Maca Scholastic Registration Database System Report
To MACA board:
This is a very long report outlining the progress made on scholastic tournament operations for the last 12 months. It also includes a little history of where we have been, and where we can expect to go. If you are not interested in scholastics or tournament operations, this report will be very boring to you, and you can skip it.
Although this is an interim report, I want to thank all the individuals who help to make the scholastic registration database a successful useful tool in tournament operations. Thanks to Helen Thomas for being the data-entry and registration person, thanks to Mark Kaprielian for being the software developer, and thanks to Tony Gavelis for his input as scholastic coordinator.
For the last year, Mark Kaprielian and I have been working on a scholastic registration system for handling 100’s of scholastic players in one tournament. Effective immediately, we are happy to report that we have a software system that can handle this level of participants, and make the life of the organizer and TD much easier. This system was used during this past Fall Foliage, and was very successful in helping make the tournament run smoothly.
This report will update the members of the board on the status and progress of this project. This is a very detailed report discussing the history, the problems, and the solution to scholastic tournament registration and operations.
Historically, pre-1997, before I was involved with the board, most scholastic tournaments attracted about 35 to 45 players. This number of players was easily manageable by hand pairings and index cards. But once the scholastic BOOM hit, (post 1998) players numbering 70, 80, 100, and even 250 for a team tournament was not uncommon.
The first time I personally experienced this problem was at the Fall Foliage held at Medford HS. 72 players showed up, and at 10:00AM, which was when the pairings were to go up, the two TDs were swearing under their breaths wondering where all the players came from. They kept saying to themselves “last year we had 30 players”. There was no computer, and the mail was being opened at 10:00AM. I volunteered a laptop, only to be told, they didn’t have the software on them, and they didn’t have a printer either. Needless to say, pairings were delayed by close to 2 hours. The next tournament was a Pillsbury scholastic affair, which netted 75 players; again the lament was where did these players come from? Last year there were 19 players Needless to say, the computer died, and we went to hand pairings with index cards, with delays for what seems like hours. This was the famous tournament, which resulted in an 11-page memo written by the infamous DA, who actually placed a motion before the board to ban Gus from ever directing a MACA scholastic tournament again.
Enter 2001, scholastic tournaments have enjoyed 100+ players for an entire year, yet the problems of registration, memberships, expirations, membership cards, USCF Ids, reconciling the $$$, continue to bog down the organizers. Tony Gavelis, scholastic coordinator tenders his resignation after his first Maca tournament in 2001 because of the workload associated with registration and reconciliation. Tony, good guy that he is decides that, he personally will fill out all the USCF forms, the MACA membership form, the MACA membership card, reconcile all the monies collected, decides who owes USCF, MACA, and entry fees. It was reported he spent more than 40 hours post tournament to wrap up the Maca tournament. This occurred after spending 12-14 hours on-site on the day of the tournament, and 20 to 40 hours pre-tournament preparation. This tournament was the straw that broke the camel (Tony’s) back. Exit Tony G., from registration.
In a desperate attempt to maintain Tony as Scholastic coordinator, I volunteered to take over all scholastic registration issues for Tony for the rest of the year. This entire report is generated from my perspective of the problems; other board members may feel differently.
Normally, I would use an Excel spreadsheet to track entrants, and track the monies collected. There were several problems with this approach, we relied on the parents to tell us whether their child’s membership were up to date, and there was no easy way to determine, other than taking their word for it. Other organizers would not submit reports to USCF on time, or report Maca memberships on time, or provided evidence that memberships were paid. If evidence was provided by the organizer, most people did not carry it around with them. Memberships was one issue, but so wasn’t expiration dates. Finally, on top of all this, you had two sets of forms to fill out, and still track all the monies paid. As an example, at the recent team tournament, of the 129 pre-entries, over 75 players had either Maca or USCF membership issues. Combine that with another 30% not paying the right amount, and with missing data like DOB or email, or even their mailing address, you can understand the magnitude of the problem. The entire tournament had over 260 players. The 129 players were the ones who entered in advance sufficiently for us to reach and ask questions of.
Another problem was there were two sets of data to integrate. The advanced entries tracked on an Excel spreadsheet, and the at-the-door entries (manual system). We could never utilize a spreadsheet registration system for the at-the-door entries. So there was a manual system, and a spreadsheet system, which needed to be integrated post tournament. Then we had to fill out all those Maca applications, USCF applications, chased the expired fees, and the new and renewal fees, still get the data to USCF, and forward the Maca membership info to the coordinator. The paper work was massive and unwieldy. So 4 to 6 weeks after the tournament was over, we receive a nasty letter from USCF threatening fines and penalties because we do not provide the proper funds due to lapsed memberships, and/or missing memberships. Another several weeks is now invested in “finding” these people and getting them to pay after the fact.
After about 4 tournaments iterations, working with Swiss-sys, Excel etc, we have come up the learning curve on how to make the system work better. With the help of the Maca laptops and software acquired last year, we have made progress in having a usable system. Mark has created a scholastic database, based on Microsoft Access database that can be used as a front end to register, check membership expiration, and account for monies colleted, print the USCF new and renewal information, print the MACA membership cards, and track the missing memberships. It also manages the monies collected, and keeps track of memberships, and prints all the required reports easily and efficiently.
During the last tournament 2002 Fall Foliage, this new system was implemented. This system allowed for registering advanced entries processed by Helen Thomas. We were then able to export the entrants via e-mail to TD Allan Hodge who was able to enter the data ahead of time. We then processed the at-the-door entries in real time on the Maca laptops with the database loaded. The system worked like a charm and we had very few registration problems, as we were able to catch more USCF and MACA renewals at the door. Once registration was completed, the data was easily sent to the TDs for entering into Swiss-sys. Accounting for the entire tournament was complete after 30 minutes with the touch of a key. The membership cards were printed on card stock and signed by Steve Frymer and distributed. All the new and renewal USCF members were printed on a single page, for submission to USCF. The entire database was sent back to Mark K. for update into the Access Master database. For the first time the system worked, so the people did not have to work as hard.
Tony reports that the monies reconciliation was extremely quick with the help of the $$$ reports from the database. MACA membership cards were distributed on time and at the site with the help of Steve Frymer. All USCF membership forms etc was processed and sent to USCF within days after the tournament. And the time required to perform the final update into the Master database was reduced significantly. It took about 2 hours, compared to 4 to 8 hours for the team tournament. An extra benefit was we were able to collect more data, i.e. Birth dates, and e-mail addresses. We caught more errors in our database, and were able to report to the members their membership status more efficiently and effectively.
Finally Mark has also been working with Thad Suits, the software developer for Swiss-Sys, and we are very close to being able to export the entire “player registered database” to Swiss-Sys, entering all the players, and sorting them into the proper sections, and having all the ratings updated in a matter of minutes. This whole process can be reduced to 15 to 20 minutes. Currently the time allowed for when registration closes and when pairings are posted is about one hour. I can see the day when this process will take 15 to 20 minutes, thus reducing the waiting time from 60 minutes to 15 minutes.
Submitted by Peter Lee