Principles for a Healthy League

by Alan ~ August 11th, 2011.

Hello OneHitKO readers! My name is Alan Traxler, and I’m a casual player who has been invited by Pikkdogs to write an article about my experience as a league leader in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I’ve decided to write about some basic principles I used when running the league; I hope you can apply them to your own league, as a leader or member.

Note: This article is not intended to be a guide for starting a league. For that specific information, here’s a great resource for getting your league off to an excellent start.

Here’s a little background: the Ann Arbor league was started in 2008 by a UM college student named Levester. He chose to meet on Sunday afternoons at a local game shop, Get Your Game On. When the league first started, I would occasionally fill-in as league leader when Levester needed to devote the Sunday afternoon to his studies. Later on in his academic career, Levester decided to study abroad for a semester. I agreed to take over as league leader during this time and took charge for several months. While I was the leader, the league experienced some growth and I attribute it to these ideas:

1. Be Welcoming

By welcoming new visitors and regular players, you’re more likely to build a warm atmosphere where players will want to return week after week. Remember that you are the ‘PR’ person; interested visitors are going to come to you for information. Explain what is needed to play, and be sure to tell visitors about the quarterly rewards from Pokemon USA as well as the regular league prizes (and how to earn them). When someone new joins, introduce that person to the regular players, and get that new person playing right away. While running the Ann Arbor league, I often gave a league prize to welcome the new person to saying, “Thanks for joining us, here’s a small award for being here today, play some games and you’ll be able to earn more!” And though it may seem obvious, it feels really good to be called by name, so I always greeted players by name when they came in. If I didn’t know their name I’d ask! I would also include a big smile and a firm handshake to really make them feel included.

Along the lines of welcoming the players, I usually collected email addresses to keep in touch with members. With this information I could send a little ‘thank you’ email to new players, and alert the whole league about cancellations or carpool opportunities to premier events and tournaments. Another benefit to keeping these email addresses: if you don’t see a player in a long time, you can reach out and invite them back!

2. Be Positive

I know there are frustrations in the format right now, I have a few of my own and have felt negative reactions from other players, but it’s still a fun game and it’s important to remember that!  In my experience if you focus on the benefits and fun of the game you’ll be reminded of more positive aspects about it. Conversely, if you complain all the time, it’ll only lead to more complaining and who wants to be around a negative person? Therefore, instead of griping about changes you dislike or certain cards being unfair, remind yourself what you love about the game and be positive!

No you don’t have to be saccharine sweet or put on a mask of happiness, but in general be upbeat. Players will pick up on your positive attitude and that may increase their level of enjoyment of the game.

3. Be Helpful

This is the crux of a league leader’s position: being helpful. By building up other players, the league as a whole will be strengthened, and I guarantee you will find enjoyment in it.

I’ve found that the best way to be helpful is to know what each player needs. How familiar is the player with the game? Does the player understand basic deck building strategies? Does the player plan on sticking to the modified format or unlimited? Is the player planning on attending tournaments or just coming each week to have fun? These guiding questions let me know how I can help. For instance, I have lent cards to modified players that need certain cards for a tournament. And sometimes all the player needs is a little guidance, be it with deck building or just in understanding the game.

Note: It’s a good idea to be very familiar with the rules and rulings. See the Pokemon card compendium rules for more info.

4. Facilitate the Fun

Basically, don’t forget to have some fun yourself: joke around, have some laughs, get to know the players, make some friends, play lots of games and have fun! While doing this, include others in the merriment. After all, the league leader is like the host of the party; be sure to keep players involved and ensure they have a good time. In the Ann Arbor league, I tried to do this by making sure players rotated around the room and, in the case of an unoccupied player, I tried to find something for that person to do. League is about having fun, so do your best to make it happen!

So now you have it, my basic principles for running a league. I hope you keep them in mind while running your league or while playing as a member. In fact, now that Levester is back and has resumed the mantle of league leader in Ann Arbor, I get to take my own advice: I’m going to welcome new and returning players, I’m going to be upbeat and positive, I’ll be looking for opportunities to help other players, and I’m going to have a great time while doing it!

This article is part of OneHitKO’s Guest Writer Week for August 2011. Please check out all the articles in the series, and please give the authors your feedback in the comment section below.

  1. Michael’s article about upcoming Japanese cards.
  2. Radu’s article about his Mew/Muk/Jumpluff/Vileplume deck and how it can be made better.
  3. Pooka introduces Worlds 2011.
  4. Alan’s article about how to run a Pokemon league.
  5. Jay. H takes a look at past formats of the game.
  6. Jordan’s article about running rogue decks and his worlds decklist.

Be sure to check back throughout the week for more great articles from our friends!

Category: League | Tags: , ,
  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the article Alan.  We don’t get to hear about this stuff too much, and it is stuff that people will want to know.  So thanks for your insight. 

  • Anonymous

    Well written – and you are so right.  We run a growing league in a very small community – but have between 25 and 30 players each week for precisely some of the reasons you name.  We help them all have lots of fun.  Our players span the skill level from absolute beginner to playing in World’s this weekend – and everyone enjoys the fun and casual atmosphere.  When they want, we help with more in-depth advice and strategy – then stand back and let ’em play!