For the organizers and planning coordinators of sports travel teams, there are seemingly a myriad of issues to prepare for and decisions to be made. Looking for the appropriate site location, lodging facility, transportation and other numerous considerations can seem to be a daunting task if not planned for sufficiently. The following are suggestions to help this process be a harmonious and orderly undertaking.
Plan Well Ahead of Time
The guideline which I would recommend for starting the planning process is approximately six months for a domestic event, and one year if it is out of the country. Sometimes we do not have control over this because teams might qualify for a tournament with little time to spare. The key point is to start early with your preparation, and establish predetermined time lines for work completed.
The travel team planner would want to have his assistants in place at the beginning to help every step of the way. This group can be comprised of committed volunteers and team family members when suitable. Each individual should have preset duties to work on. For example, one person could help with the hotel accommodations, while another can lend a hand with transportation concerns. During regular intervals, meetings should be held with everyone involved to see what the status is.
Talk to CVB and Sports Commission Representatives
These individuals can assist you with information on facility selection, bid preparation, lodging and transportation, and add data pertinent to your needs. They also will be able to direct you in finding the best contact sources for your event or tournament. These representatives frequently have relationships with members of your industry in their geographic region, and will be happy to facilitate a connection. Their services are usually free, and their knowledge of the specific areas you are interested in can be invaluable.
Cheryl McCollough, the sales manager in charge of Sports and Special Events for the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, is very active in the role of liaison between various interested parties. Ms. McCollough states that for travel team coordinators, "the site venue and lodging are two of the most important considerations," and she works very hard to help expedite this process.
Convention and visitors bureaus have a wealth of knowledge, therefore it would be wise for any travel team coordinator to be in contact. They are eager to promote and assist well-organized travel teams thinking about entering an event or tournament in their region.
Familiarity is a Plus
When searching for that right facility or lodging, look for those that are familiar with your particular sport and can ably accommodate the specific age group. Ideally, these entities will have hosted similar events or tournaments in your sport, and are experienced in what your specific needs might be.
An example of this is a camp event held in Altamonte Springs, Florida, for senior softball players. Teams with participants over the age of 50 are welcome at facilities suitable to making the experience an enjoyable one. The players and teams know when they go to this fun event, they will be about ten miles from Disney World, and will stay at a local hotel that has many amenities for family enjoyment. Having the event be such a family friendly one is a reason why this five-day experience is about to celebrate its 20th year under the fine leadership of Founder and Director Al Schneider.
Whatever age group the travel teams might be, frequently families will be involved. The coordinators of these teams want to ensure that the families of the participants are well taken care of, and will be very comfortable. Whether for lodging, entertainment or transportation, provisions need to be made with this in mind.
With any of the arrangements that are provided, it is essential that flexibility is built into the process. This applies to the preparations leading up to the event, as well as during the competition itself.
An example of this is when a travel team does not qualify for an upcoming tournament, or players on some teams cannot participate because of illness or other reasons. Additionally, during an event there are changes that occur which will have an effect on your lodging and transportation. I always feel you want to be ready for the unexpected, whether that means working with the event itself or the athletes on the teams.
Giving yourself flexibility with the hotel arrangements could mean overbooking the amount of rooms that will be needed. The reason for this is in the event there happen to be more players attending than were originally anticipated. Then, if arrangements were made previously with the hotel, there would not be any problem with the change.
One rule of thumb I use is to always have backup plans in case something goes awry. All the factions you work with should be made aware from the beginning that there will need to be some leeway in the arrangements. Usually the parties you will be dealing with realize the nature of the particular event, and will work with you in any scheduling or needed last minute modifications.
When booking hotel, motel or transportation reservations, instead of exclusively using online services, perhaps call the hotel directly as a first choice. Frequently, by receiving individual attention, you will have the advantage of extra benefits not offered online. This personal service can extend to helping make your stay an enjoyable one in a myriad of additional ways. This could translate into restaurant deals, outside entertainment, transportation issues and other considerations.
Having individual attention can extend to every part of the arrangements that you will make. Try to have at least one contact person for each area you will be involved with. When problems or issues arise, having a connection with someone can only benefit you. Once, when I was coaching a youth travel basketball team which was playing in a tournament, we had a situation where the weather was so inclement that we did not know if the tournament was going to be canceled, postponed or left alone. By keeping in communication with the event organizer and other contact sources, we knew exactly what was going on with very little inconvenience.
Policies and Procedures
Policies and procedures need to be developed according to the tournament or event guidelines. These would include safety and health regulations, insurance concerns, and any other additional requirements. Besides what the event might require, there should be practices in place for any supplementary protection of team and family members that the travel planner deems necessary.
Everything in this regard should be in writing and distributed to team members well before the tournament begins. Besides handing out written materials for the team, periodically the coordinator will want a meeting with them to verbally go over rules for the upcoming event. Additionally, if there are any funds that need to be collected to meet some of the event requirements, this should be done well ahead of time.
The travel team planner will also want to communicate with the event organizer early in the process concerning any requirements for the teams to adhere to. This could also mean any entry fees due,behavioral concerns and general rules pertaining to the tournament. If there are any gray areas or lack of complete understanding on any of these issues, this would have to be addressed promptly.
The above are suggestions on how travel team coordinators can navigate their way through the issues encountered in bringing teams to an event. One theme throughout is to have excellent communication with all parties involved, and then your chances of having a successful experience will certainly increase. When that happens, positive relationships are formed, and that is always a plus for any future mutual endeavors.