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How to Run a Youth SCRABBLE Tournament

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Youth SCRABBLE Tournaments are great fun—and relatively easy to organize and run. They are great practice for your students, plus the points earned at the tournaments count toward NASPA Youth Achievement Awards.

Here are some tips on how to run a Youth SCRABBLE Tournament.

Select a Date and a Venue

Determine what time of year you would like to hold your event and see whether there is a suitable venue available.

Plan your event for when young players are available. Weekends are ideal, as there is no school. Summer days may seem attractive; however, your regular players may be away on vacation or at camp.

Also, check the calendar to avoid school breaks or holidays.

If you are already running a club at a library, school, or community center, that venue may be able to provide a room. We suggest contacting the person in charge of event planning well in advance to get a date you want.

If you are unable to find a space at your normal club venue, you may want to consider other public spaces, such as restaurants or parks. You will still need to check with the person in charge before publicizing your event.

Try to avoid paying for a space - keeping costs down is important!

Determine Your Format

Do you want a full-day tournament or a shorter event? A School SCRABBLE tournament, played in teams of two, or a one-on-one tournament? Would you like a tournament open to any Youth Players, or would you prefer one restricted to your club players or residents of a certain state or states?

If you start publicizing your event far enough in advance, you will have time to make changes if you want to expand or limit your entry requirements.

Shorter tournaments - 3 to 4 games - are great for newer and younger players. Longer events - 5 to 7 games - are fine for older players or championship events.

If you run a tournament after school on a weekday, you’ll probably need to limit your games to 2 to 3.

Remember lunch (or dinner). Short tournaments are best scheduled either before or after lunchtime. You may also consider having a night event, with games starting after an early dinner. If you are running a longer tournament, leave at least an hour for players to have lunch (or dinner).

If you are anticipating a large number of entries, consider offering several divisions, based on age and experience. It’s no fun to be over-faced. Divisions such as High School, Advanced, Intermediate, and Novice let players play where they feel most comfortable. Ideally, you don’t want a large age range within divisions.

Publicize Your Tournament

As soon as you have determined your date, venue, and format, start publicizing your event. If you are running a small event, you may simply want to send emails to your students. With a larger event, you may want to publicize to students outside your group.

While it is not required, sanctioning your tournament with NASPA is a great way to spread the word. To sanction your tournament, go to the following link. The tournament will be listed on NASPA’s tournament calendar and on cross-tables.

Make a flyer. Design a flyer with all important details. If you design one online, you can make it into a PDF to send to potential players and media.

Be sure to consider whether to have a deadline for entries. A deadline helps you estimate numbers and do advance pairings. However, letting players sign up the morning of the event can increase your numbers.

List your tournament with cross-tables by sending an email with a PDF of your flyer to Seth Lipkin. Most North American tournaments are listed on cross-tables.com. If you are listed, you will also have a link you can use in additional publicity.

Many communities have online calendars of events in the area. Send information to them, including a link to your flyer.

Alert local news media about the tournament. If there is a news story about your event you are apt to attract more players.

If you have a mailing list of players who have attended previous events, send an announcement to them. You can use emails or a service such as Mail Chimp.


For a School SCRABBLE tournament you will need one SCRABBLE set for every four players. For one-on-one players, you will need one SCRABBLE set for every two players. Each game setup will require 1 board, 1 bag of tiles, 2 rack, 2 pencils, and a timer.

You will also need to provide 2 score sheets and one results slip per game.

Each team (or individual player) will need a player information form where pairings and results can be noted.

You will also need a timer yourself, so you can alert players to the end of each game and a computer Word Judge for challenges. A high-tech Word Judge app is NASPA Zyzzyva, which can be downloaded to a computer here.

If possible, put out the equipment in advance, with the tiles "squared up" in each corner to verify distribution and count. Try to avoid having two tiles of the same color at adjoining tables.

Tournament Results Sheets

Results should be posted outside of the playing room, or if that is not possible, as far from the players as possible.

If you are offering special prizes, such as "High Bingo" or "Best Halloween Word," post sheets for players to write down their submissions. These prizes are often quite popular, plus they give more students a chance to be a prizewinner.

Release Forms

Parents of minors will need to sign a release slip allowing their children to play. You will also need to have a signed release before publishing photographs of the players.


Kids love getting prizes. What you offer depends on your budget.

Trophies for the winners are always great; however, you will want to order these in advance so they can list the tournament name. Remember, too, that the winner in School SCRABBLE is a team, so you will need two trophies.

Other prizes you may want to consider are medals, printed participation awards, and books or toys. Giving each participant a small prize is ideal - and goes a long way toward making up for a losing record.


If you are serving food, announce this in your flyer and make plans to be sure there is enough for all your players. Having players bring their own food (or eat nearby) is often an easier option.


Before starting the first game, give a short summary of the rules and demonstrate how to pick tiles properly and how to use the timers and Word Judge. Give the players the opportunity to ask questions.

It’s important to emphasize that if there is ANY disagreement about play, the players should stop the clock and call over the director.

Instruct players that all games will begin at the same time and be stopped after 50 minutes. We recommend giving a 5-minute warning before time is up.

Be sure to have access to a copy of the Rules in case a question comes up.

Starting and Ending Games

When you start the games, start your timer as well so that you can end after exactly 50 minutes.

Remember to give a 5-minute warning near the end and to call out "Stop" when games are over. Players may not put down any tiles once you have said "Stop." They should stop their timer but not reset it until a director has picked up their results slip. Players should not "square up" their tiles until they have filled out and signed their result slips.

Note that in School and Youth SCRABBLE, recounts are not allowed.

Collecting Results Slips

If you go to each table to collect results slips, you can also help any players having difficulty with scoring.

Unless you have advance pairings, you should wait until all results are in and recorded before starting the next game. Make sure players have reset their timers and verified count and distribution of the tiles before they start their next game.

You can post results on the tournament results sheets during the next game. If you have a tournament management program, you can load results on your computer. If not, you can keep results manually.

End of the Tournament

At the end of the tournament, make sure that all players have squared their tiles.

Announce the winners in reverse order, giving each student or team a chance to come up for a prize. At larger events you may want only the top teams to come up, but you can acknowledge the others by giving out small prizes. Announcing the winners in reverse order helps build suspense. If you have permission, you may take photos of the winners for publicity.

Be sure to leave the venue in good shape after your event.

Follow Up

Send a file or list of tournament results to Cornelia Guest so players’ points can be tabulated for the NASPA Youth Achievement Awards. Be sure to include players’ grades (e.g., 2nd to 12th).

You can also send results, with a picture if you have one, to NASPA News and to your local paper. Be sure you have release forms from parents of minors, and include the photographer’s credit line.

You may want to get feedback from participants. You can do this informally by email or through a survey program such as Survey Monkey. This can be useful for planning your next event.