Use String To Tie Tournaments Together
By Steve Crandall
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Ashaway Racket Strings
As if racquetball tournament organizers don't already have enough on their minds, some string-related issues bear attention. Input comes from veteran tournament organizer Don Barrington, Racquetball Programmer at River Bend Athletic Club in Wakefield, RI, and President of the Ocean State Racquetball Association, a USRA affiliate.
Don says every tournament should have a racquet stringer on site. During the course of a tournament, several players are bound to break a string; some will realize during a match that they're not getting good performance from their racquet and blame the string (or at least think that's why they're losing); and incredibly, a few will arrive at the tournament with racquets badly in need of attention. Having a stringer on site meets the needs of all these players.
According to Don, one good stringer can usually cover a tournament with up to about 400 competitors. When signing up a stringer, Don looks for these characteristics:
Tournament stringing is usually offered at a discount. At River Bend, where a standard string job costs about $20, the "tournament special" is usually around $15-more if the player chooses a higher quality string. Although financial arrangements vary considerably, Don likes an agreement whereby the tournament stringer gets to keep 60 percent of the take, and the club hosting the tournament gets 40 percent. (If the tournament is a charitable event, the split is usually half to the stringer, and half to the charity.) This assumes that the club provides the string, grommets, and other consumables. If the stringer brings his own supplies, then he'll usually remit a flat fee to the club for each racquet he services. Stringers may either bring their own machines and tools, or use the club's, if available. The machine should definitely be a professional-quality unit.
- Demonstrated competency. "Certification by the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association is a great qualification," says Don, "but in some areas of the country, certified stringers are hard to find." Failing that, he looks for a stringer with loads of current racquetball stringing experience, including work on the newest racquets. Some of these have unusual stringing patterns and require special knowledge-sometimes even special equipment.
- Experience as a racquetball player. "A stringer who's also a player understands what other players need, and can advise them properly," says Don.
- Dependability. "They've got to show up, and be there when you need them."
- Friendliness. "You want a stringer who really likes to talk with players," says Don. "They're an important part of the tournament infrastructure. Players who are treated well by the stringer are more likely to have a positive view of the whole tournament."
- Diplomacy. Tournaments can be emotionally difficult for many players. "Some players who take things too seriously may blame anyone but themselves for losing-including the stringer," says Don. "A good tournament stringer can take the pressure, remain calm, and respond in a helpful manner."
Don likes the stringer to be highly visible, so he usually has them set up shop next to the check-in desk and the draw sheets. That way, every competitor knows that the service is available, and it gives them a chance to get expert advice on an informal basis. It's also a good security measure, for those brief moments when the stringer must leave his station. One last consideration: the area should be well lighted, to make the stringer's work easier.
Don also views racquet string as a valuable incentive with which to promote a tournament. He often seeks tournament sponsorship from a string company, by offering to hang a company banner in a prominent place, and include the company's name or logo in tournament literature, and on T-shirts and other promotions. In exchange, he asks for a donation of string, which can be distributed in various ways. The on-site stringer might use it when restringing racquets-in which case, the players pay only for the service, and not for the string itself. Alternately, the tournament organizer might include string sets in the "goody bags" they give away to players, or use them as consolation prizes. "Corporate sponsorship lends credibility to a tournament," says Don. "And by giving something useful to players, you enhance the value of the tournament."
This article previously appeared in Racquetball Magazine.