How to organise a kids’ football tournament

The romantic view of a row of fathers standing along the touchline in their coats on a crisp Sunday morning, happily watching their youngsters playing junior football, is a pleasant thought. Some stand stoically watching their son or daughter dispatch goal after goal, others get rather animated as the action heats up, and in certain circumstances there may even be other spectators of interest. In a tournament set-up there’s the potential for real excitement and drama which introduces youngsters to teamwork with a little dash of pressure thrown in for good measure.

As organiser there are several responsibilities that you have to take into account, but it need not be your sole responsibility. Mums and dads can help with administration, organising a venue, and fundraising, among other tasks. The venue needs to be somewhere with, as a bare minimum: toilets, good parking, a changing area, inflatable rides/attractions for youngsters not taking part, somewhere to dish out hot and cold drinks, and hot-dog/ice-cream vans.

Decide on a weekend date and if you are charging for children to take part, with money going to school/club funds, a charitable cause, or towards future sports tours through a company such as InvicTour Sports. You’ll also need a contribution towards an on-site medical team such as St John Ambulance, who will need clear entry and exit points. Make sure you include your details, and if relevant ask for teams’ league affiliation number.

Decide who will take part and get the invitations sent out early – a summer event (but not during the summer holiday) could be ok, but be wary of hot temperatures. The summer also might allow you to use a local football stadium for the day, and there’s certainly no harm in asking. Try to organise it for a weekend when little else is going on in the area.

If you’ve never organised a tournament before, it’s best to stick to one or two age groups at the most, because too many teams will make it a logistical nightmare. Five or seven a side games on a small pitch (or pitches) is the easiest option. Someone will need to be on-hand for each individual game, to referee and observe from a safety point of view.

A mini league system might be fair, as it gives teams several short (5-10 minutes at the most) games. Four groups of three or four, or two groups of five, will allow the winning teams to play each other in the semi-final/final. All entry information should be sent to the teams in good time.

Once the event starts to formulate, let the local media know – even if they don’t make it on the day they might publish a picture afterwards. Set up a Twitter account where interested parents can ask quick questions. You might even get requests for stalls from small local businesses, selling hot food and drink, football boots and so on.

It’s nice to have a memento for all participating players, whether they win or not.
A trophy will be needed for the winning team, which should be engraved at a later date. Make sure there’s a space big enough down the years for more names to be added – with a few great goals, combined with a fine spirit and hopefully a little sunshine, this could become a regular attraction for the area.

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