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Outplan to outperform

February 21, 2012

This weekend, I went back up to College Station to be a director for a fencing tournament back at my alma mater (man, sounds weird to say that.) The tournament wasn’t a big deal — it was part of our regional/state-wide intercollegiate circuit where the vast majority of fencers who participate are those who just started the sport when they entered college. Except for a handful of people who compete in USFA events (and then an…even small handful? who are rated fencers), most people only participate recreationally.

Given these facts, I understand that these are not high priority events. The club hosting each tournament certainly doesn’t have to feel obligated to break the bank to make the tournament go as smoothly as possibly.

And that was much of the plan for my alma mater’s club’s hosting of this tournament. We’ve actually hosted one of the four competitions of this sort for the past two years as well, even though the way the rotational system works, a school should only have to host once every three years.

I understand the issue: not all the schools in this conference have the same resources or comfort with hosting tournaments. You need to be able to reserve a venue large enough for several school’s multiple squads for foil, epee, and sabre. You need to be able to coordinate directors. You need to have access to enough strips (reels, boxes, floor cords, the works…)

So, predictably, the schools that tend to perennially host the tournament (after all of the rest defer to do so) are the ones that have large, successful, experienced clubs.

Nevertheless, there can be some resentment about this. While the school that hosts a particular tournament gets a stipend for it, the tournament can sometimes go over budget. Since the stipend is fixed, the host school can’t even do what they might have done if this was their own tournament: align the event rates to match projected turnout to at least cover costs.

Yet, last semester, as I was planning to graduate, I knew that we would be asked to host one of these regional intercollegiate tournaments again…for the third year in a row. And from there, what became somewhat as a joke — to host the most economical tournament ever — was planted in the minds of the other officers.

The Most Economical Tournament Ever

The concept behind the most economical tournament ever was simple: instead of outsourcing functions (like directors, bout committee, etc.,), we’d keep as much as possible in-house. The club has had a long-standing informal policy that if current or immediately-graduated members of the club referee at club events, then they are either paid less or not at all for their services. And since, as I mentioned, most of the people at these tournaments are people who have never been at USFA tournaments, it’s not like we needed to break the bank trying to attract a world-class referee cadre.

The one logistical issue with having people from the club direct for the tournament is a question of objectivity and fairness: much like in public accounting, directors are expected to be independent in fact and in appearance. So, we needed to at least have directors in foil and sabre (where judgment comes into play) who were independent of the club, and we needed directors who could direct any bouts featuring A&M fencers.


The next cost cutter was to have a club member serve as bout committee. Normally, we have someone who is insanely proficient at the tournament software/spreadsheet (which may have something to do with his having developed it especially for this intercollegiate circuit, but whatevs), but this time, we had someone from our club — who came from said developer’s club originally and has helped him when he’s run tournament’s before — be in charge.


Overcommit to Overachieve

There is something admirable about how this entire thing shook out. When the club found out we were to host another tournament, we were dismayed for a little bit. At first, we didn’t know if this would mean we would be unable to host the spring tournament we are planning to host (our school only lets us host two tournaments for free in the Rec Center, and we had already hosted one for the year), but we found a way around it (host it somewhere other than the Rec Center). Then, we were worried about going in the red and harming our efforts to raise money, but as I just described, we would solve that by being economical.

Still, I have to admit that the club was trying to do a lot. Be hosts and the bout committee and the directors (and also have some squads competing!) and juggle this with another tournament to be hosted in a month and all the communication that needed to happen with that (that one will have independent directors, etc.,)

It seems appropos to mention that the vice president of the club, who is also tournament affair rep, (who is also involved in several other organizations on campus and who is thinking about running for another influential position in the association of sport clubs at the school) and who was the bout committee for the tournament I’ve been talking about has a little mantra…overcommit to overachieve.

I’ve found this a bit of a cute mantra, although it makes me cringe every time I hear it. (Apparently, others agree, a quick google search has results that talk about overachieving without overcommitting. Overcommiting and overchieving don’t go together, it appears…)

What makes me cringe about this is that over committing is a quick way to crash and burn out. Not only that, but if you’re overcommitted, then while you may be able to juggle the various commitments, you probably don’t have the ability to give each the attention you could if you weren’t stretched so thin.

I was thinking over what my mantra would be instead, and what the pitfalls of my own mantra would be, and I came up with the one from the post title.

Outplan to Outperform

I may have written about this before, but when I care about things, I become a bit of a perfectionist about them. What this translates to is a load of planning and preparation for things with which I involve myself…especially if it’s something that I haven’t done before. I feel like if I can come into something with the prerequisite knowledge…aware of some of the silly beginner mistakes, then I can avoid those mistakes and be that much better.

I see the Outplan method as coming at odds with the overcommit method…and the person I know who follows the overcommit way and I have had some disagreements over our different approaches. I think she moves so quickly that she sometimes makes mistakes that could easily have been stomped out if she would have just slowed down.

…However, I know from experience with other people who I would say follow the Overcommit method in spirit if not in word that my style has its disadvantages to. Those who overcommit do tend to get stuff done, whereas I often find myself utterly paralyzed, unable to move past planning into any sort of performance for fear that I’ll make any mistake. Those who overcommit may sometimes make mistakes at which I cringe, BUT as I read it put once upon a time…you can’t improve to version 2.0 without first getting a 1.0 product out the door.

The obvious solution is that there has to be some happy medium…balance…moderation, and all that jazz. At the very least, the roles are complementary — an outplanner should watch an overcommitter and rein her in if she’s spread too thin, but the overcommitter has to push the outplanner to move out of planning stage into concrete action and convince him that mistakes aren’t the end of the world, and that an iterative process of continuous improvement requires that we put something out first.

Now…if I only knew a way for these two personality types to use their gifts in harmony rather than out of tune or rhythm with one another…


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