Layout & Strips, Part 3: General Principles

OK, we’ve got strips laid out and numbered, so we’re ready to start the fencing. How do we decide which events to put where?

For local tournaments, assigning strips is easy, so much so that even using the word “assigning” is silly. Local events in my own area rarely use more than five strips—normally, we just hand scoresheets to the referees, who pick a strip and call out their fencers’ names. Both the venues and the competitive fields are small enough that a more complicated procedure is completely unnecessary, and would be downright silly.

As tournaments get larger, particularly when you’re dealing with more than one event occurring simultaneously, you need to pay more attention to how you’re using your strips and where you’re putting each event. At medium-sized events—say, 8 to 16 strips—there might be a couple of events starting at the same time, with another one or two starting a couple hours later as the first events shrink through their DEs to their finals, and perhaps a third wave a few hours after that.

Ideally, the sizes of all these events should be known when the schedule is made—it’s far easier to assign events that are spread appropriately throughout the day than struggle with planning delays because too many fencers are scheduled to fence at the same time. At the very least, tournament organizers need to have solid projections for their event numbers—without a well-planned schedule, even the best assigners can only achieve least-bad outcomes.

(Though scheduling is not my main concern in these posts on strip management, there are a few general guidelines for workable schedules, the most important of which is to get the biggest and slowest events started first on as many strips as possible. There are those who argue that it would be better to let the faster events go first and get out of the way, so the monster events can then have the venue for as long as they need it and not make everyone else wait around, but that hardly ever works. Big events usually need a lot of strips for their early rounds, but shrink down to fewer strips once their pools are done. Using the strips they free up as they become available is usually more efficient and makes for a shorter day overall, even if some fencers have a longer stay than they might otherwise. Keeping referees and other officials to more reasonable hours helps keep them more competent, too.)

Let’s assume, in any case, that we’ve got a reasonably decent schedule. How does the assigner decide what to do? I’ve usually got these guidelines in mind:

  • Keep each event on adjacent strips as much as possible—it’s easier on fencers, coaches, and spectators, and makes it easier for tournament officials to track progress.
  • Give each event as many strips as possible for each round, keeping in mind the other events scheduled.
  • Always think at least two or three rounds ahead—what happens now can drastically affect the choices available later in the day.
  • Try to keep team events and finals bouts on the edges of the hall, to allow as much room as possible for spectators.
  • As the day winds down, move the remaining fencing increasingly closer to the bout committee, to allow armorers to check and shut down equipment, volunteers to clean up, and keep the traipsing back and forth to a minimum. (This also gives the bout committee members a chance to finally watch some actual fencing.)

Next time: The ins and outs of assigning pools.

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2 comments on “Layout & Strips, Part 3: General Principles

  1. A better way to get fencers quickly to the right strip is to gather everyone in one spot and call each pool to facilitate fencers following their referee to their strip. Referees simultaneously calling pools leads to chaos, requiring fencers to run from strip to strip. Alternatively, Fencing Time allows the Assigner to assign strips to pools so that when printed and posted, fencers know where to go.

  2. At most of the local events around here, the pools are posted, but the strips aren’t numbered. Fencers usually already know who’s in their pool, and the venues aren’t large enough to require running around to find the right place to be. Tthe problem with the “staging area” approach to calling pools–or even DEs–is that it assumes there’s space for a staging area, and that gathering the fencers there is the least chaotic method, which isn’t always the case. But that’s the essence of running tournaments for you–what works well in one place doesn’t necessarily apply universally.)

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