Race director best practices: Handling prize money
One of the more alarming trends I observed this past year was the confusion, lack of transparency and available funds when it comes to awarding prize money.
I've seen a number of race directors make the mistake of:
- Not disclosing the prize money in advance
- Mixing terms and causing confusion by offering $X in cash and prizes, when it's actaully just prizes
- Reducing the cash prize amounts from previous years (to a bar of surf wax for instance) without letting last year's participants know
- Saying "the check's in the mail" when the winners get off the podium, or
- Handing them a post-dated check
If you are interested in having professional paddlers show up to the events next year, you'll have to be up-front this year. Pros don't make money. Some of them need the cash prize from one race to get them to the next.
And while I know the Mullet is for the people who paddle, it's also for the people who set up, run and attend the events and it would be a real shame to make simple mistakes this year that will hurt your race next year. In regional races, it also limits the top, non-professional paddlers from attending the year after one of these things happened.
So to reverse this and keep you in line with the soon-to-be released recommendations from the Standup Professional Paddlers Association, do the following:
- Publish prize money amounts in advance of the race so professional and top regional paddlers will be able to decide if they can add it to their race calendar—they will pick proven, consistent and reliable venues over the mystery envelope every time.
- Be clear on whether the award is cash or prizes
- Have the funds available—do not post-date checks or tell them it'll be mailed to them
Race directors, I'm looking out for you. Don't' take it personally if you've done this in the past. Just make the changes that will insure your success in 2014. And if you handed someone a bar of surf wax last year instead of the check they thought they were getting, or post-dated a check, you'll need to call them next year to tell them things will be different or they probably won't come back. And I know prize money is tough because none of us are making money at these events. In fact, my first 5 races all LOST money. Not a good business plan. However, if you don't have the funds or cant' see the ROI (even if just in marketing benefit for your shop), just make it a local "run what ya brung" charity race and hand out hand-made trophies, cupcakes and BBQ.
At this point, someone like me who hasn't seen a podium in years might ask, "what was all that about?" Simple. Not much. And while you and I go to races for different reasons than the professionals who are trying to make a living in the sport, we LOVE seeing them and learning from them. Our sport has some of the most extraordinarily approachable and personable professional athletes. And while that might not me our gig, it's so cool to see people like Danny Ching, Annabel Anderson, Chuck Patterson, Helga Goebel, Chase Kosterlitz, Ryan Help, Larry Cain, Jenny Kalmbach, Jimmy Terrell, Slater Trout, Zane Schweitzer, Byron Kurt, Colin McPhillips, and others come to town to race, hang out and talk about paddling.