VETWOD: Why we decided to host our own competition

VETWOD is our first annual online-only functional-fitness competition to benefit veterans. We started VETWOD out of a common goal: to serve the veteran community.

Throwdowns.com is a veteran founded and co-owned company that provides registration and scoring solutions for fitness competitions worldwide.

In Fall 2017, Technical Sergeant Sebastian Paz of the USAF reached out to Throwdowns.com for help with a benefit competition. At the time, Seb was stationed in the UAE on a six month tour. While on tour, he saw a need for new equipment at the gym on the base, and the idea for a competition was born. Proceeds for Seb’s competition would go towards new equipment. When he reached out for help, Throwdowns.com jumped at the opportunity to be involved.

Shortly thereafter, we decided it was time to use our network of athletes for a good cause. We knew we wanted to benefit the veteran community in some way and we also knew we wanted Seb to be involved. He got into the military to help people – first as a firefighter, and then in emergency medical evacuation. He knew from the get-go that he wanted to be a medic, to help. Seb is back home in the USA and is working towards his Masters of Nursing, which he will use to continue his legacy of helping people.

We teamed up to bring VETWOD to life. 100% of the proceeds will benefit Mission 22, an organization that aims to end veteran suicide. We are deeply committed to raising funds and awareness towards the cause.

You can register to compete, donate, or purchase merchandise by visiting the the VETWOD page. Click “Register Now”.

You can also stay up to date with VETWOD on Instagram.

Competition Day: What to Tell Your Athletes Ahead of Time

It is crucial that you communicate competition-day logistics to your athletes before event day.

This sets you up for success and keeps your focus off of answering athlete questions throughout the day. We recommend sending your athletes an email with all the information they’ll need for competition day. We recommend sending this email 7-10 days before the competition.

Here are a few things you should tell your Athletes ahead of time:

  1. Where to park (or NOT park):

    It’s helpful to send a parking map with any all-clear or off-limits parking zones clearly marked. You might consider taking a screenshot of your venue from the Google Maps Satellite View and marking off the “Yes” and “No” zones to attach to the “Week of Competition” email. If there is a specific place you want them to set up their tents (or NOT set up their tents), you need to tell them that in advance as well.

  2. The Food Vendor Situation:

    Your athletes need to know if there will be food onsite, what that food will be, and if it will be free or available for purchase. If it’s available for purchase but has specific payment requirements (like Cash Only), be sure to indicate that as well.

  3. When they are working out:

    Your athletes need to know the heat schedule before competition day for several reasons. The first reason is food timing and knowing when/what they should plan to eat. The second reason is because it allows them to invite spectators without expecting them to be there all day and wait around. And the third reason is so they know how long they will have to rest and recover. Note: *Check out this post for tips to making a great heat schedule.*

  4. Special equipment needs:

    Most athletes will have a stocked bag of their preferred equipment. But it’s  still better to let folks know what they might encounter on competition day so they can pack their bag accordingly. For example, if Annie makes an appearance, you definitely want to give athletes a heads up that they will need a jump rope – especially if you didn’t publicize your workouts beforehand.

  5. Anything you DON’T want them to do:

    If there is something you don’t want athletes to do, you need to tell them. For example, if you don’t want athletes using the gym bathroom and instead want them to use the Port-O-Johns, you need to tell them.

  6. Waivers:

    Some competitions require athletes to print and sign their waivers ahead of time. If you’d like athletes to bring their waivers to the check-in table, that’s great! Just make sure you include a copy of the waiver and set the expectation in the week-of email.

  7. Check-in information:

    Include any details about when athlete check-in begins on competition day. You might include any details about what you need to check-in (for example, all team members must be present to check in, etc)

What other information do you send to athletes on competition week?

Tips for Making Your Heat Schedule

A heat schedule is a must-have for a well-run competition.

If you want to have a smooth competition, a heat schedule is absolutely essential. A heat schedule helps keep you on the clock. It keeps your athletes and judges informed about when they need to be ready. And a timeline ensures that you have “go-times” for volunteers who are doing things like equipment changeover. *Check out this post for more information on how many volunteers you need at your competition.*

While it is critical to have a heat schedule, your standard “this is the order in which athletes signed up” timeline might miss the mark. Take a tip from regionals and the games: heats organized by ability level make for a more exciting competition day.

There are a few ways to approach organizing your heats by likelihood of earning a spot on the podium.

  1. Now, you could do all the leg-work yourself and export the athletes’ performance in the Open. But that is a lot of unnecessary work, especially because the athletes can do the work for you. You can ask them to provide their region placement in the past Open as a registration question.
  2. Alternatively, you might consider running a qualifier workout. In this scenario, you would program a workout that is representative of the difficulty level of your event. Athletes would complete the workout and log their score by a certain date (with or without video submission – you choose), and you can make your heat schedule from there. You could also decide to have the qualifier score count towards their overall event placement, or wipe the slate clean and use it just as a heat scheduling tool. If you have a lot of athletes competing and your competition day timeline is stretched a bit thin, it might be very useful to have athletes complete one of the scored workouts beforehand. This can also be useful if the workout is longer and/or boring for your spectators to watch.
  3. A strategy that our friends at Lex Artis use is one we endorse and love. At the point of registration, they ask athletes to answer one additional question: “How likely is it, on a scale from 1 to 5, that you podium? (1 meaning very likely and 5 meaning just for fun).” Athletes typically know and are honest about their ability levels. And you’re happy, because they do the work for you!

Have you used another strategy to make your heat schedule? What worked? What didn’t? We’d love to hear about it.

Judges: how qualified should they be?

Every competition has judging staff, but not every competition has the right judges. When you are considering how to staff out your judge roster, consider the quality of the judging. If they are unfair, unqualified or inconsistent and your athletes are unhappy, they will be unlikely to sign up for future events. If there aren’t any athletes, then you don’t have a competition.

Likewise, if you don’t have enough judges, they will be overworked, unhappy, and unlikely to volunteer in the future. Check out our post about how many your competition needs. In this article we will stick to the characteristics you might look for in a judge.

We recommend having your judges possess some (or better yet, all) of the following qualities:

  1. Have passed the Judge Course
  2. Are CF-L1 trainers or greater
  3. Have been doing functional fitness for over a year
  4. Have good attention spans
  5. Are confident (read: loud and effective!) communicators
  6. Have legible handwriting

What other qualities do you look for in a judge?

Volunteers: how many do you really need?

Few things have the ability to derail your competition like a lack of volunteers. But how many do you really need?

That depends on the size of your competition. There are three basic categories your volunteers fall into:

  1. Executive Staff

    • You, the event admin, cannot be the point person for everything. You need a small but mighty team of staff that is knowledgeable and close to you. We recommend having a person in charge of each of the following:
      • Equipment – You need someone in charge of all the equipment rotations that need to go on throughout the day – someone your equipment-mover volunteers can look to for questions
      • Judges (a head judge) – You need someone in charge of all the Judges who can be a second pair of eyes on the competition floor. The Head Judge makes all the final calls in terms of good rep/no rep, so we recommend that your Head Judge is at the very least an L1 with some judging and/or coaching experience.
      • Scoring/Score entry – You need someone in charge of score entry who is computer-literate. It’s helpful to give this role to someone with a temperament that doesn’t mind dealing with (sometimes heated) questions from athletes. You might be tempted to give this role to anyone who doesn’t want to be a Judge, but we recommend being thoughtful with your choice!
      • “Volunteer Wrangler” – We recommend having someone as the point person for your volunteers, should any questions arise. This person can also handle things like food deliveries, shift changes, making sure volunteers are okay, etc. It would be helpful if this person is also your First Aid point-person, and someone who can jump in as a judge if there is a need.
  2. Judges

    • You need judges – you know that – but to ensure the longevity of your event, you need *good* judges. You can find more of our thoughts on selecting judges with appropriate qualifications here, however, for the purpose of this article, we want to focus on quantity.
      • How many judges you need depends on how many athletes or teams will be competing at once. If you are only running one event at a time, this is easy to figure out. If you are running multiple events in tandem, you have to do a bit of math. We recommend having a 1.5:1 judge to athlete-per-heat ratio. For example, this means that if you are running 10 athletes or teams at a time, you should have 15 judges. This allows judges to rotate in and out as they need breaks (bathroom, lunch, eye fatigue, injury, etc). It may also be helpful to schedule your judges in sections of the day. Having an option to volunteer for an AM judge, a PM judge or an All Day judge might just improve your signups in the event that folks have part-day conflicts.
  3. Support Staff

    • There are a few additional volunteers that don’t fall into the Judge or Executive Staff categories, but are nonetheless important to consider for your event:
      • Parking lot wizards – responsible for helping people park efficiently, but also keeping them out of banned spots (nobody wants to announce license plates over the loudspeaker).
      • Athlete Check-in Table – responsible for getting athletes checked in, waivers signed and swag bags received
      • Merch Table, if you are selling your own merchandise on-site.
      • First Aid Tech – You might not need it…. but if you do and there isn’t one, you’re in a world of trouble. Make sure you stack up on First Aid equipment, as well.
      • Gear Team – Responsible for changing out equipment based on the workout. How many, again, depends on how many athletes you have, and how many different WOD implements. Don’t expect your judges to tackle this unless you explicitly state it at sign-up.
      • A Lively Emcee
      • A D.J.

5 Things That Will Make Your Swag Bags Better

Most competitions offer swag bags for pick-up at the registration table on event morning. What you might not know is that the items in your swag bag can directly affect your event favorability. Athletes expect a well-curated bag, but that is at odds with your goal of keeping costs low.

Here is a list of affordable, sure-to-impress products you may not have thought about including in your swag bag:

1. Strideline Socks

If you are tired of dealing with athlete shirt sizes, custom branded socks may be the perfect solution. There are no order minimums, but you will need a little more lead time than you would for shirt sizes – 3 weeks. However, because they are one-sized, it will be next to impossible to mess up an order. Bonus: You won’t receive any last-minute emails with requests to change an athlete’s shirt size.

 

2. Junk Headbands

Another non-shirt option for your swag bag is Junk Headbands. You can choose from one of their MANY headband options in a color scheme that matches your event branding, or you can have custom headbands made in a variety of styles.

3. Retail Coupons for Vendors At Your Event

Don’t just offer coupons in your bag – offer coupons for vendors that are present at your event, so your athletes can make a purchase right then and there. If you ask for swag bag coupon contributions as part of the cost of being a vendor or sponsor, this costs you nothing!

4. Creative Snacks

You can offer protein sample packets, but you can also get creative with your snack offerings! Consider offering something like Jelly Belly’s Sport Beans for a quick dose of carbs that your athletes will love snacking on between events.

5. Lunch Voucher

If you are running an all-day event, there is one universal truth: your athletes will need to eat at some point. Show them you’ve already thought about this by having a lunch offering on-site (maybe your local meal-prep company and/or a favorite food truck) and giving all athletes free or reduced lunch.