Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund Indoor Hat Tournament

by | November 27, 2012, 10:57am 0

On Saturday, November 24, 2012, ultimate players assembled for an 8-team indoor hat tournament at United Sports in Downingtown, PA.  The goal was to raise $2,000 for the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

Teams consisted of 15 players and games were played 6 on 6 (2 women and 4 men).  Teams played 3 games of pool play, with the top 4 teams playing in a final round for 1st and 3rd. Player feedback indicated that that the level of play was equivalent to a mid-level mixed club tournament – a much higher level of play than most Philadelphia area hat tournaments.  Players came from as far as New York, Virginia and Washington DC.  After the tournament, prizes from sponsors Savage, Victory Brewing Company, and Major League Ultimate’s Philadelphia Spinners were distributed to lucky players.  Many went to Victory’s brew house to celebrate a good evening with friends and teammates.

Tournament Director Sean Johnston, a 25-year-old graduate of Millersville University, wanted to run a tournament he would enjoy as a player. Sean played in Philadelphia’s high school league, PHUEL, for Lower Perkiomen Valley before helping found his college’s club program.  More recently, he played for MA Open Regionals qualifier Hypnotoad.  Sean had run five 10-20 team tournaments for Millersville, and three 32-team PADA Mosh tournaments.

Below is my interview with Sean about the event:

Brian: How many players attended? How much money did you raise for charity?

Sean Johnston (SJ): There were just under 120 players there in total. Roughly 40 girls and 80 guys. We brought in a total of $3,220 and after paying back the field rentals we are able to donate $2,220 to the Red Cross for disaster relief. Everyone really stepped up big time and most people ended up donating beyond the $20 entrance fee.

How long have you been playing Ultimate?

SJ: I started playing in my sophomore year of high school, so I believe I am on year eleven.

What other experience do you have running tournaments?

SJ: At this point I actually have a good amount of experience. I’ve done 5 or 6 for Millersville University while I was attending school there and afterward. I have done PADA Mosh 3 times and then a few other miscellaneous ones I’m forgetting. I plan on running a big sanctioned college tournament this Spring with Millersville as the host team so hopefully that comes together.

What made you decide to run the tournament?

SJ: Two of my good friends, Sam and Matt Esser were helping me clean up after PADA Mosh earlier in November and Matt suggested that someone should run a charity tournament, or just that there should be more charity tournaments in general. I sort of threw it in my mind to do something like that next year, but immediately after Mosh I found myself very bored and wanting to play indoor. I hate waiting until Winter League in January so I figured I’d try to get some people together to play for a good cause. Helping the hurricane victims seemed like an obvious choice.

Do you have family or friends who were directly affected by the hurricane?

SJ: In terms of family I have two cousins that live in Manhattan and an Aunt and Uncle that live in Northern New Jersey as well as a cousin and her family in Brooklyn. One of my best friends and his fiancé live in Brooklyn as well. Luckily they are all okay and I think a two week power outage for my aunt and uncle was probably the biggest thing. Overall they were very fortunate.

This tournament came together in a hurry. When did you first get the idea?

SJ: Mosh is the first week in November and I decided about a week later to try to go for this. In reality my goal was to have it in mid-December as sort of a “winter league warm up” so I was trying to give myself time to organize. Little did I know that every indoor facility in a 100 mile radius would be booked for the whole month of December.

Can you tell me about some of your volunteers? Were any local teams involved in running, organizing, or promoting the tournament?

SJ: I had four people helping me throughout the day of the tournament. Mike Coughlan, Jake Gabler, Lindsey Brodie and Kevin Chiang. They are all from West Chester University and I really didn’t even ask for volunteers, they all just stepped up and said that they wanted to help out. Kevin and Jake were playing in the tournament, but Mike and Lindsey were injured and decided they’d rather help out than sit home. It was huge having them there, I don’t know what I would have done without them. Thanks to everyone else that offered to volunteer as well, it was basically getting to the point that I wouldn’t have had stuff for everyone to do.

Did you use USAU insurance, local insurance (e.g. Pada), or the facility’s Insurance?

SJ: We used waivers that the facility (United Sports Training Center) provided. USTC in Downingtown was amazing. They gave us a discount on the fields and they were there for everything that we needed. It is a gorgeous facility as well. Will definitely be looking there again next year.

Who were the sponsors?

SJ: Red Cross of Southeastern PA was our donation partner and they will take care of distributing the donation for disaster relief. Our sponsors were Kinetic Physical Therapy, Victory Brewing Company, Savage Ultimate and Philadelphia Spinners of the MLU. They all really stepped up with no notice.

What if anything to the sponsors provide and were able you leverage that to the benefit of the charity?

SJ: I decided not to ask for monetary donations as the time was so short and I figured I would have a much better chance to get raffle prizes. I really wanted to give the players a chance to win something nice in return for their donation. Kinetic didn’t have tangible prizes to provide, so they wrote us a check for $150, which was great. Victory provided some t-shirts as well has two free growlers and two certificates to get them filled for free one time. The Spinners provided a large amount of swag for us, it was great. Fitted hats, trucker hats, jerseys etc. There were four Spinners playing in the tournament so I had them sign a hat and jersey to give out as well. Savage Ultimate sent a box of trucker hats, discs, stickers and then they made very short work of designing a tournament jersey for us. I can’t believe they turned it around so quickly and it came out great. People can still order them until December 7th and 10% of sales will go to the Red Cross.

Can you please name a challenge or 2 that you had in setting up this tournament on such short notice?

SJ: I was sort of obsessed with making the teams as fair as possible so that took a long time. Lots of copying and pasting into spreadsheets. It was made especially hard because I didn’t have a good way for people to pay before the tournament, so a lot of people would commit and then drop out last minute. I was able to replace almost everyone to get up to the 120 people, but it made teams very difficult. Overall I think the games were very close.

What was the most difficult thing to handle on the day of the tournament?

SJ: The PA system? Honestly that took like 3 of us to figure out. That sounds trivial to say, but honestly having the West Chester volunteers was perfect and everything stayed on time which was my biggest worry. Once the tournament was rolling I wasn’t stressed one bit and I actually got to play in my games!

Is there anything that you would have done differently, for example, if you would have another month or 2 to plan?

SJ: I would try to think of more local sponsors and have even more prizes. I will probably use TopScore as well for next year, as they approached me after the tournament. It will be an easy way to register people ahead of time.

Any advice for budding tournament directors?

SJ: Put on a tournament that you would be happy with playing in. Put yourself in the shoes of the people paying the money to play ultimate and give them something to remember. Whether you are doing it for charity or profit you want people to come back every year. Also, just learn what to do from going to good tournaments and what not to do from going to bad ones.

What is your favorite tournament?

SJ: Wildwood is probably my favorite. I am blown away every year by the amount of organization that goes into it. They have everything taken care of and there are thousands of people there. I can’t imagine the amount of work that goes into a tournament like that.

Sponsor links:




Kinetic PT:


Comments Policy: At Skyd, we value all legitimate contributions to the discussion of ultimate. However, please ensure your input is respectful. Hateful, slanderous, or disrespectful comments will be deleted. For grammatical, factual, and typographic errors, instead of leaving a comment, please e-mail our editors directly at editors [at]