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Playing With Numbers

In the course of avoiding working on my taxes this morning, I had fun playing around with this season’s national tournament numbers. I’d been struck since I got home from Detroit by the number of comments on Facebook and Fencing.Net about how well run the Detroit NAC was and got to wondering whether most people really understand the reason for the difference between a “well-run” NAC like Detroit and one with jammed-up days and late nights like Milwaukee last November.

So I put together a little spreadsheet with the number of strips, events, days, and individual and team entries for every event so far this season. Then I started looking at the averages (means, that is) to see what I could see.

I looked at “events per day,” which range from 2 individual and 1 team for the December NAC to 10.5 for the October Div. I/Vet in Cincinnati. “Individual fencers per day” is also interesting—the extremes are 217 at the December NAC and 585 for November’s Junior/Cadet/Youth 14 in Milwaukee. While I was at it, I also worked up “fencers per strip” and “fencers per strip per day,” along with the analogous stats for teams.

Neither the number of fencers per day nor the number of events per day correlate well with what I’ll call “perceived difficulty of tournament.” Some NACs, like JOs, are large but have relatively few events, so they aren’t too difficult to run. Other tournaments have both large numbers and a lot of events, so they are far more complicated and stressful.

Looking back at this season so far, the easiest events to run were the December NAC, of course, with only 6 individual events and 3 team events, and this month’s Div 2/3/Vet NAC in Detroit. Neither had painfully tight schedules, and competition ended early enough each day at both that officials (and fencers) could get real meals in restaurants each evening. The most difficult tournaments were the November and January NACs—both lots of large events with large entry numbers, both with very late nights throughout.

“Individual fencers per strip” turned out to correlate perfectly with my “perceived difficulty of tournament”:

  • December NAC: 19.7
  • March NAC: 34.63
  • JOs: 40.1
  • October NAC: 44.8
  • January NAC: 45.47
  • November NAC: 51.98

Once I saw this, of course, I had to run the projected numbers for the April NAC in Portland and for SN in Reno to see what their “fencers per strip” would look like.

Portland, with a schedule similar (fewer but somewhat larger individual events, more teams) to the Detroit NAC, comes up in the same range, 36.02.

And SN? Brace yourself—it’s an impressive 108.84. (And that doesn’t even include teams.)

So then I got to wondering—if we wanted to run SN so that its atmosphere and “perceived level of difficulty” were equivalent to that of the most difficult NAC this season (November, with a “fencers per strip” of 51.98), how many strips would we need instead of the 60–65 we’ll have? 128.

If we wanted a downright comfortable SN, with evenings running no later than 8:00 or 8:30, like Detroit this month, say a “fencers per strip” of 35? That would take 190 strips. I can just imagine the look on Sharon Everson’s face if she were told she needed to hire referees for a 190-strip SN.

Sometimes all you can do is laugh. (And it definitely beats doing taxes.)


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