11 Easy Tips to Get You Started
The VIP Program provides a quality soccer experience for children and adults whose physical or mental disabilities make it difficult to successfully participate on mainstream teams. If you are interested in hosting a VIP tournament in your Region, here are a few tips:
- Accessible fields. Make sure the fields you use are wheelchair and walker accessible. Try to find a field complex large enough to house everything you want to do so players and families can stay at one central location during the tournament.
- Make it timely. A VIP tournament should be held immediately after, if not during the season. The VIP season is short, and players quickly get involved in other activities or simply out of the habit of coming to soccer.
- Ask coaches to rate their teams. Since VIP teams aren't divided up into divisions, have coaches rate their teams on criteria such as mobility and strength. This will better help you match teams in the future.
- Ask for donations. You'll find that companies are very willing to donate to VIP tournaments. For example, Section 11 asks a local restaurant to donate food for everyone participating and attending the VIP tournament. If you play at a city owned field, ask if they will donate the field for the tournament. Remember, it never hurts to ask!
- Keep players entertained. Plan activities that players can participate in when they aren't playing such as vendor booths, mascots or soccer skills courses.
- Extra handicapped parking spaces. Remember to block off a few extra spaces for handicapped access and wheelchairs. You can also block off an area for drop off.
- Email your volunteers. Volunteers, especially referees, love working VIP tournaments, so make sure you reach out to them and don't turn anyone away! If you have more referees volunteering than you need, ask if they would be willing to volunteer in another capacity.
- Invite other teams. Other programs, such as the Special Olympics, may have teams that will be interested in playing in your tournament. The more the merrier!
- Adjust registration deadlines. VIP teams are often late to register, whether it is for the regular season or for tournaments, so make sure the registration deadline is a few days earlier than normal. That will give you some leeway to extend registration.
- Reach out. Depending on how big your tournament is, you may have to reach out to VIP teams. Once you have settled on a date, email teams about a month out from the registration deadline, and email again two weeks out. A week out from the registration deadline, send personal emails to anyone you haven't heard from yet.
- Be flexible. You never know what tournament day will bring, so flexibility is important. One of the great things about VIP tournaments is that players and families just want to participate - they generally don't mind if a game is a few minutes late or if they end up playing a different team than was scheduled.