM! NOW is the time to go out and become visible. Now is the time to grab market share. Now is the time to be bold. Make sure your TICO Score is up-to-date, your tournament is listed correctly at your state association and your other media like podcasts and bulletin board advertising is intact. And, get some postcards/business cards for all your coaches to hand out (ask for Don Denny.)

6. Web site
I saved this for last, but it really is the most important of all. Make sure your web site is up-to-date, and uses the latest technology to bring your guest teams real-time information including scores and standings. We recommend any and all tournaments on this list. Your web site is your front door so it should be easy to find out information. (Who, What, Where, When, How Much does this cost) The application form should be readily accessible and work without any fancy log-ins, pre registration, etc. All TourneyCentral soccer tournaments have these capabilities built in from the ground up.

Our advice: Firstly, if you don’t already have a TourneyCentral web site, get one. Secondly, if you do, make sure it is turned on and ready for 2009. Thirdly, be visible everywhere. If you can, go to the NSCAA in St. Louis. Make sure your TICO Score is current. Advertise and get cards to hand out. But mostly, believe in your event and make sure your club/host coaches, teams, parents and players are your greatest champions and they know and love your tournament as much as you do.

2009 could be make or break for a lot of events. Make sure yours is on the “make” list.

Meet us in St. Louis for the NSCAA.
We’re in booth 1735 and we won’t even try to sell you anything, so you can stay and chat as long as you want. Really. And, if you want to make a podcast promoting your soccer tournament, Back of the Net will help you with that. You don’t even need to be a TourneyCentral tournament.

Originally published at: TourneyCentral.com