Organizers Should Make Stringing Part of Tournament Plans
By Steve Crandall
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Ashaway Racket Strings
On-site stringers and equipment vendors are an important amenity at badminton tournaments, and tournament organizers must ensure that the service provided meets the needs of competitors. For insight on the subject, we spoke with Sunny Kim, co-owner with Mike Walker of San Diego Badminton Supply. Sunny and Mike have wide experience both as tournament organizers and stringers working 10 to 15 tournaments annually. They also run a retail store, and are among the country's largest mail-order and Internet dealers of badminton equipment to individuals and schools.
In a tournament of 120 players, about 40 racquets will typically need stringing. Many players will arrive at the tournament with racquets badly in need of attention and, of course, there are bound to be strings broken during the course of play. According to Sunny, players who don't have the luxury of living in one of the few centers of U.S. badminton activity look forward to tournaments in order to seek professional advice and obtain a professional-quality stringing job.
And while mail-order and the Internet may suffice during most of the year, for many players there's nothing like a tournament for a hands-on opportunity to actually swing a racquet or try on shoes before deciding to purchase them.
While procedures vary from one tournament to the next, most organizers seek support (monetary or equipment) from vendors for the right to do business at their tournament. The most common arrangement involves competitive bidding, in which vendors are invited to submit proposals to provide stringing, and to set up a temporary retail facility for racquets, shoes, and other equipment. Alternately, the organizer may set a flat fee and seek a vendor who is willing to pay it, but either way, support is a function of the size and quality of the tournament. Some organizers seek separate proposals for stringing and retail services, but usually, a single vendor provides both. In some cases, the vendor is asked to provide incentive prizes for players or spectators, in lieu of a cash payment to the organizer. These incentives may range from small items (like racquet grips) distributed in "goody bags" to every player or spectator, to a few high-end racquets that will be awarded to the tournament's winners.
The organizer must ensure that the stringer is competent, probably the best indication of which is experience stringing at other badminton tournaments. Tournament work requires special skills that not every stringer possesses. The stringer must be knowledgeable about badminton, and must be friendly and willing to discuss stringing with competitors. The stringer must be able to work quickly under pressure, and must be diplomatic. Tournaments are stressful for some players, who may blame the stringer for their losses. The stringer must be able to remain calm and respond in a helpful manner, for the sake of the tournament as a whole.
Stringers must be properly stocked with a variety of string, grommets, grips, and other accessories, and must have a professional-quality stringing machine appropriate for badminton racquets. They must be familiar with the vast majority of racquets on the market, and know how to string each one. They must be dependable, and be willing to set up before the first match begins, and continue working after the last one ends. Although the organizer usually does not get involved in setting prices, most string jobs at tournaments should cost between $10 and $20. Much more than that represents gouging a captive audience.
The organizer also has obligations to the stringer/vendor. There must be adequate space in which to set up shop, and the area should be well-lit to promote quality work. For visibility and players' convenience, the best location is often next to the registration or tournament desk. This also provides a measure of security, for those brief moments when the stringer must leave his station.
Successful tournaments depend upon attention to detail in a host of matters, including on-site stringing. The quality of the stringing service is bound to make a strong impression on tournament participants. Make the effort to select a good stringer and to provide good facilities in which to work, and you'll be sure to make a good many competitors happy.
This article previously appeared in USA Badminton.