How well tournament went last weekend really depends on your perspective. Overall, a success: many people attended, competed, and went home with medals. Lots of people got experience with competition and with tournament logistics. Sparring was spirited and fun but no one got hurt. These are all good things.
On a smaller scale, the success really depends on what perspective you had.
From the perspective of the many little kids who were in the children's divisions, it went well. We had double elimination first round of kata, so everyone got to do at least 2 katas and have a chance to show what they could do, and nobody had to feel like a "loser".
From the perspective of the youth division, older kids who are a little more aware of all the ramifications, double elimination was a chance at redemption and for some, a double blow when they failed to win either round. Those divisions were also well populated, but unlike the young children, the youth division starts to show some clear separations in ability; there was a group of about 8 youths who were clearly above their peers in technique, spirit, focus, etc., and they dominated the rings. This was discouraging to kids who have gone through awkward growth spurts and lost control of their centers and extremities, and were really no match for the top tier (although they will be once they adjust to their added height and weight). In addition, one ring had some judging controversies which will undoubtedly foster some bad feeling.
From the perspective of the adult divisions, it could be both intimidating and discouraging. We did not have a large number of adult participants, sometimes just two or three people. Although it guarantees a medal and a quick finish to the group, it's a lot less fun. In the brown belt ranks, many of the competitors had tested for shodan that morning and were "on", out to prove something and already revved up, and had been training very hard for several months. For those who weren't testing, that was a bit overwhelming.
From the perspective of the black belt competitors, there were a lot of frustrations. These competitors are experienced, knowledgeable, and aware. They know how things ought to run, and they know when things aren't going smoothly. Due to miscommunication somewhere, double elimination first round was carried over into these rings although never intended, which resulted in the brackets not going as they should have, and seeded competitors going up against each other in early rounds. Scoring was also exceptionally slow, as was staging. For this group, that was acutely frustrating. The lack of some of our higher rank black belts in the competition rings, yet again, did not help.
From the perspective of those working behind the scenes, checking in competitors or working the tables, there were other frustrations. Clear instructions are given on the entry forms, but many people do not follow them, which means a lot of headaches at check-in as people had to produce identification, membership cards, payment, proper paperwork, etc. There were also same-day entries, which means that these people have to be added at the last minute to the brackets, and some no-shows, which requires more adjustments. Most people working the tables were inexperienced; they've never written up brackets or had to juggle them, and had to call on tournament organizers to help them. In one case, a high rank belt insisted on working a table and took over the running of it, despite having absolutely no table experience whatsoever. The trained brown belts did not know how to handle this and really had little choice but to let the higher rank call the shots, but many problems ensued because of it.
From the perspective of the major organizers of the tournament, the day was a long series of headaches, crises barely-averted, and some not quite averted. Aware of many things the average competitor would not know, they are taking notes on what not to do next year.
From my perspective, the day was mostly frustrating. I was neither competing nor judging nor working tables, because not only am I almost 7 months pregnant, but I was also sick as a dog. I did what I could to help and stayed all day to support my husband and our dojo, but had to spend a lot of time holding up the wall and trying not to pass out. I've worked tournaments since I was a green belt, I've done every aspect of ring management from staging to re-writing brackets to scoring and can get a division completed quickly and efficiently, and it was acutely frustrating to look out and see problems but be unable to take over and correct them because realistically I couldn't stay sitting there through a long division. It was frustrating to see inexperienced, uncertified judges having problems that slowed down some rings, and know that if I had been judging, they wouldn't have been out there. I have training in all these things, and I felt like I let down the team by not doing any of them.
I am still processing my feelings on a number of levels, and will have a few things to say (I'm sure!) about some of the things people did that caused problems, because I am really annoyed at some of them. Some people really should know better. For now, I will say I'm glad tournament is over with no total catastrophes, I'm glad that some of the competitors had a really good day out there, and I'm glad I can breathe through my nose again!