Szia Fellow Ruggers,
Doing my best Andy Rooney impression; "Have you noticed that lately there has been a decline in 7s Tournaments?" Every summer, the Happy Hooker Family travels hither and yon to 7s Tournaments all across this great nation. There are few that see as much 7s action as we do. Without fail, at every tournament, there is always an Old Boy who comes up and lectures me on how great THIS tournament used to be. I listen with rapt attention as my Budweiser-influenced friend touts on about having 50 teams and 50 kegs. The question remains… Where have all the ruggers gone?
Even without taking Tournament History 101, I have been able to determine for myself that 7s tournaments are on the decline. I noticed it a little bit last year, but it's glaringly evident this year. Every tournament that I've attended this year has had fewer teams than last year. The team that I play for (the Arlington Mavericks) used to attend 8-10 tournaments a summer. This year, I'm hoping we will get to 4.
For the most part, teams are still holding their tournaments even though attendance is down. It's easy to predict that next year, a few long running tournaments will probably disappear (I hope they don't). As I do every week, I stand here firmly perched upon my soapbox.
I want to tell you all of the reasons that this is happening, and how we can fix it. The plain truth is that I don't know the reasons, but let me take a shot at it; 1. The most glaring reason is that the 15s season seems to run longer every year (not true for every team, but for many). 2. There aren't as many people playing rugby as there were a few years ago- (now this is a whole other rant topic, but I am confident that this is part of the ebb and flow cycle. The rugby population will rise again) 3. A lot of older players who used to mix it up in summer 7s are now either spending time with their growing families, or (God Bless them), spending time with Youth Rugby programs. Surely there are others, but my last possible reason - in this crazy work-a-day world - teams just don't have as much time to plan, organize, and run a quality tournament. This, of course, does not apply to any tournament that I've attended this summer. They were all masterfully planned and carried out in every minute detail.
Let's henpeck away at possible solutions to this problem. Tournaments that don't have a long-standing tradition of greatness (like the Midnight 7s, Cape Fear 7s, etc…) have to create a niche for themselves. What makes your tournament better than someone else's? It's really all about marketing. By selling your tournament to the masses in a unique way, you'll bring teams back every year. The offer of big prize money is nice, but that mainly attracts teams that really believe that they can win that money. Being a player that never expects to win the big prize money, that doesn't draw me to a tournament. All that really says to me is that the entry fee will be higher. I would like to see more tournaments tied with community festivals. Let's say your community has a Blues and Jazz festival; work with the organizers and maybe a pitch can be set up close to the concert. Another idea for more temperate climates (not the Sahara Desert that I live in) would be to have a weekend of rugby/camping. Find a community campground or something similar and invite everyone to camp for the weekend. Play 2/3 hours of rugby on Saturday, and Sunday with a bunch of camping-related activities in between and, boom, you have a tournament that people would want to come back to the following year.
We'll end with a success story. Every year, there is a tournament in Dallas called the Mudfish 7s. This year, it will be held on August 5. There are two divisions; Mudfish (200 lbs.+) and Minnow (199 lbs. -). Participants weigh in on a giant meat scale, and there is even an exhibition game for the Super Mudfish (250 lbs+). DARC (Dallas Area Rugby Club) has traditionally tried to bring in a touring side to play a 15s match against the Texas Select Side as well. This tournament is well known because it's a lot of fun, it is well run, and it has a niche (it's fat rugby players, if you missed it). You can thank the Lord above that the big guys have to have their day in the rugby sun!
So, if your team is looking to host a great annual tournament, look at your surroundings. What does your community have to offer that is unique? Find that thing and capitalize on it. Smell you later!
Hooker Rugby Supply