Monday, November 18, 2013

Now this is how a tournament should be run

I've had the experience numerous times, and perhaps you have as well.  You show up at 8:30 a.m. for tournament registration.  The opening ceremony begins an hour late. Then you're pressed into service as a judge, even though you simply want to compete.  So you judge all day, and somewhere around 6:30 p.m. you actually get to do your form, or spar, or demonstrate your weapons technique.  Of course, by then you're tired from all that judging and all the attempts to stretch and stay loose for 10 hours.  All you really want to do is go home and rest.
   Well, on November 16th I had the extremely good fortune of seeing just how well a Taekwondo tournament really can be run, and that's what today's post is all about.  Mr. Michael Crocco, owner and head instructor of the Hamilton, NJ, United TaeKwonDo Academy, directed the TaeKwonDo United Regional Championships in Pennington, NJ.  And I left thinking that I had just experienced the gold standard, perhaps the platinum standard, in martial-arts tournaments.  If a tournament can be run more efficiently than this one was, someone needs to tell me how.
   The tournament hosted more than 200 competitors -- ranging from 4 to 67 -- who represented six NJ schools affiliated with the TaeKwonDo United national organization.  Of special interest to readers of this blog is the fact that Mr. Crocco went out of his way to attract "VIP" competitors -- meaning those of us in the 60+ crowd -- for the tournament's three events: sparring, weapons, and forms.  You need to file that detail away, since you should plan to compete in future TaeKwonDo United tournaments.  If a tournament offers a 60+ age division, we need to support it.
   Okay, let's check off a few of the reasons that the recent NJ Taekwondo United Regional Championships was an A+ event.
        -- All the judges were selected and ready to go before the tournament date.  There was no last-minute scrambling for judges on the day of the event.  No frantic announcements over the loudspeaker: "If we don't get more judges, we can't continue."  If you came to compete, that's all you had to do.
        -- The judges were carefully briefed on tournament rules and ran their rings with great skill.  I found the judging to be objective, fair, and demanding.
        -- The entire day's schedule was published online well in advance of the tournament date.  If you wanted to know what time you would be competing, all you had to do was check the tournament website.
        -- Three days before the event all competitors were told what ring they would be in . . . and at what time.  They were also told to arrive at least 15 minutes before their scheduled time.
        -- Believe it or not, the tournament ran on schedule -- like a fine Swiss watch, in fact.  My 9:00 a.m. event began at 9:00 a.m.  My 9:30 event began at 9:30.  You get the picture.
        -- Since competitors didn't need to arrive until 15 minutes before their scheduled times, the competition hall was not the usual frenzied scene that you find at many tournaments.  Why try to crowd hundreds of people into the space at the same time when only a few of them are competing?  By staggering the times and sticking to the schedule, the tournament directors were able to eliminate chaos and make the experience entirely competitor-friendly.
        -- Immediately following each event the winners were escorted to an Olympic-style podium for an awards ceremony.  Each competitor received his or her medal and was announced over a loudspeaker that could actually be heard clearly.
   Bottom line: this was a friendly, highly competitive, extremely well orchestrated tournament that should serve as the model for all martial-arts tournaments.  According to Mr. Crocco, the format is the result of years of trying different models, always seeking the one that best served the competitors and the fans.  As far as I'm concerned, they've reached the promised land.  It really doesn't get any better than this.