Tips for running a VEX tournament


My school is hosting a vex tournament this Saturday and I was hoping to get some tips on things people have (or have not) seen at competitions that have made it run more smoothly. Thanks!


Stay low, move fast. Feed your volunteers.


Make sure that the people who are doing inspection know what to expect from a robot for each item on the checklist


Seriously, feed your volunteers. The next most important things to have are a head ref that knows the rules AND how to call them, and a tournament director who is passionately committed to running a clean event that finishes on time.


I don’t know how it works in your area but I know that in Maine the Umaine engineering students voulenteer to help run and set up all of our competitions along with Jacob from REC I believe (Don’t really know why he’s there). They ref all of the matches and do inspection. The rest of the work is often done by voulenteers. I would recommend that you do feed your volunteers like @Rick TYler suggested while also keeping the volunteers shifts at a 4 or 5 hour maximum unless if they insist on staying. For the competition we host every year we often use younger kids from the program that are not competing to help field reset and match queuing and that can become pretty boring for some. Hope this helps. Thanks!


To echo @Rick TYler, get a head ref who is knowledgeable and well respected in your area. As a competitor, it sets my mind at ease when I see that an experienced and fair person is the head ref for a tournament I am at. I don’t have to question decisions that they make and am going to be far more happy with whatever decision they make, whether it be good or bad for me, because I trust that they are making a sound ruling. This trust ends up making the tournament run far smoother and quicker than one with a head ref who is still learning the ropes.


Set up as far in advance as you can.

Test all your TMS and field control stuff, make sure the TMS power settings are implemented on all computers

Have a good MC

Have field resetters or ensure teams are briefed on resetting fields after matches

Loads of other stuff! But have fun and run a tight ship.


Make sure all the referees watch the VRC Turning Point Referee Training videos. Good referees are always appreciated.


Don’t use Windows 10 for anything mission-critical (such as Tournament Manager), if possible.

Or, if you must use Windows 10, implement a network-level firewall that blocks Windows Update packets, if possible.

If neither is possible, force every Windows 10 computer you will be using to install all available updates 48, 24, and 2 hours before the tournament.


On top of this make sure that the reffs have reviewed the manual and Q&A. I have worked with to many reffs that didn’t even know the Q&A existed.


If you want to pause Windows Updates, you can go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced options and under Pause Updates set the slider to On. Updates won’t install for up to seven days or until you turn the option off.
Or, if possible, you can go to Windows 10 Pro and it can give extra options regarding what to do with Windows updates.

On another note:
I don’t know why this was approved, but I have seen one of the tournaments use a Pirated Version of Windows 10 and it had a popup every 5-10 minutes. Seriously, if tournaments are getting to the point of pirating Windows in order to host a tournament there definitely is something wrong with professionalism. At least download Linux if you cannot get a software such as Windows 10 legitimately.


When having the drivers meeting, being open minded to the drivers inputs would be greatly appreciated. This ensures that you hold a good relationship with the teams and it allows you to be more aware of the rules and any additional rules. For any miscellaneous rules or Q&A’s, or rules that aren’t brought out or unique in the manual, ask the drivers to show proof regarding if something is legal or not.

Another note, please make sure that the referees are aware about when to make warnings and when to make a disqualification. If a team did something illegal, such as expanding above the 18" expansion limit, ask yourself “is this match affecting” or “did it change the score of the match?” If the answer is yes, give a disqualification. Otherwise, only give them a warning. Of course, if they repeat it every match and it’s became obvious that it’s intentional you can disqualify them as well, but ONLY if it’s repetitive or intentional(As in they are purposefully doing it for a strategic advantage). This same concept applies the practically the majority of the other rules.

  • Make sure the referees are also aware that the center platform is fair game and that even if a robot attempts to center park it is perfectly legal for another robot to damage and tip them, intentional or unintentional. This is normal gameplay and is expected by the robots attempting to center park.
  • Make sure that the referees are aware of the pinning rule. If a robot starts pinning a robot the referees must count from one to five. At five the robot would be in violation and would be disqualified. This count should continue if the robot is not one tile away. Once the robot is away at a distance of one tile, the count would reset after waiting the same amount of time the robot has pinned.
  • Make sure to aware drivers to move their competition cords out of the way if robots are attempting to score on the poles. If the drivers don’t move you have the right to raise your voice to get their attention to ensure no field entanglement and gives fair play.
  • Also, teams with V5 are also allowed to bring a small battery pack to charge the V5 remotes while the matches are going. <- This is very important because many don’t know this
  • There are many more important rules. The referees should be aware of these precise rulings and start getting familiar with them.

Hopefully this helps :slight_smile:


Keep team adults away from competition fields - the only adults should be tournament staffing.

Make that announcement at welcome meeting - only student drive team members may approach the head referee. Any adults who has a question should address the EP.

If you can, keep parents out of the pit area. Teachers/coaches/mentors will thank you… pretty sure the students will too.

Safety top priority - safety glasses for staff near fields. Have practice fields spaced so no one gets hit accidentally. Remind teams not to test launchers in their pit area, but move to practice field.

Robots should be powered off when being moved from one area to another. Mechanisms should be lowest energy position possible (meaning those with rubber bands should be in a relaxed state.)


I want to clarify here that Tournament Manager works perfectly fine on Windows 10. It’s the OS that it is primarily tested on, Worlds runs on Windows 10, and the vast majority of tournaments use Windows 10.

The reason Barin seems to be saying this is simply due to Windows 10’s annoying habit of updating itself at inopportune times. This has nothing to do with Tournament Manager but can obviously be disruptive. Ensuring the PC is fully updated before your tournament starts is a good precaution.


Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply TM was to blame for Windows 10 nonsense. I will clarify my post.


Windows Update on Windows 10 has caused enough problems for me that I have lost all trust in Windows 10 as a primary OS, updates paused or not (hence I switched to Linux).

The Pro edition doesn’t gain you any meaningful functionality in terms of Windows Update, by the way. You have to upgrade to Enterprise to be able to actually control Windows Update.

Windows 10 can be had for free legitimately, as long as you don’t mind a watermark in the bottom right. Anyone that pirates it is just stupid.


Look – we all know that not all adult volunteers know what’s going on, and this applies to referees as well as anyone. Frankly, many head referees I see are not as knowledgeable as the 3rd and 4th year teams at an event. This is why @lacsap 's advice is so important. If you are a team mentor and your team is getting bad calls from the referee, go to the tournament director (usually the same as the Event Partner) and have a chat about it. A good EP will counsel the referee on how to be more effective, and call the event fairly. Especially in events before Christmas, everyone is still learning how to make things work right.


So very critical. I’ve had to do this at events before for my teams when calls were very incorrect, and a head ref wouldn’t even speak to my kids and shooed them away.

Unfortunately I’ve also had this backfire and have an EP not want to be talked to or addressed by a non-student member.


sigh People making up their own rules is the single most destructive thing that can happen in the VEX competition. Sometimes you have to vote with your wallet and not attend bad events, or get the mindset in advance that they are just fancy scrimmages.


We have been fortunate to have a good set of head referees working our events. They listen to students drive team carefully. Whilst they kids may not agree with the calls, they feel heard.

We also advise drive team to bring rules and Q&A with them when discussing with the head referee. That really helps both the referees and the teams have a meaningful discussion.


Have some method for communicating in the pits what matches are underway and which are queuing. This is particularly important if you start getting ahead or behind.