Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Foam Ball Fun

Recently I held a free event as a thank-you to current students and as a promotion to help grow the game and of course my business. Too soon to tell if it will have the desired effect, but I feel strongly that occasional free events benefit everyone. As my former boss used to say, 'the rising tide floats all boats'. Meaning, the more we grow the game, the more all of us will eventually benefit.

My facility has seven permanent 36-foot courts, so I decided to hold a free Foam Ball Tourney for a couple different reasons.
  • I love showcasing our 36-foot courts.
  • I wanted the event to be fun for all players, regardless of skill.
  • I felt foam ball would be perfect for any level of player.
  • With permanent courts, I didn't need the extensive set-up time to convert full courts into 36-foot courts. Less work for me!
We played an Uptown/Downtown format, singles only. We supplied the small racquets and foam balls. I assigned everyone to a court for the first round based on pre-registration info on ages. Once that was set, the players rotated on their own. We played first to 4 points wins. Winner moves up one court, loser moves down one court. Exceptions are highest court, where winner stays, and lowest court, where loser either stays or rotates to end of waiting line. We only had two extra players so the waiting time was brief. If you have lots of extra players, play doubles instead of singles. Rather have crowded courts than long lines!

The event was advertised as one hour. This gave us time for check-in, introductions, explanation of rules, and three 10-minute playing segments. After each 10 minute segment, we stopped for a water break, then returned to play.

Two things I need to improve for next time:

  • I forgot to warn everyone to go to the restroom before we began. Key error and I should know better! Our facility is so spread out, it is problematic to walk young players back to the clubhouse for a restroom break in the middle of the event. Fortunately, one of the parents volunteered to do this for me. Thank you, Mr. Felder!
  • Rotation up/down after match was complete was clunky and confusing for the younger players. The players about 8 and older figured it out quickly. But the little ones needed constant supervision to get it right. Once again, parents to the rescue - they gladly agreed to stand at the net posts and assist. At first I encouraged players to continue playing for fun on their existing court if they were waiting for their next court to finish, rather than stand around waiting. But this caused too much confusion, so I would suggest just being patient and letting the players wait at the net post for their next match. Since we were only playing first to 4 points, the wait was never very long.
We had gift bag giveaways including one foam ball per participant and some flyers for upcoming events. In the clubhouse we had hot cocoa and cookies waiting for them afterward. Players ages ranged from 5-16 with ability levels ranging from never-ever to advanced beginner. The small courts and racquets plus foam balls leveled the playing field and everyone had a great time.