My First Tournament — When I decided to enter my first tournament I contacted the tournament director to establish a ringer average. I was advised to get there about 1 hour prior to the event. I arrived at 8:00 a.m. and was assigned one of the tournament officials. I was to warmup and throw 50 horseshoes for my ringer average. I threw 11 ringers for a 22% ringer average. The ringer average would be used to make the appropriate class assignment. Next was to join the NHPA and pay the tournament fee.
Subsequent Tournaments — Participating in tournaments is the best way to validate your progress. There are basically two different registration processes. Some tournaments are walk-up registration and others are pre-registration. It is important to know the difference. There are pros and cons to each for the tournament director. If you are required to pre-register you may or may not have to include your registration fee with your registration. You will be notified when to report for the tournament. That’s good for you, but, sometimes means that registrants don’t show up. That’s bad for the director, meaning he must sometimes reset classes at the last minute. Walk-up registration allows the director to establish classes and participant based on actual registrants who sign up. That’s good for the director, but, sometimes bad for you. If there are too many signups you may have to wait until a later session. On accasion I have arrived at 8:00 a.m. and not started pitching until about 2:00 p.m. Makes for a long day. However, you can always keep score, make a couple of bucks for paying for your scorekeeper when you pitch later. Speaking of paying for your scorekeeper…the fee is usually established by the director and varies between $.50 and $1.00 per pitcher per game. In general, it is up to the scorekeeper if he keeps the money, but, each pitcher should offer it.
Tournament Preliminaries — When all registrants are known the tournament director will assign classes based on ringer average. He will complete individual scorecards for the various classes. In general, Class A pitchers have the highest ringer averages. If there are too many pitchers for the available pits, the director will hold a draw to determine the classes pitching the first session. The remainder will have to wait until the first session is finished. Prior to the distribution of scorecards, the director will broadcast the number of points and number of horseshoes pitched for each class. Typically, Class A and B matches will be based on 40 points and unlimited shoes. Classes C and below are usually restricted to 40 points or 50 shoes whichever comes first. Ties after 50 shoes are usually resolved by a “up and back” frame until a winner is determined. Below is the front and back of the individual player scorecard. In this case, mine. Select either for a larger view.
The scorecard above contains the results of the session. The thing to note are the pit assignments (1 thru 4) and the number of competitors (9). You then go to the 9 competitor chart, mark pits 1 thru 4 over each column and circle your player number (1). You may have noticed that the scorecard says “Use the 7 Player Schedule.” After scorecard distribution, a change required a switch to the 9 Player Schedule. After each match the scorekeeper records the results on each competitors scorecard. I have blurred the competitors names on my last tournament scorecard. Individual scorecards are retained by each competitor for personal records. The scorekeeper then turns in the score sheet to the director for posting the results.
Score Keeping — It is important to learn how to keep score. Additionally, you will need to learn the local lingo. In general, the competitor winning the points will call them to the scorekeeper. Typical lingo might be something like this…”4 dead” — two ringers each, no points; “3 ringers 3” — cancelled ringer for each player and 3 point ringer for the caller; “ringer each penny” — cancelled ringer each player and 1 point for the caller; “draw a line” — no points for either player. In addition to keeping the scoresheet, you will need to add points to the score board so that each competitor and the audience can follow the score. There are many occasions when there is no scorekeeper available. It will be up to you and your competitor to decide who keeps score. By tradition, one keeps score and the other calls the score and picks up the shoes. Below is an example of the NHPA approved scoring along with rules pertaining to scorekeeping…
Competing in a Tournament — My tournament competition begins the previous day. On hot summer days I usually purchase two bottles of Gatorade. One goes into the refrigerator and one to the freezer. I get up early enough to get a good breakfast and don’t want to rush doing anything. In the morning I transfer the refrigerated bottle to my thermos and the frozen bottle to my carry along bag. I throw in my sun block and bug repellant. Before I start pitching I spray under the bill of my cap to keep the pesky bugs away. I make sure I lather on the sunblock when I arrive. I also carry along a folding chair with a cover if the location is predominantly in the sun. In my bag, I also include a metal file for burrs, along with a towel, a pair of horseshoes with a spare (you’ll be in trouble if you break a shoe without a spare), pitching gloves if you use them, a measuring device for ringers and points, my shoe retriever, and finally, a baster. Yep, a baster, sometimes you will find too much water in the pit from overnight rains. It’s about the only thing I’ve found to rapidly empty rain water. You simply channel all the water into a hole and suck out the water.
Maintaining Your Pits — If you are a flipper, you must maintain the clay properly. First, paint the stake. Next, water down each pit and bring the clay up to level. You never want to leave a depression in front of the stake. Your shoe will sometimes flip over backwards when you hit the base of the stake, if you leave the depression. After turning the clay, sprinkle a little additional water on the clay. I make it a point to check how solid the stake is. A loose stake will reject lots of shoes. If that is the case, concentrate on hitting the stake low, no higher than 7 inches above the ground. The photo below is an attempt to show an unwanted depression in front of the stake.
The Match Begins — Once you’ve worked the clay and painted the stake, you’re ready to begin. Traditionally, each pitcher will do a “down and back.” This involves pitching two shoes down and pitching two shoes back, for practice. The match will begin after you decide who goes first. This usually involves flipping a shoe and have the competitor call “up or down”, or “head or tails”, or maybe “I’ll match you”, and each flip. The winner pitches first. Rules state you must wait behind the backboard while your competitor is pitching. Even there, make sure your shadow does not encroach into your competitors vision. Be courteous at all times. If you are pitching from 30 feet on the left approach, don’t step to the approach if a 40 foot pitcher is pitching to your immediate left. On many occasions it will be necessary to measure for a ringer. The tips of the horseshoe must be beyond the stake. If a straight edge touches each tip and the stake, it is NOT a ringer. It must be beyond the stake. Points are measured as non-ringers that are within 6 inches of the stake and closer than your competitors. Don’t make the mistake of measuring with the width of the horseshoe. NHPA rules state 6 inches. Single points are extremely important and may make the difference in a win or loss. Complement your competitor when called for. Shake hands to start and when finished.
Your Day Is Done — After you’re done, make sure you take the time to thank the volunteers. It takes tremendous effort on the part of the tournament committee to get everything ready. Complement them on the condition of the facility if appropriate. If you’ve collected a few extra bucks for scorekeeping, tip the refreshment folks. Consider buying items sponsored by the venue, i.e., shirts, shoe retriever, scorecards, horseshoes, etc. Finally, enjoy the experience.
There are two categories of doubles tournaments, “Walking” and “Stationary.” The most common is stationary, meaning that partners pitch from opposite ends and do not change ends after each frame. However, it means that the same pair of horseshoes is used by each partner. In walking doubles, each partner uses their own horseshoes and switches ends after each frame. The scoresheet is slightly different having columns for each participant and columns for the combined partner score. By tradition, the two highest ringer average pitchers will pitch against each other at the same end and will be known as the Class A competitors. The two other lower average competitors will be Class B. The Class A competitors start the match.