Add some excitement to the playground this Spring with a tournament of your students’ favorite game.

After months of working hard to create a fun, safe, and inclusive playground for every kid at your school, recess may finally feel like a well oiled machine. Now’s the time to kick it up a notch. One great strategy is to run a week-long tournament of your students’ favorite game.

This can be a lot of work, but the fruits of your labor may just result in the most memorable moments of the school year! Here’s how to run a successful tournament:

  • Pick a game. Pick a popular recess game that your students play respectfully every day and that can easily be fit into a bracketed tournament (either by small teams or individuals.)
  • Choose your tournament style. Take the temperature of your students to determine what kind of competition they can handle. If elimination is too challenging, set up a round robin for everyone to enjoy and cheer each other on during the games. If you choose an elimination tournament, be sure to give eliminated students a place to keep playing!
  • Schedule the event. Begin planning far in advance. Work with other school staff to determine the best week to play.
  • Staff your tournament. Get enough adults and student leaders to help manage and referee games. Ask teachers and other school staff who don’t typically make it to recess to come help out. And don’t forget, you still need staff to maintain other games so kids who do not want to participate still have a place on the playground.
  • Gather equipment. When running a tournament, you may need more equipment to give every kid an opportunity to play. Gather everything you need for boundaries, game play, scorekeeping, signage, promotions and clean-up.
  • Promote your tournament. To drum up excitement, create promotional material. Get student leaders involved creating and hanging posters throughout the school, making announcements and adding to the school newsletter. Here’s a fun tournament flyer template to get started. Spreading the word to everyone may help bring in additional help running the tournament.
  • Get students signed up. Announce the tournament to students and give them several days to sign up. Message the deadline loudly and clearly. Once you have made these announcements, you may notice more students playing the tournament game at recess and before and after school. In fact, you could even encourage some practice rounds.
  • Create your bracket. Whether you’ve chosen to do an elimination-style bracket or round robin, be sure to give every student the opportunity to play. Once you’ve created the bracket with game days, put it on display at recess and in the lunchroom and/or classrooms so students know when they will play.
  • Get ready, set, play! Just before the day of the tournament, review final details on rules, scheduling and game space with your team. On tournament day, make a final announcement so students are ready to play. When play beings, don’t forget to have fun! Running a big event can get stressful, but remember that all that matters is you and the students have a great time. Keep that at the forefront your mind and you will be rewarded by a school full of good sports!

What tips do you have for running a successful recess tournament?

Click on a thumbnail to open up a downloadable and printable document for your school.


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