How to Run a Great Strongman Contest: The Final Days Before Competition

TAGS: strongman equipment, electronical score system, floor coordinator, registration deadline, trophy order, t-shirt order, How to Run a Great Strongman Contest, rules meeting, cj murphy, weigh in, strongman

COACH

In the previous article, How to Run a Great Strongman Contest: 6 Steps to a Better Competition, I dropped a bunch of info on how to prepare before the contest so your competition turns out well. I wrote about location, sponsors, graphic design, trophies, sanctions, paperwork, and promotion. That article was far from complete (I can't give away all my secrets at once). Now I am going to cover the things you need to do in the final days before a contest.

Let’s begin with the week before.

Registration Deadline

About 10 days out you should have already hit the registration deadline by a few days. I like to set mine two weeks out.

If you do this, you’ll have most of your entries in well before hand. Don’t stress, they usually come in heavy about three weeks out.
Now you know how many trophies you need and should have a good idea of how many shirts and prizes.

How to Run a Great Strongman Contest, trophy

Trophy and T-Shirt Order

You need to finalize your trophy order and t-shirt order (you should have pre-ordered and gotten the ball rolling a month ago).

Screen printers need at least 10 days. I like to call mine two or three months away and tell them to add me to the production schedule for 10 days out so we have them a day or so before the show.
Trophy companies will appreciate this too.

Rental

You may also need to confirm rental and delivery of a truck, Porta Potty/Rent-A-John, or tables, chairs, and tents.

Support Staff

It is a good idea to dedicate two people ahead of time to work on specific things the day of the show. You’ll need an event coordinator to run the volunteers, the food, the merch table, the gate and the set-up and clean-up.

You need a floor coordinator to run the competition floor. This needs to be someone who knows strongman. The floor coordinator will make sure the events area is set up, that there are judges, timers and scorers, spotters and labor to breakdown each event. I’ll go over that when we get to day of show.


Finding Strength: United States Strongman Nationals


Three or four days out you should have everything you need ready to go: trophies, shirts, goody bags, prizes, food, load sheets, score sheets and more.

Weigh In/Rules Meeting

The day before your weigh-in and rules meeting will be busy. I have the event coordinator and a few volunteers get here about 3:00 PM and we bust out everything we have and set-up an assembly line.

We make the prize packages and label them for each class, we make the goody bags for the athletes, and we make sure everything that needs to be here is here. The rules meeting and weigh-in is usually around 6:00 PM and it takes us 2-3 hours to get all the little stuff listed above done.

We’ll generally allow athletes to start weigh-ins about 4:30 or 5:00 and this helps a lot. We have a good system. The athletes will see me in the lobby of the gym and I’ll have the event coordinator right next to me. If they need a Strongman Corp membership, they see her. If they don’t, I send them to the weigh-in room to get weighed.

Once they are weighed, they come back and I record their weight and give them their shirt and goody bag. This is when I strongly advise them to stay for the rules meeting.

As we get closer to rules time, we announce that any athlete not weighed-in or checked-in must wait until after the meeting to do so.
That lights a fire under the stragglers' asses, because no one wants to stay. We then do the rules and finish up with weigh-in.

Day of Show

This is where it all comes together. We open the gates at 9:00 AM and we block off the contest area at close of business the night before so no cars can park and screw us up. We also have the Porta Potties in place the night before. Since we have done this a lot, and many of our volunteers have too, we start at 7:30 AM sharp.

The volunteers have already been contacted the day before by the coordinator and they have been told who to see the day of (either the floor guy or the coordinator depending on their function).
You now need to have your two event people make sure the events are set up and all of your stuff is in place for opening.

Oh, I forgot one really important thing...

How to Run a Great Strongman Contest

Emcee

You need an emcee.

No turntables, but a microphone. I do this at my shows and also have done it a lot at many others. Your emcee will run the whole show. Much like at a powerlifting meet, they expedite, meaning they call out the order of athletes. They also usually keep master time and provide commentary for the audience.
The emcee should have a good knowledge of the events so they can let the crowd know what is going on, how much the athletes are lifting, who the sponsors are, interesting things about the athletes, and more. They also play music!

Music keeps the event going and keeps it alive. Spud makes fun of my playlists since they are usually all the same songs every contest just in different order. This year, I decided to just rerun an old one after him making fun of me for so long.

Score and Announce Table

Anyway, while the floor is being set up you need to set up the announce table and score tent. This is required to be first at our show because the event cannot be run without it and there are technical difficulties every year. It’s usually something dumb like a microphone or a cable.

The score table and announce table must be first!

We tell all of the athletes that they are not allowed to approach the score table or the announce table at the event for any reason.
If they do they will be removed from the show.

Why? Well, the emcee and the scorers are busy and people will come to the table 4000 times and ask questions. This will add time to the event, possibly an hour. We tell them to see the head judge and if we need to be approached, he will do it. Trust me, you want this rule.

Scoring

We shaved at least 45 minutes off the show this year by streamlining the scoring. In our past locations, getting power was an issue and we had to score by hand on paper. This year we had excel sheets and a printer. Writing score sheets by hand takes a long time. If you can do this electronically, do it.

Once you open the gates have the announcer tell anyone who came through before the gates opened to go back and pay the gate fee and get a wristband or a handstamp. It’s for charity, after all. If they don’t, single them out, call them a cheap bastard over the PA (expect to be punched — I do) and they will usually pay. If they don’t, kick them out.

Last Call

About a half hour before start time, call out last call for weigh-in and check-in and start your rules briefing. Athletes need to check in the day of so you know they are there. Many times you’ll have someone check in the night before and drop out day of. You’ll then be looking for them and that costs time. We require all athletes to check in the day of, at least 30 minutes prior to start time. Announce the starting order of athletes and lane assignments a few times and get the crowd excited.

Start Time

Okay, it’s start time. Tell everyone to stand and take off their hats for the National Anthem.

‘Murica

Now, crank the music and go.

How to Run a Great Strongman Contest

Equipment and Lanes

You need to predetermine the amount of equipment and lanes you’ll be using. Here is a good rule of thumb: You want no more than 60 minutes per event at the worst. We run one lane for every 15-20 people, that way each event will take about 45-50 minutes. You can run more lanes, but not less.

You need to figure most events have a 60-second time limit and you need about a minute for reset time at the most. Using this formula will give you an event that goes off and finishes in under an hour.
We were averaging about 35-40 minutes per event this year until the one-hour rain delay. That’s pretty good.

How to Run a Great Strongman Contest

See, three lanes.
Your floor leader will have the events staged in order and ready to be moved in place as each event ends. Assign a dedicated crew to set up each event and one to break down.

Event Breakdown

You’ll want to break the event down fast and either load the truck in between each event with what is no longer needed, or move it back into the gym if you have it at your place. Don’t overlook this.

Volunteers disappear as the show goes on and you don’t want to be left alone at the end of the show with 20 Atlas stones, a box, and 4000, 45-pound plates to put away. Have this done as each event is over.

50/50 Raffle

Have your crew work the crowd for the 50/50 raffle and announce it all day. We draw the winner after the last event as the final scoring is being done. We also raffle off a bunch of stuff at this time. The raffle takes about 5-10 minutes and keeps the crowd engaged as the final scores are prepared. If you need more time, grab an athlete and do a quick interview. This is great for them and buys you time.

Announce the winners!

Take pictures. Thank your sponsors and then clean up and get drunk.

We always provide food for the volunteers and there may or may not be adult beverages. Ask Zach Gallman, who almost drank me dry of Jameson last Saturday after the show.

How to Run a Great Strongman Contest
Big Z after a few Jamesons. Hitting depth for the first time!

A few more things to consider:

Food

This year we decided to give the food away but added a suggested donation to the charity. What we found was that all but one person paid. The killer thing is that some people were giving double the suggested donation, paying $10 for a burger instead of $5. They did not view it as buying the snacks, but as making a donation to the Veterans organization we support. It was a much better idea than having a price.

Events

Choose your events well. One thing that is always a time sucker is max-lift events. Yes, people want to see 4000 pounds thrown overhead, but rising bar events take forever.

Pick your weights well, too. The crowd does not know the difference for the most part if they are lifting 200 or 500 pounds or more. I like to test the athletes and provide a great show. We do this by picking weights that hopefully allow (if it’s a rep event) some to get none or one rep, a few to get 3-5, and a few to kill it. This shows the crowd that it’s really hard! It makes it exciting. No one wants to go and see someone lift something 40 times in 60 seconds, right?

This is in no way a complete list, but I hope it helps.

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