After my last post about the importance of Tournament Directors I thought the best idea would be to get a TD’s perspective on the future of disc golf and the TD’s role. I contacted Christopher “Barley” Kirby #17683, the tournament director for the Treebash and the head of the Flagstaff Disc Golf Club. He was the TD for the first tournament I ever played and his club played a large part in my coming to love disc golf. Barley recently sat down for a Q-and-A, and here are some highlights.
What was the first event you ran?
I ran a couple of small tournaments in ’98-’99 at Morningside Park in Knoxville, TN just before I moved to Arizona. They were small one-day, two-round events with something like 20-30 players.
Why did you decide to start running PDGA events?
I took over TD’ing the Treebash in the early 2000’s from Chris Gibbs. We felt that this event should be PDGA sanctioned due to the popularity and the quality of players it was attracting, so the event has been sanctioned for over a decade.
Why run a PDGA event rather than a non-sanctioned event?
I feel like the PDGA has done great things for the sport over the years, so running a sanctioned event has a certain prestige. It’s also nice for the players to get points and have recognition on the PDGA site.
What is the most difficult part of planning an event?
I would say the overall organization of the event and then prioritizing each task. I sometimes have a hard time delegating too. I give painstaking attention to providing accurate information on my website and in the event guide. The course maps, vicinity maps, schedule, rules, sponsor locations, etc are all accurately presented. This can be tedious and time-consuming but it makes a big difference in the quality of the event.
What is the most difficult part of executing an event?
Making sure that there are no big mistakes, like forgetting something important. For example, not announcing a mando or ob area. Also, making sure that there are no conflicts with park users and players. It’s sometimes difficult to make sure all the tasks are getting taken care of. I don’t play in the Treebash anymore so that I can make sure everything is running smoothly.
How much time does it take to organize an event?
I usually start planning the Treebash about 4 months prior. The 2 months leading up to the event can be quite busy. During the two weeks before the event, it is pretty much a full-time job.
How much does it cost to run an event?
It’s surprising how much it can cost. Some of the major costs are park fees to reserve the courses, the portable restroom bill, printing costs, course equipment, bills for prizes, merchandise for volunteers, insurance, sanctioning fees, etc. Our total cost to run the Treebash is in the thousands. We have, however, made a great attempt to reduce costs through sponsorship donations. For example, this year almost all of our printing was donated by a local advertising business in exchange for sponsorship privileges.
What is the difference, from a TD’s perspective, of the different tiers of events?
I have run A, B and C-Tier events, as well as assisted with both the am and pro worlds here in Flagstaff. As the tier level gets higher, the payouts are better, events are longer and more attention to detail is given.
What is the first thing a new TD should do when interested in running an event?
Try to get help from someone who has some experience. Buy them lunch and pick their brain. Make extensive lists of everything you can think of.
Do you earn money when you run an event?
Typically, I give myself some merchandise from the event and let the event pay for some of my expenses associated with it, such as food and gas. This year, I allowed myself to take some discs, a backpack that I desperately needed, and a shirt. I feel like this is acceptable since our total event value this year was around $20,000.
What role does a local club play in planning and executing an event?
We have an adopt-a-hole program where club members pick a hole or two and beautify it with some landscaping and love. Our courses looked better than ever this year thanks to a great volunteer effort. I have a volunteer party the Thursday before the event where I buy pizza and we all put together players packages, work on signage, namecards, ctps, etc. During the event, our club members help out by moving baskets, installing signage and ctps, checking players in, scoring and more. Since we had two fields of players this year, a core group of club members ran the am field while I was at the pro course.
Do you have any personal rules or guidelines for your events?
We always have the two-meter rule in effect. I had a special drop-zone rule on a menacing hole for safety and speed of play. Since our Treebash ctps are worth hundreds in merchandise, I have a rule that aces don’t count for ctp. The ace pool is always in the hundreds, so I like to spread out the prizes.
How long do you plan to run events?
Good question. I’m honestly not sure. Every year, I tell myself that this is the last time I’m doing this! It can truly be an exhausting undertaking, but the reward of seeing the players having a great time and loving the courses and prizes is enough to keep me coming back.
What will you do once you are done running events?
Hopefully play in other events and relax for a change.
Talk to people around town and at the courses. Educate people about the sport and show them how much fun it can be. I also try to drum up as much local sponsorship as possible and make sure the businesses get the recognition they deserve.
What do you think the future of PDGA events will be?
It’s hard to say, but there sure are a lot of events these days! I would imagine that this won’t change and we will see some more larger events and some more unique formats. The video coverage is getting a lot better, so I can see this trend developing.
What role do you think TDs play in shaping the future of Disc Golf?
Setting a good example as ambassadors for the sport by thriving to be a great host. Also, simultaneously developing the courses for recreational, amateur and professional players is an important goal for the sport.
If you could change one thing about Disc Golf what would it be?
Developing targets that catch a little better.
If you could change one thing about Disc Golf Tournaments what would it be?
Get rid of the trophy-only style for ams. It’s a lot of work, but paying out ams is big on my list. I also really mix up the type of merchandise that is awarded, especially at the Treebash. Besides disc golf related prizes, we also give out backpacks, water bottles, shoe coupons, sunglasses, snowshoes, hot sauce, and more!
I have written about the no amateur pay out in the past. I like the direction we are going but would love to provide the other end of the argument. Would you elaborate on what you believe the value of pay outs for ams to be?
I was an avid bmx racer in the early to mid 80’s. I moved through the ranks from beginner, intermediate & finally expert. These were all amateur divisions but we only won trophies for prizes. There were number plates given out at the end of the season according to the points standings.
These were cool but all I ended up with is a bunch of trophies (and great memories of course). It would have been more memorable if I got 3rd & won a new pair of grips or pads for example.
The tracks we raced on had a lot more maintenance costs than a disc golf course and there were always raffles for those cool prizes so I understand. This being said, I think someone could have been creative & added merchandise or vouchers to the top finishers.
What is the greatest thing about being a Tournament Director for the PDGA?
I like the organized structure of the event guidelines and having sensible rules in place. When it comes down to it though, it’s really all about the players. Whether a tournament is sanctioned or not, I want to provide a great experience for all of them. This includes providing a fair and challenging course design, providing lots of amenities, and making sure they have a great time on and off the course.
Thanks Barley. I think Barley’s perspective will help lots of golfers better understand how vast an undertaking running a professional disc golf tournament can be. I think it is clear that there is a lot more involved with being a TD than most of us realize.
It is also clear to me that Barley has the right idea. He ensures that his event is run professionally, its organizers are good role models for the community and ambassadors for the sport of disc golf. TDs have to generate the greatest possible value for its competitors, its organizers, its sponsors, the community, and the PDGA.
All that value takes work. TDs aren’t really compensated other than the joy they take from creating a fun and challenging experience. Use your power as a consumer to support the good TDs in your area. Support your TD and make sure you express your appreciation.
On Barley’s behalf I wanted to thank all the people that helped make the Treebash happen: