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Help with running a tournament.

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I am not a coach, but some of the students in my area and I are planning to run a tournament, but we have no experience doing this. What do we need to know logistically in order to make this a success?

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tab software or tab cards

people who know how to tab


air conditioning (it was pretty bad at nfl)

or free donuts (the reason people still went to nfl)

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You need the following: A tab room where who won what round info goes, someone to organize brackets, some sort of way to get food out to the debaters, judges, participants, somewhere to post pairings, and spaces for each debate to take place. 

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If you're going to recruit lay judges you should have a session where you tell them how to judge and not just to pick whoever has the better handwriting for their team codes.

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I am not a coach, but some of the students in my area and I are planning to run a tournament, but we have no experience doing this. What do we need to know logistically in order to make this a success?

You should get in touch with local coaches to help you run the tournament. They understand how parings and tabulations work. They can definitely help you out. Also most of the debate community is really nice and friendly so you can probably get some "veterans" in the debate world to also help you out with the logistics too.


Few things id look into

1) Auditorium/cafe renting 

2) room renting

3) food situation

4) duration of tournament

5) number of rounds

6) tab room

7) judging


Setting up a tournament can be complicated. Id start preparing months in advanced. It can also get very expensive too. Make sure you have a large enough group of people willing to attend your tournament or else you could find yourself a few $100 in debt.


good luck though :)   

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Some Basic Guides


Check out this link:




The NDCA has some resources for people running tournaments. Possibly the most useful is the packet of "Judge 




This is also a good guide (although a bit dated) it covers all the bases:





Tournament Website


You'll also need to pick a tournament registration website, I would recommend either









Forensics Tournament is easy to use, it charges $1 per school that registers for your tournament. It also lets you tab from their website, the fee for that is $3 per school that registers. I wouldn't suggest tabbing from this website however, as several tournaments have had difficulty doing so.


I believe Tabroom.com is free, I haven't used it myself, but i've heard good things about it.



Joyoftournaments.com is the 3rd option, it is the most expensive, but offers the best customer service and support.





Tabbing the Tournament


This is the most critical part--tournament attendees need to be assured a fair and equitable competition, and that can't happen if you're experiencing tabulation errors. Try to get someone who does this regularly to tab your tournament for you. They'll usually have a preferred software or method they will bring, or will be willing to work with whatever you are able to provide.


Tabbing Methodology is well explained here: http://commweb.fullerton.edu/jbruschke/Web/how%20to%20tab%20text.doc


A few tab software options:


TRPC (Tab Room on the PC) - This program is robust, but not known for being user-friendly. Its benefits include being independent of the internet or the tournament registration sites. The limitations are that it can only handle 4 divisions of debate. If you're good with computers, i'd go with TRPC. You can find it by google-ing "TRPC Baylor"


TRIEPC - This is the companion IE software. You can find it at the same website as well as their instruction manuals


the CAT (Computer assisted Tab) - This can be found at Tabroom.com. It's the newest of the tab softwares and has distinct advantages such as multiple users being able to input results from multiple computers, as well as eballoting, and the ability to text pairings to competitors and coaches. I believe you need to be online to use this, but I may be mistaken


EverythingTab - can be found at ForensicsTournament.net . Again, I don't recommend this option, but it is simple.



Drone (IE Only) - I haven't used this, and I've never met anyone who has. That being said, It's probably not bad or I would have heard horror stories through the grapevine.


Plustab - (Debate Only) I've used plustab twice, and both times were complete disasters. However, this was several years ago, and it has the benefit of being based in Excel, so if something does go wrong, you can fix it (If you're good with Excel)

You can find PlusTab here: http://wcdebate.com/plustab/


Excel - (IE Only) If you've got relatively small divisions in IE, you can effectively tab a tournament on Excel, just make sure you've got someone who's good with spreadsheets in general and Excel in particular. I have a great Excel spreadsheet template for tabbing IE and congress. Message me if you want me to email it to you.



Finally, the old-school way of tabbing tournaments: Index Cards. You will need: Lots of Index Cards, a large table, and some calculators. This is the most error-prone method. Each team gets an index card, as does each judge. As each round finishes, you write the name/code of the opponent on the team's card as well as a W/L for Win/Loss, and their total speaker points. You also write the name/code of both teams on the judge's card. When power matching, cards are divided into the brackets, the the power match is done manually. 

A detailed description of how to do this can be found here: http://citrusbeltspeech.org/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/CBSRCONS_Sept_2011.30133228.doc

and here (I suggest reading this because it does discuss a lot of things that are about running/hosting a tournament in general) : http://www.csun.edu/~dgw61315/handtab.html


I really recommend against tabbing a tournament by hand/ index cards.






You'll also need to secure the rooms, get the awards ordered, set your fees, publicize your tournament to the schools that you'd like to host, have a (relatively large) judge's room and a tab room. Provide an option for students to buy lunch/dinner/snacks, secure custodial services for your venue, and everything else that goes along with hosting an event where you'll have a lot of foot traffic. 



Feel free to message me to get my email or phone number if you need help with getting a tournament together and off the ground. I tab several tournaments throughout the year in the Southern California region.

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