“A League of Your Own” — What They Don’t Tell You About Organizing a Pokémon League

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Hey, everyone! My name is Tyrell Miller. I have been a Pokémon League organizer for almost a year now. I run one league in Whitesburg, Kentucky and may soon be starting another in Isom, Kentucky. I started playing the TCG just a couple of months before starting the league. In addition, I intend to give the Championship Series a shot this year.

Running my own league is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. While there’s a lot of information out there on starting a league, there’s a lot that isn’t shared. Let me start off with a little bit of backstory. My town is ruled primarily by Magic: The Gathering. I played it myself for a couple of years before I started playing Pokémon. Of course I had collected Pokémon cards when I was younger and I had always played the games ever since Red and Blue hit the shelves. But the TCG was something that I had lost familiarity with over the years. I was getting tired of the same old cycles in Magic and the awkward community involved with it, eventually burning myself out.

Then, some friends of mine had told me that they had picked up a couple of Pokémon theme decks from Wal-Mart and they had quickly began to love the game. A couple of days later, I picked up a theme deck of my own and had started to love the game myself. Before we knew it, we had dumped all of our connection to Magic and were playing Pokémon exclusively. We decided that we needed to spread the word about how fun the game was and that we needed to play more often. So I started looking into it and found the application to start a league. After a few questions and the submission of a background check, I was finished and beyond excited.

And then I waited. I waited for a very long time to start being able to officially run my league. It took The Pokémon Company International 8 months to finally approve me. But I was so happy and excited that I didn’t care about how long it had taken. But in that 8 months and the time since I was approved, I learned a lot about the game and its community. I learned things that I wish that I would’ve learned from the start and other things that I was fortunate enough to learn early on. But I thought that these were things that needed to be shared with anyone else who wanted to run a league of their own.

Before you apply

Know the game

It’s not a bad idea to study up on all of the rules of the game and to check out the Compendium. You may even become a Judge before you get approved. Because early on, it’s not likely that you’re going to have a judge there all the time. It’s not necessary to have a judge just for league but it’s a good idea to make yourself familiar with the rules.

Be prepared to invest some time

Running a league is a big responsibility, I’ve had to turn down plans with my friends and family before because I had a league to run. You should be absolutely sure that you will have the time to be involved with it. If you cancel often, you’re players aren’t going to see you as a reliable league owner and won’t show up. Also, if you do have to cancel for some reason, you need to keep cancellations at a minimum. You should only cancel a league day if:

  • That day falls on a holiday.
  • There is a major event going in your town such as a festival (this applies more to smaller towns with fewer players).
  • There is really bad weather (snowstorms, tornadoes, etc.)
  • There is an emergency
Finding a venue

This one is probably the most daunting task about starting a league. It can really be a chore to find a suitable venue unless you own your own card shop. Start with your local card and game shops to see if they would be willing to host it. These are the easiest to work with as it means more exposure and more income. If that fails, check with the public libraries and community centers. Most of them welcome any kind of traffic because it opens them up for grants and other things to help improve the location. If all else fails check with other locations that are welcoming and open to the public.

After you apply

Waiting for approval

You’ve talked to your friends and fellow players in shops and forums to see if they’d be interested in a league, you’ve found a suitable place to place to hold your league, and finally, you sent your application to TCPi. Now what? Well, you play the waiting game. I do have to give it to TCPi, they have stepped up their game as far as approval times compared to a few months ago, but it may still take some time. But, instead of just waiting idly, take this time to spread the word. Make flyers and go around your town asking any businesses or public facilities if you can post them. Most will say yes, but if you get a no, thank them for their time anyway and move along. You will have to advertise as an unofficial league for the time, but it lets players in the area know that you are getting one going. Also, travel to other leagues around your area to see how things are ran. Talk to the league owner and even ask for tips. Pokémon has one of the best communities of all competitive card games and most people are willing to help.

Start holding your unofficial league days

I did this for a long time before I was approved. We had a league once a month for 8 months. It helped me get a feel for what I was doing and allowed us all to play at the same time. Have small tournaments occasionally to keep people interested as well. This is the phase where you start to see your prominent players, the ones who always show. It also lets you get to know all of your players and how to settle any conflicts should they arrive. Having an unofficial league less often than you plan with an official league gives you practice and helps prepare you to start holding larger events later on.

Be welcoming and prepare to teach

One reason why it is good to know the rules of the game is that you will likely have to teach the game to people when they come to play. Not everyone is going to be familiar with Pokémon TCG or even with competitive card games in general. It’s very important to be patient and welcoming. Myself, I’ve never been good with kids. In fact, I had crippling social anxiety when it came to kids because I was afraid that I wouldn’t treat them right and their parents would get mad. However, running my league has helped me overcome that immensely, especially with some support from my friends.

After you get approved

Start giving out Player IDs

Player IDs are very important in Pokémon TCG, especially when it comes to the players that intend to go to the big events. Player IDs are how your players get Play Points and Championship Points. Play Points are what determines if a player is eligible to play in Championship events. Championship Points are used to get players higher placements in those tournaments. But be sure to give everyone involved with your league and add them to your league roster because the amount of players in your league determine how many prizes you will be sent when you place an order.

Get ready to have your first big tournament

When you get approved, you will be able to sanction events. If you’ve never ran a tournament before, take some time to study up and ask others about it who have ran one. It’s your first big event and you don’t want to mess it up. You may have to start off small when it comes to prize support, but once people start coming to more tournaments, the entry fees will build up and you can start getting better prize support.

And finally…

Have fun with it! Please don’t get me wrong when it comes to this. It might sound like a lot of responsibility, but it is one of the most rewarding experiences as a Pokémon player. I’ve had a lot of good times playing and trading with my friends. I enjoy every second of teaching someone how to play and I love to give deck building advice to those who are getting ready for a big tournament. I open up the doors with a smile and leave with a bigger smile. Good luck to anyone who is ready to start their own league and I hope you do great!

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Tyrell Miller is a Pokemon League organizer who resides in Whitesburg, Kentucky. He has learned a great deal about the Pokemon TCG through running his local league and also plays the game on a competitive level.

1 COMMENT

  1. I’m glad to see someone take the time to put down in writing their recent experience setting up a league! As a league owner of several years, I cannot stress the importance of a consistent place and time for meeting.

    However, to clarify what the various points are for: there is only one event series where the Play Points are a requirement, and that is Nationals. Also, Championship Points are only used for invites into Worlds, not for any kind of ranking/standings for other tournaments (of course, they are awarded based on standing at all Championship Series events). 1 and 2 round byes for Nationals are awarded to top finishers at large events, and this year, for Worlds, there was a two-tiered system where players with more CP were awarded a whole-day bye, but that’s pretty much it as far as the utility of those points other than ‘bragging rights.’

    Thanks for an otherwise spot-on article!

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