And so, Baby Bump is all registered up. I think it’s pretty decent numbers. We didn’t get a couple of the city schools I was looking for, but everybody else is on board. It will be a good practice tournament for the Hud without my having put it all together, aside from the registration part, which I already do for everyone else. They’ll pull it off fine.
Most people don’t run tournaments. And most people really don’t understand what goes into it. They go to tournaments week after week, and I think most of them are just happy to be there, although there are plenty of people who harshly criticize on Facebook when something isn’t to their liking. Things run late? They blame the tournament, when 999 times out of 1000, it’s the attendees who are holding things up. Do you really think the tab staff wants to hang around until after midnight? (Read CP’s recent FB remarks on attendees screwing up tournaments if you want more details.) They lose an important round, and they blame the tournament for assigning them that judge. Which they rated highly enough to get the judge in the first place. They don’t like the amount of money the tournament is offering to judges? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I have admittedly screwed up many times in tab, as the VCA well knows. Excoriate me over it. I really don’t give a horse’s patoot (although you probably don’t want to confront me directly when I’m trying to solve a problem and all stressed out because, well, in the end it won’t go well for you). But at the bottom of this is, if you run a tournament yourself, you are at least in a position to appreciate the work that goes into it. Especially the extreme stress. If you don’t run a tournament—I mean a real tournament with hundreds of people over multiple days—then thank your lucky stars other people do, you ungrateful wretch!!!
Actually, as I began, I think most people do appreciate it. Otherwise I don’t think any of us would bother.
I started running Bump in media res, having to plan the tournament with literally no experience as a coach and little experience as an attendee. I met with someone who had run it in the past, who told me to do a million different things, including buying little gifts like scarves and gloves for the tab staff. My first time out I blew it completely. I just didn’t know enough to make it happen. Fortunately some experienced folk stepped in and pulled it out of the fire. Needless to say, I learned from that. But having an initial bad experience paved the way for my apprehension every year as tournament planning began anew. Think of all the things that can go wrong:
- · Weather: One year before I took over there was a storm on Saturday that kept everyone from leaving the tournament. One year when I was running it there was a big storm predicted and I pulled the plug early (and it snowed like crazy, thank God).
- · Acts of God, for which one does not give thanks: One year, at two-thirty on the Friday, as four or five hundred people had just descended on the school for registration, the head custodian came up to me and told me that there was a water main break, none of the plumbing was working in the building, and the fire marshal was ordering evacuation. Fortunately the problem was solved in under half an hour, before people actually got back into their buses to go home.
- · You have to set up registration, multiple meals for hundreds of people (many of whom won’t or can’t eat the foods we commonly consider staples), a comfortable and tasty judges’ lounge, thousands of dollars worth of trophies (never with a date on them, in case of the weather [see above]), as many debating spaces as you can carve out of a couple of buildings where many teachers are little tyrants who think they—and not the school district—own those spaces, and deal with administrators who have no understanding what you’re trying to do (not to mention that you don’t work on-site, so they also have little understanding of who you are in the first place). You have to find beds for 150-200 little criminals (or more to the point, find a parent who can figure out a spreadsheet and operate a telephone, which sometimes seemed even harder than just opening the door to the chez and packing them all in like the sardines they virtually were), work with the custodians to solve situations of malicious mischief (graffiti, slobbery, etching, etc.) when they’re not unlocking the doors they should have unlocked an hour ago, feed the tab staff (always paid for out of your own pocket because of all the people there, you want them to be the happiest), find judges late in the day when all the obligations are starting to blow off in the wind, and manage a team of mostly Speecho-Americans who have never been to an actual debate tournament much less grokked the need for ballots to, A, get into the hands of the judges, and, B, get pulled out of the hands of the judges and back into the hands of tab.
- · And a bunch of other stuff that I’ve managed to repress in my memory because they’re too horrible for conscious thought.
You go through this every year, because none of it ever gets much better or easier. Yeah, my trophy order became a breeze, except that every year I seemed to have different events with different expectations of numbers, but at least the pit bull at the trophy shop was friendly. Really. My families handling the food might have been new, but at least the venues supplying the grub could always pull out last year’s order (although the Saturday pizzas seemed to come from a different joint every year). And after the first decade where, and this is only slightly exaggerated, there was a new principal every year, things got a bit easier on the admin side. But mostly it was a recognition at some point in the middle of summer that Bump was coming, kicked off by a visit to the trophy shop on Labor Day weekend, and once more it was off to the ulcer races.
So here’s a few things, if you’re an attendee. First, put together an accurate registration, and stick to it. Cover all your judging (I haven’t mentioned the hassle of hiring adjudicators), especially if you’re a big program. Show up on time, because Google will tell you how long it’s going to take, and how much traffic there’s going to be, and if worse comes to worse, send me a text telling me who’s on the bus and when you expect to arrive (because Google will tell you that, too). Enjoy our hospitality and if things aren’t to your liking, either keep it to yourself or express your displeasure with respect and understanding. As the tournament draws to a close, don’t leave until you’ve fulfilled your judging obligations, and don’t hesitate, if the spirit moves you, to volunteer for an extra round or two, since I have yet to attend a tournament that had too many judges. In other words, be a good guest. That will help us be good hosts. The two go together.