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How to Run a Smooth and Successful Little League® Tournament

If you are interested in hosting a tournament or expanding the one you currently have, take a lesson from Martin Donovan and the World Series Committee in Lower Sussex, Del.

For 10 years, Roxana in Lower Sussex, Del., has hosted the Senior League Softball World Series Tournament, and last year, it also became the home of the Big League Softball World Series. From August 3-9, The Pyle Center, home of Lower Sussex Little League (LSLL), is again hosting this elite collection of softball talent.

Mr. Donovan is Tournament Director for both events and has been volunteering at LSLL for more than 40 years.

He explained that assembling a tournament committee is the greatest challenge. Whether hosting a regular-season special games tournament, a local postseason event, or applying for a district, section or state tournament, recruiting motivated and reliable volunteers is essential.

“If you do all the planning and don’t have strong people to implement the plan then all that goes for not,” said Mr. Donovan. Here is some advice from Mr. Donovan on how you can run a smooth, successful tournament:


When the decision is made to host a tournament, the first step toward making it successful is reaching out to the local league volunteers or volunteers in your district. You must get them excited to donate their time, so call a meeting as soon as possible to explain when the tournament will be; the length and format of the tournament; the chain of command; and who will be responsible for communicating information to the volunteer staff. Hosting any games requires a dependable staff, so it is expected that the host league’s Board of Directors will recruit, organize, and schedule the necessary people. In the case of the World Series committee in Lower Sussex, the daily responsibilities are spread over nine leagues. For local leagues, have each division in the league take a day (or night) of the tournament to even out the workload.


Beginning with your game operations staff, create a schedule that is fair and balanced so that everyone is “doing their part.” The schedule would include the public address announcer, scorekeeper, pitch count, umpires, grounds crew, concessions, and other specific tasks required for each game. If there is a need for additional support staff, reach out to local businesses, schools, civic organizations, or service groups. Quite often, since tournaments are typically completed in less than a week, there will be people willing to donate a few hours of their time on behalf of the teams and families. Consider if any special assistance (outside of the volunteer staff) is needed such as an event planner, communications director, or marketing coordinator. Pay close attention to the financial side of the tournament and develop a plan for approaching sponsors to offset costs. Also, prioritize how to publicly promote and communicate information about the tournament (for example local radio, television and newspaper; or social media).


Once the organizing and planning are done, now comes time to play the games. If your committees and sub-committees have been diligent with their preparation, then there should be minimal concern when a problem arises. Do your best to follow the established plan for set-up, pre-game, and game management. Knowing your role and being flexible are important, especially when weather alters the game schedule. If something unforeseen does occur, then the communication plan and other previously-discussed contingencies are put in motion.

“The best thing you can do as a director is explain to the staff what you need them to do and let them do their jobs.” said Mr. Donovan. “Things pop up every year and it’s just a matter of how we respond to it. The volunteers are committed and come to the fields ready to help in whatever way they can. That’s how experience and trust in the people around you can help to make a tournament enjoyable for everyone involved.”

Mr. Donovan said that it is that level of support that motivated Little League® International to place the Big League Softball World Series in Lower Sussex in 2013.

ESPN is scheduled to televise the championship game of the Senior League Softball World Series on Saturday, Aug. 9, at noon Eastern U.S. time. The Big League Softball World Series is scheduled to be played later that day at 5 p.m. Eastern U.S. time on ESPN 2. Each game will be re-aired by ESPN2 on Tuesday, Aug. 17 at 7 and 10 a.m. respectively.

The complete World Series television schedule and the day-by-day Little League Baseball® World Series viewing schedule are available at LLBWS.org.

© 2014 Little League International. All rights reserved.
Little League® Notebook | July/August 2014 | Archive