A guide to basic TO-ing
The player experience
Something you want to think about for your tournaments is improving the event for all attendee's, which usually means thinking about how you can make it good for new and low level players. Imagine going to a tourney for the very first time, you give up your day to travel out to the venue, you pay your money, you play a total of 2 sets because you go 0-2, and then thats it, 20 minutes of game play and you are done and dont get to play anymore, it gets even worse if you had to wait an hour or two to play your matches. Does that sound like a good experience? Nearly all tourneys are done in multiple stages (2 being common for everything that isn't a major). This has typically been done in smash by having round robin pools, followed by a top x bracket where y number of players go through pools to that final double elimination bracket. Pools are great because they help fill out the day, they give newer players more sets to play which gives them more value for their time and money, more chances to gain experience and learn, more forced interaction with other players which can help in getting to know people and the scene better, it gives higher level players a chance to warm up and really get their engines going, it gives players a bit more leeway to test things in tournament matches, etc. The only real reason you'd have to not do a 2 stage tourney like this is if you dont have enough time, or you are short on setups. If you run your event right, pools only take around 2 or 3 players if you have the right setup to player ratio.
Another option is to run Swiss, Swiss is good in theory as it allows players of all skill levels to mostly be playing against other players that are roughly around their skill level which allows for closer more intense matches at all skill levels, which is generally more exciting and gives players a better experience and more incentive to return. Swiss can be tricky though, and doesn't always work out well, and is typically less popular than round robin pools into double elimination bracket.
New players are essential for your scene to grow, and good numbers are the lifeblood of your scene, catering to them and ensuring that they have a good experience and want to come back is more important than catering to your best players.

A common mistake I see TO's make is to set up their tourney, and then sit back and let it run itself. This rarely if ever works. In order for your tourney to run smoothly and efficiently, you need to micromanage it. This often doesn't happen properly because the TO generally enters the tournament themselves and spends a lot of their time playing. For most tourneys the amount of micromanagement you need to do is not much, and the load can be shared, and often more experienced players will take initiative and manage their area of the bracket and make sure their matches and the matches or their opponents further down the line are being player, but this is not something you want to rely on.
Stay on top of things, dont assume anything will happen without you making sure it happens, most people will sit around playing friendly's waiting to be told what to do, even if you mentioned earlier no friendlies, so take charge and take the reins of your tourney.
Always be checking the bracket and making sure that matches that are ready to be played are being played, and if they are not ask those players to play each other, you want to be constantly doing this, and that is pretty much all the micromanagement you need to do most of the time, and although its simple, its also important. Make sure players input their results or report them to a TO before moving onto their next opponents.
For bigger tournaments, its extremely helpful is the person or persons who are micromanaging the bracket are not entered into the tournament and are able to give it their attention and focus for the entire duration of the bracket.

Pools and Bracket
For pools, a useful and common tactic to employ is to choose an experienced player from each pool to be a 'pool captain.' Either print out pools sheets, or draw them up, and fill in the names of each player in the pool onto the pool sheet. Once all your pool sheets are ready, get everyone's attention, get people to stop playing friendlies and listen up, a little bit of assertiveness here goes a long way and people want you to take charge so dont be afraid to speak up. Call out each pool one by one, calling out each player in the pool and announcing who the pool captain is and introducing them, something along the lines of "This is x player, he will be your pool captain for this pool, if you have any questions or concerns or you are not sure how things work, dont hesitate to ask your pool captain, they are here to take care of you.' gather up each pool and assign them set setups. if you have 5 pools and 10 setups, each pool gets a set two setups that they stay on. The pool captains job is to stay with their pool and micromanage it and make sure all the sets are played out promptly and correctly.
Having clipboards for the pool sheets goes a long way, and having the stage list and set format on the other side of the pool sheet for quick reference is a nice touch.
Obviously you want to talk to your chosen pool captains beforehand to make sure they understand the responsibility you are putting on them, and that they are ok to be pool captains.
Each pool will have a number of players moving onto the next round, say you have 4 pools of 5, you could have top 2 players from each pool move on which leaves you with a top 8 bracket. The exact number of pools, and how many should go through will depend on the number of entrants you have and how many setups you have. Brackets are usually top 8, top 16, top 32 or top 64, although are locals its almost always top 8 or top 16. You dont always need the maximum number or players to have that bracket, for instance if I had 12 players I could still do a top 16, and 4 of those players would get bye's. Its hard to say what the best numbers are because its subjective to the numbers you have and the amount of setups and time you have, but after playing around with it a little bit you should get a feel for it. Try to aim for larger numbers of pools where possible rather than having less pools with more players in it. 8 pools of 5 is far better than 5 pools of 8. Obviously, because everyone in a pool plays everyone, the more players that are in each pool, the more sets need to be played and the longer it takes. You dont want too few people in pools, but you dont want too many either. I've found 5 or 6 generally is the sweet spot for the right amount of players in a pool, gives players a decent amount of sets and variety without it taking too long or risking a chance of the players getting burnt out early.
if you have a lot of players and not many setups, sometimes the best option is to run pools in waves. say I have 8 pools and 4 setups, I'd run 4 of the pools with a setup each as one wave, and then when thats done run the next 4 pools with a setup each again for the second wave. In such situations this is usually better than cramming all the players into 4 pools and having too many players in each pool. This situation might not sound ideal, but if you have heaps of players with only 4 setups, you are in a pretty tough spot and it'll be hard to do anything properly, so you gotta make the best of a bad situation by playing it smart. If you run waves like this players can get confused as to whats going on and wonder when they are supposed to be playing and if they've missed their matches or not, or they might wander off to get food and not be back in time for their wave and have to get DQ'd which sucks, so THE most important thing in these situations is CLEAR COMMUNICATION. Make sure you let everyone know there are two waves, make sure you keep people in the loop as to which wave they are in and how long they have to wait. Clear communication is one of the keys to running a good tournament anyway, but its especially important when things arent going the way you'd like them to be.

once you hit brackets, taking a little extra time to seed correctly goes a long way. Sometimes you will make mistakes and make people unhappy, but its important to learn from those mistakes and not take their criticism personally. Sometimes you will get a good respected TO from each region of Australia to look over your bracket a few times giving input, and then when they are all happy with those brackets release them and then have everyone tell you you are bad for making a mistake that literally every TO present at the venue overlooked, and sometimes you will bring up irrelevant things like this in a guide where they dont belong, but I guess I could say my point here is that sometimes people who dont really know the situation will blame you for stupid stuff or things that didn't happen and you've just gotta roll with the punches and not let it get to you.
Most people have the basic idea of seeding, you seed the top players so that they dont play each other till near the end, the theoretical number 1 and 2 shouldn't play till winners finals and so on. Its also important to make sure that you seed in such a way that a few others things are avoided, so here is a basic list:
-seed so top players dont play early
-seed so players who were in the same pool dont meet in bracket
-seed so players who are team mates in doubles dont meet in bracket
-seed so out of state players dont meet in bracket (nothing worse than a few players from one region traveling to a new region only to have to play each other and not the players of the new region)
-seed so players who are friends (typically new players who come to the event together) dont meet in bracket.
-seed so regulars who seem to have to play each other early in bracket all the time dont have to play each other all the time.

Sometimes new players will come with a friend or in small group, sometimes it can be hard to tell who came together so again this is where clear communication comes into play.
Imagine you've been playing with your friend for a while, and you hear about these tourneys and you go together, what could be worse than having to play each other early in bracket, or one of you knocks the other out of the tournament, those situations suck and you want to try and avoid them as much as possible.
When you are making and seeding your brackets, its good to have one or two other experienced people look over it and give you input to try and make sure you avoid mistakes and make the seeding as good as possible. Bad seeding is one of the few negative things players will really take away from your tourney so its important to do it properly. Sometimes its hard to know who to seed because who's better than who is not clear, but you do the best you can (as long as you are careful and smart about it) and if your seeding was a little off on skill, or didn't reflect what happened, dont get discouraged, seeding is almost always subject and you will make mistakes, and sometimes players who are better and should have won will just lose, it happens and you cant really do much to foresee it. The other things on the seeding list, like region and people who were in pools, is a lot less subjective so make sure you really get those right.
Its also important to note that seeding pools is just as important as seeding bracket, and that list above should be taken into consideration for pools as well.

If your tournament has plenty of time and setups, it can be good to have an amateur bracket aswell, which is simply another double elimination bracket for the players who didn't make it out of pools. These can be good for giving new players even more value and help those lower levels players improve and enjoy competing by giving them competition closer to their skill level. These brackets typically dont have prize pools to discourage good players from dropping games in pools to get into the amateur bracket and tear it up to get the money. I encourage TO's to get creative with ideas for amateur brackets, sometimes you might make it so say the top 2 players of a pool go through to the pro bracket, and the 3rd and 4th place of each pool goes through to the amateur bracket, and the winner gets some sort of non cash prize. One tournament we didn't quite have time for an amateur bracket so I ran a draft amateur crew battle which the new players really enjoyed and it got a lot of hype going in the room.

Welcoming players

Again good clear communication is important, especially before your event. Make sure its clear when and where your tourney is and what your full rule set is. Answer questions that people ask on social media promptly and helpfully as best you can.
Having a clear link to a 'what to expect at your first tourney' guide can be helpful for new players, and may encourage players to come who might otherwise not have come because they weren't sure what to expect. A made a guide like that that everyone is free to use, and I would encourage TO's to take that guide and amend it to fit their scene specifically if it doesn't reflect their scene accurately.

A lot of new people wont proactively introduce themselves so a little bit of welcoming can go a long way, even if its just introducing yourself to new faces, having a quick chat, and letting them know that if they have any questions or trouble that you are there to help them out in any way.
Having little extra things here and there is always good so going to a little extra effort if you can think of cool things to do is highly recommended. For instance, and I know its not very inspired, but things like having a basket of Easter eggs for people if you have a tourney in April. If you can personalize these things to your specific scenes story lines or memes, all the better. Little things like this can go a long way to crafting a special scene which is rich in flavor and personality and people will be drawn to become part of it.

Rulesets is a hot topic and one that will often get argued about a lot. All I can recommend is that you try to make the best set of rules for your scene based on your scene. Global or nationwide rules are a good idea in theory, but not all scenes are identical and having rules that reflect your scene specifically is more important I think. Sure its good to have rules that are the same as other places so that your players arent at a disadvantage if they travel out of state to other tourneys, but is that really the most important thing to base your rules on? As it stands of this guide being written, the amount of interstate travel is quite low, why would you cater to those few players in your scene who MIGHT travel sometimes when you could cater to all the players in your scene who show up to your tournaments regularly. Also actual results suggest that traveling to play in a place with a different ruleset has very little impact on player performance. So when people from outside your scene stress to you the importance of a unified ruleset, remember that their main given reason has far less weight than they claim. To be clear I'm not saying its a bad reason, I'm saying its a weak one that doesn't seem to have that much influence on results. Once again, clear communication with your player base is important here, its important to listen to what your players want. There have sadly been TO's in this country who insisted on rules that went against what a lot of their community wanted, and worse still is that even though players from that scene were making it clear they didn't agree with the rules being used, the TO claimed, often, that 100% of the players in his scene supported and wanted those rules. Sometimes the majority of players want something that is bad, but how often does that actually happen? I feel its important to have open discussion in your scene with all your players about what rules work for your scene, and if players want something that isn't good, talk to them about why it isn't good. And if most of the scene want something that isn't good, its ok to have a few tourneys with experimental rules to test things out. A lot of TO's seem to not want to do this, and want to just stick with what has been done in the past, but the meta is always evolving, and so are good rulesets. If you think something doesn't work on theory, its ALWAYS a good idea to test that idea out in practice so that you have real world experience to go along with your theory. Be fluid, be flexible, dont be afraid to try new rules. And doing something that isn't ideal and learning why it isn't ideal and from that learning the ideal way to do things, is usually far better than simply following what people have told you is ideal because you have gained experience and insight into why things are ideal or not, rather than just parroting stuff.
Also make sure your rulesets are clear, fleshed out, and available to be viewed in advance of the tournament. Try not to make last minute changes to rulesets, and make sure everyone is aware of the rules and that the rules are followed consistently.

There is more to running tournaments that what I've written here, but these are the basic fundamentals and if you stick by these you'll be in good waters.
If anyone has any questions feel free to ask in the comments, and if any other longtime experienced TO's have any opinions or ideas that differ from those here, it'd be interesting to here them in the comments also. Potential comment warzone incoming.

by Atyeo 07/26/2016 00:00:00

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