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4 keys to organizing your team for a tournament

By Dave Pond , 09/14/17, 9:15AM MDT


No matter your level of experience or desired level of competition, there’s a tournament out there that’s tailor-made for you and your team.

“Tournaments are an experience. It’s not just about the hockey, it’s a whole weekend of fun,” said Katie Holmgren, manager of adult hockey for USA Hockey. “Yes, it’s great to be competitive, but the most common thing we hear after our tournaments is how much fun people have throughout the weekend.”

If a tourney’s close to home, that means spending more time together than, say, gathering for the Wednesday night adult league matchup at your local rink. And if you’re hitting the road, well, the possibilities are endless.

“I probably don’t need to list how many things a team can get into, but it’s always fun,” said Holmgren, who’s overseen a number USA Hockey events for more than seven years. “In all seriousness, the hangout time in between games is priceless.”

In addition to overseeing USA Hockey events, Holmgren coaches boys and girls teams. She also plays and helps organize a local women’s team. This gives her a unique perspective as a staff member who plans tournaments and an organizer responsible for making sure her own teammates have paid, travel is all set, and in some cases, everyone’s eating properly.

“It’s worth it, and I say that not from an ‘it’s my job’ perspective, but more of my personal feelings,” Holmgren said. “I’m the one that typically pays for the team house, organizes team meals, and collects money – which can be a pain.

“No one wants to hunt their friends down for cash, but I promise it’s worth it,” she continued. “Once everyone’s together, it’s nothing but laughs.”

That being said, it’s important that everyone is on the same page from the beginning. So, if you’re putting together a tournament team, state your intentions early.

“On one side, it’s ‘Hey, we heard about this tourney in Nashville, let’s go have a good time. Who’s in?’” Holmgren said. “Then, on the other side, it can be all about playing hard, and focusing on the wins.”

Neither outlook is right or wrong, and that’s why there are so many different types of tournaments. Before signing up, just make sure everyone on your team knows what success means.

“Competition is important, and everyone wants to win, but team chemistry is the best part of a tournament,” she said. “Invite your most fun friends and teammates – and don’t concentrate too much on the wins. A year or two from now, no one will remember those anyway.”

Prepare for success

If you’ve found yourself in charge of getting a team together, we’re here to help. Here are a few tips Holmgren offers to make tournament play as fun as possible – even when you’re the one chasing down your teammates for their share of the entry fee.

  1. Invite a large group of friends and teammates, and tell them that whomever pays first is in. That goes a long way to identify who’s committed to participating, and who’s on the fence.

    Plus, once your “regular” tournament group becomes established, you’ll find they’re paying earlier for future events, too.

  2. Be organized. Know who’s on your team and get all of their information together early. That way, you’ll be able to relax when the actual tournament weekend rolls around.

    “Trust me,” Holmgren said. “As a tournament director, we don’t want to chase you around for info any more than you want us to be hounding you for it.”

  3. Have fun. Hockey is fun – and it’s important to remember that, especially as an adult, you started playing hockey because you enjoy it. After all, is it really that terrible if you lose, as long as the games are competitive and fun?
  4. Ask for help. Do not be afraid to ask for help.

    “If you’re confused on a process or rule, call us,” Holmgren said. “Need suggestions on running your own tourney? Call us.

    “We get a lot of calls about tournaments, and we’re more than willing to help guide you, too,” she said. “We’re here because we care about adult hockey players enjoying this game just as much as kids do.”

If you find yourself stuck when it comes to a question about your team and tournament play, call 719-576-8724 or visit

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