How to Guide

How to Run a Yoyo Contest

Yoyo contest organizing.

If you have ever organized a contest, my hat is off to you.  It’s not an easy thing.  Even the smallest local contest organizer has a lot of responsibility.  It’s not a thankless job, the people that attend are always very appreciative, but as far as recognition outside of that, not much is done.  Having said that, this article isn’t about complaining, it’s about giving you a realistic outline of what goes into running a contest.  Who knows, you might actually want to run one after reading this!  At the very least you might look at approaching the local contest organizer and offering to help out.

For anyone who has attended a contest, you know there are some things to expect.  You can generally expect qualified judges and a stage.  You can expect to see vendor tables to shop at, a practice area and somewhere to sit.  There’s a sound system for the music and nowadays there is an expectation of a live stream, or at least high quality video is posted to youtube afterward.  There are prizes, often a raffle.  A good contest usually has access to food and drink as well.  You also might notice the banner with the sponsor’s logos on it. Generally this is all put together a handful of people, headed up by a single person.


    I can speak to contests up to the size of a small national contest. I’ve run BC provincials, Western Canadian Regionals and Canadian Nationals.  To some degree the work involved is the same, just in gradually increasing scale.


BC provincials

I usually treat this as a fun, small contest with the intent of providing a venue for competitors to hone their stage skills, but mostly as a place for newer yoyoers to have fun and come together to play with yoyo.  I organize a couple standard divisions (1a junior, 1a pro, open/X division).  Scattered in there are various mini contests (sleeper, rock the baby showdown, walk the dog race).


So what are the key steps needed to pull this together?

1. Venue.  First step is finding a venue and secure a date.  This needs to happen far enough in advance that anyone travelling has time to make plans.  For this contest I usually use an elementary school gymnasium.  Because I am a teacher I can generally get a really good rate at my schoool, around $500 for the day.  That usually includes the sound system, tables and chairs.  I have to add on event insurance though, which is another $125. Often some local parents will volunteer to go to Costco and provide a snack table and charge enough to recover costs.

Total $625


2. Judges – This is always the 2nd thing I look for. NO point in going any farther if there are no judges available.  I can usually scrabble together enough people from the local community to judge, although its usually a case of some of the 1a players judge the open division and junior division.  I always try to pay judges at least something, since it’s a pretty boring way to spend your day when you could be yoyoing.  Finally you need someone who will be in charge of organizing the judges and compiling the final scores. I luckily have a parent of a local yoyo champ that is heavily involved and handles this.

So tack on $50 per judge (or higher if you are inviting someone from out of town and compensating for their expenses) usually for around 4 people minimum.

$200

3. Sponsors – With a smaller contest most of the time the best you can get from sponsors is product donations.  Occasionally one or two will add a bit of cash, but for the most part they provide the prizes and raffle prizes. They don’t give away something for nothing either, there is an expectation that they are getting advertising, so someone (usually me) has to put the time into facebook, Instagram, reddit and anywhere else to give them public thank you announcements. If your venue allows sponsors will sometimes send a representative to sell their brand’s yoyos at the event.  There is a cost here, usually around $150 for the stage banner.

$150 Plus time.

4. Trophies/medals. – For smaller contests I usually go with certificates that I can print at home due to the high cost/low return of a small contest. This gives me the freedom to make up some awards as well (funniest yoyo trick, future professional dog walker, etc)

5. Sounds/video – For a smaller contest this is usually a pair of volunteer jobs.  Someone to run a laptop that the players music is loaded into (usually in the morning the day of the event).  I have a decent video camera and usually can get a volunteer to run it.  Then I have to put the hours in at home to edit and upload the videos with the sponsors logos at the beginning. I usually am able to give the volunteers something from the sponsor donations as a thank you

Cost: A lot of time and sponsor donated products.


Beyond that most of what is needed is volunteers – an MC, registration desk, raffle ticket sales, setup crew.  It’s a big job to put together even a small contest.  My hard costs are usually just under $1000CAD.  It’s a stretch to get that back between limited sponsor cash, raffle and registration fees.  Sometimes I do, sometimes I just have to cover the additional costs myself.  The upside to running a store at the event is that my table profits are usually at least close to enough to cover the difference.

Western Canadian Regionals and Canadian Nationals.

For the most part I treat these two the same.  I’m usually either running one or the other as Canadian Nationals alternates east coast/west coast. So when I’m not running nationals WCR I treat it as the year’s ‘big contest’ for those that can’t travel.

As far as the main tasks go they are usually close to the same, with scaled up costs.  A larger/nicer venue is needed, everything else costs a little more.

1.      Venue – Cost varies from 1000-2000 for the venue rental.  Best nationals I’ve held cost 1600 plus 150 for the venue rental.  It had the benefit of a kitchen staff so food and drink were included.  It also required a lot more setup/teardown but players are usually willing to show up early and help with that.

2.      Judges – You can’t run a larger contest just with local volunteers so I usually have to call out for people with more experience.  This year I was lucky enough to get some volunteers from the USA to drive up for the contest.  They were kind enough to do the job for $50 each and a place to stay.  Total cost was $250

3.        For a national contest we are usually able to get more cash sponsorship, sometimes up to a total of $1000.  The banner cost goes up as you need a bigger one for a bigger stage, so usually around $200 for that.

4.      Trophies – for nationals a good quality trophy is required.  2016’s organizer was able to get something cool from a sponsor, 2017 I spent about $250 for all the divisions to get a 1st place trophy and 2nd and 3rd place medals for each event.

5.      MC – for a bigger contest I budget at least $100 for this.

6.      Sound and video – I’ve been lucky enough to get a volunteer for this.

All in Canadian Nationals can be run from $2000-$2500


Canada is small beans in the yoyo world.  Our community is limited by geography and access to yoyos (The word yoyo is trademarked).  Step outside and things get bigger.  A few years ago the Vancouver group considered putting in a bid to host worlds’.  We ended up deciding it wasn’t feasible due to cost.  Getting a large enough venue and covering all of the associated costs was going to end up requiring somewhere between $100 000 and $140 000.  No one around here had the cash for that, and we didn’t feel confident we would be able to recoup the costs.


I don’t know what the costs are for contests outside of Canada.  Steve brown recently replied to a question on facebook regarding contest costs by providing per minute cost breakdown of a couple contests he runs which made for interesting reading, so I’m quoting them below.


“It varies wildly from one event to the next. Worlds 2016 cost roughly $2800/hour to run, which is about $47/minute. Considering that a player who is doing a 1-minute freestyle takes up about 3+ minutes of contest time, then consider that they are getting like a 65% discount. ;) And that's assuming that you are not charging for the administrative time leading up to the event.”


“For contrast, Ohio States cost about $183/hour to run last year, not including administrative time before the event. Adding admin time would probably bump that to about $300/hour.”


Food for thought for sure.  I think I’ll leave the massive contests to the people who have the knowledge and skill set to organize something that large, but I’m content to keep running our small Canadian events.  More than anything what makes it possible is the huge amount of local support I have from parents and yoyoers alike.  When I am putting on an event all I have to do is post “I need someone to do _______ at the contest” and I always get a volunteer.  Yoyo is not a major sport.  I don’t see it ever becoming a major sport.  Volunteers will always be what makes our happy little corner of nerdsville run. 


If you have made it through this article, feel free to join in the comments.  I’d love to hear either your experiences running a contest, or a shout out for volunteers that have made your corner of the yoyo world a better place!


As a little bonus, use the code “contestblog” to get 15% off any “Vosun”, “Magic Yoyo” or “Rain City Skills” toys between now and October 19th!

Yoyo Reviewers

Youtube.It’s the source of the majority of learning in the developed world as well as being the source of the delights and horrors of viral videos.

It’s also the place people go for advice before making a purchase.  I know us old farts still like to look to the written word from what we perceive as reliable sources, but in my observation people are increasingly more interested in viewing than reading.


Yoyo reviews are inherently controversial.  I remember a conversation with Steve Brown about why he stopped doing them and replaced it with essentially paid advertisements on Yoyo news.com.  He got tired of everyone complaining.  If you only give good reviews, you aren’t really a reliable reviewer. If you say anything negative about a yoyo you have to deal with people who love the yoyo or the brand whining about it.


Added to that is the fact that in the last 5 years there have been fewer and fewer crappy yoyos.  We have hit a point where there is an accepted idea of what will work in a yoyo and more importantly there is a plethora of shops that have both the equipment and expertise to make a yoyo properly.


So where do reviewers fit in?  If yoyos are like dogs (All dogs are good dogs) then what do we need reviewers for?  The answer is preference.  While all yoyos are good yoyos, for each individual some are gooder than others (no it’s not a word, but English doesn’t work at the best of times and I’m using it and you can’t stop me).  People’s preference is huge.  I had a discussion with a friend about this recently about the fact that he prefers heavier yoyos and I like lighter ones.  I don’t generally enjoy ‘H’ shaped yoyos, I lean towards throws that have some variant of an ‘O’ shape.  He on the other hand likes his modified ‘V’ or ‘W’ shapes.  The big difference being play style.  I’m not a competitor, I play chill and like a comfortable yoyo that doesn’t hit the end of the string hard.  He plays faster than me, so he needs more weight and stability.

What is comes down to isn’t finding an ‘objective’ or ‘balanced’ reviewer (impossible), but instead finding one with similar tastes to you who is honest about what they are doing and what their limitations are.  If the reviewer is a recognized champion on an international level, you know you can trust them to tell you what will make a good competition yoyo.  If they aren’t a competitor, but have been throwing for years and have handled 100’s of yoyos, you can trust them to give a reasonable assessment of they yoyos capabilities within the context of their abilities.  It’s up to you to choose a reviewer that is right for you.


So the job of a youtube reviewer is threefold. 


1. Unboxing

2. Comparison

3. Personal Opinion.


While online stores display pictures of the yoyos and sometimes pictures of them spinning or a video created by the brand selling them, seeing what it’s going to look like out of the box and getting someone else's first impression can be huge.  After your first couple of yoyos you have moved from getting a toy to play with into the realm of collecting yoyos, as which point it’s the experience that you are after.  What’s the packaging like?  Are there going to be surprises in the box? What does the yoyo feel like in the hand?  Is there joy in that first throw?


Comparison is a key.  A friend of mine briefly setup a website for doing reviews called cyyclical.com.  He had a great system.  He used a selection of his favourite throws that covered a decent selection of the broad ‘types’ of yoyo.  He reviewed them, then in future reviews used them as a comparison point.  He'd also compare to other similar yoyos.  If you are thinking of buying a yoyo and want something that you know you are going to like, being told that it’s similar to something you already own will help you make your decision.  At the same time, being told how it’s different from a yoyo you own gives you the perspective to decide if you want to try something new.  While you can’t objectively say “X yoyo is better than Y yoyo”, you can say “This one feels heavier on the string but seems to get through longer tricks”.


Personal Opinion.  It is the most powerful marketing tool if used right.  A trusted source telling you that they like a thing will make that thing sell.  If Gentry Stein goes on record saying that a particular yoyo is his new favourite, you can be sure a horde of 10 year olds are going to rush out and get one.  I wouldn’t though, as I know I have different tastes in yoyos than Gentry.  At the same time if John Doe (Random made up person you’ve never heard of) tells the world he loves a yoyo, the world will blink and move on. So personal opinion is good, depending on who is doing the talking.


I like a few different yoyo reviewers.  I think my favourite is Thomas Velto at Throws’n’Brews.  Not just because he’s really nice and lets me bribe him to showcase my yoyos on his website, but because he’s fun to watch and contributes a lot of content that is useful and interesting. He also has vaguely similar tastes in yoyos to me, which is helpful.  Dylan Kowalski is good for a watch as well, he specializes in more budget friendly yoyos.


So my opinion is that we need reviewers.  They may not be able to be objectively objective, but they give us information that we can use to then make our own judgement.

 

Here’s a couple reviews of some of my favourite yoyos, enjoy!
  

How to make a Yoyo Tutorial

Teaching strangers is a unique activity. “I have this skill that in some form makes me stand out from others, let me teach it to you so I become less unique.”  At the same time it is the foundation of human civilization.  If the first pre-human to think of using a rock as a tool didn’t share the idea, where would we be?


The internet has repeatedly changed the way yoyo was taught.  Previous to this you learned yoyo tricks either from an actual human in front of you, a mail order VHS (and later DVD) or book that had diagrams of how to do yoyo tricks.  The last on this list often required you to practically learn a new language!  I recently was reminded of a book called “The Yonomicon” that was one of the better examples of this.  Unlike the bulk of the “Learn to Yoyo” books, It broken down some of the more advanced tricks of it’s era rather than the same old couple dozen tricks.


What this meant was that it was pretty easy to get access to the beginner tricks.  You could buy a book (or many beginner yoyos came with a small booklet) that could teach you the basics, but from there you had to hunt, meet people or innovate your own tricks.  The internet took this to a new level.  Instead of being stuck with whatever you could get your hands on for learning, you could dial up and look on a website!  As soon as the technology allowed for it, yoyo enthusiasts started finding ways to use it to share tricks.  Websites like (sector Y and …) used drawn diagrams to indicate which finger does what in a step by step breakdown.  As download speeds became faster (and it took less than 5 minutes for your dial up modem to load a page with a couple images on it) people started uploading photographs of hands doing the tricks, again, step by step so it was easy to follow. The key through all of this was a step by step breakdown that gave the learner a series of points of reference or goals to aim for.


The logical extension of all of this came when the ability to host videos on a website became readily available.  Andre Boulay at yoyoexpert.com was one of the first to really work with this on a level that gave mass access.  He put together a series of sets of tricks that worked the player from the beginning to the to tier difficulty for the day. Others followed, came and went.  When I was getting into yoyo rethinkyoyo.com was a fantastic resource.  Currently the top of the game is yoyotricks.com.  With high end video equipment and professionally set up filming space they have created (and continue) to create some of the most well thought out tutorials and instructional videos.


So how to create a tutorial.  There are a few methods. 

1. Yoyoexpert’s tutorials were originally a single take, face on shot with Andre talking through the trick, breaking it down into learnable pieces.  This was coupled with a transcript of each video that you could read.  I liked the transcript because my partner at the time was getting really tired of hearing “First you throw a really strong sleeper...”

2. Rethinkyoyo shot from multiple angles and used slow motion to really give you time to catch all the little elements.  Instead of a verbal explanation his tricks were explained in written form in the video.

3. Yoyotricks.com does a mix of the two.  Verbal breakdown with slow motion and multiple angles (similar to the style I use for my tutorials).

4. Slow motion tricks.  This doesn’t really count as a tutorial, but get’s called such.  In this format a player films the trick at speed, then uploads it slowed down to 1/2 or 1/4 speed. There is no actual breakdown or instruction, just a slow motion video of a single trick.


I suspect everyone has a preference for how they learn.  I prefer having someone explaining it, and a point of view angle always helps with those complicated string wraps and hit.  I know there are many players who really only need a slow motion breakdown to figure out a trick. 


What’s your style?

 

How do you build a yoyo combo?

  

I think there are a lot of ways to build a yoyo combo.How do you do it?

       I’m a musician and a songwriter.  I’ve also been through the university grind of doing a history degree.  The result is that my brain very much wants a theme and a pattern and some sort of point to anything I’m doing.  In yoyo this translates into needing to have a theme to build a combo around.  I often will start with an element, then try to weave other elements in and out that are similar in style.  If it starts with short sharp movements then that will be the pattern for the combo.  If it starts with slack, I’ll have slack elements patterned in. I think this has the benefit of making for interesting combos and keeping my combos from looking the same.  The downside is that I have a lot of ‘tricks’ that aren’t complete because they didn’t work into a theme.

      I also rarely make combos with intent.  I can’t sit down and decided to make one.  My songwriting has always been like that.  I call it a “Drive by Muse-ing”.  Some artists have a Muse that whispers in their ear constantly giving them ideas.  Mine flies by, dumps a piece of art in my head and then continues on.  Songs come out of me quickly in a sitting.  Yoyo combos aren’t quite that abrupt.  The start is, I’ll be playing and all of a sudden it’s creation time and I have to go with it.  I’ll get part way into a combo in a burst, then spend a couple weeks slowly puzzling through the next steps.  Again, I can’t just decided to finish, I’ve got to pull out the yoyo, try for a bit, then put it away and let my brain work on it.  Then randomly the next element will happen.


      Invariably I get stumped.  The combo could finish, but it doesn’t feel right ending there.  So I move on and start making a new combo.  Somewhere along the way the 2nd one merges with the first one and it turns out they were meant to be together. The combo at 1:15 in this video is a great example.  It’s actually 3 combos that eventually just merged into one. 

https://youtu.be/WwdYRs_raEY


      What really frustrates me is how many tricks I never finish.  Sometimes my muse flies by and drops half a combo, then never comes back with the rest.  I guess that’s par for the course though.  I’ve got a stack of about 200 pages of song lyrics that never went anywhere as well so I guess it’s just how my brain works.


What about you?


At one point I did start making a series on this topic, and as with so many projects I lost track of it, but here are the videos I did make!  I’ve also got a series of quick elements you can build into combos under the playlist “1 take tutorials”

 How to build a Combo

1 Take tutorials

 

What trick do I learn next?

“What trick should I Learn next?”

      This is both the easiest and the hardest question.  The easy answer is ‘any trick you don’t already know’.  The hard answer is find what moves or inspires you.

      I teach yoyo.  I do many other things in the yoyo world, but first and foremost I teach, it’s who I am.  I haven’t been on top of making tutorials lately, as injuries and chronic pain have limited my yoyoing time and as a result I’m not creating and perfecting new material often enough.  I do still attend the Vancouver Yoyo club and teach there, as well as my school yoyo club

      When a kid asks me the question, generally I answer it with one of my own “What do you know?  What is the hardest thing you can do?”  The next thing is generally either an evolution of that trick (from elevator to brain twister, from Houdini mount to soiled panties), or a lateral move (you know cold fusion?  How about Spirit bomb, it’s time to get your wrist mount on).

       What I really run into as a challenge when faced with that question is my memory. I have both learned and created hundreds of tricks in my 8 years yoyoing and forgotten almost all of them.  What always makes me laugh is when a kid names one of my tricks and asks me to help them with it.  I have to pull up my website and find my own tutorial and watch it to quickly re-learn the trick!


      How do you answer this question?  Do you have a go-to trick list you keep in your head?  A single trick you teach everyone? (When I joined the Vancouver Yoyo club 8 years ago, Gary Li forced everyone to learn “Soiled Panties” no matter how noob they were).

I’ve been doing a daily series of unedited simple element tutorials.  Here are a couple, check out the “1 take tutorials” playlist for all of them!

 

Happy teaching!

What the heck is Full Loop Yoyo?

I first learned of full loop yoyo after the 2017 world yoyo contest.  My wife and I (along with many other people ) decided to visit the UK on our way back from Iceland.  The London club organized a meet and we all hung out and yoyo’d in the park.

I met Luna Harran (@thesonicpineapple on instagram) at this time.  She stood out because she was doing anything but 1a.  At one point she pulled off a Brent stole.  With her feet while sitting on a tree branch.  I started learning a style called “Super Mobius” or SuMo from her.  This style was created by Doctor Popular (reference http://yoyo.wikia.com/wiki/Styles_Of_Play) and involves taking the knot out of the yoyo string, completly untwisting it then tiring it together into a giant loop.  It was named by Zammy

Quite from Zammy:

Full loop yoyoing is an evolution of the style known as "sumo- AKA Super Moebius".

Back in the hay day of thin gaps and responsive yoyos, people took a part string literally, untwist it. then tied it together to make one giant loop. It would make a super fucking huge loop and one would could 1a and 4a based tricks together and intermixed stuff. Since the string was untwisted, it was thin enough to go into the gap and not cause a jam and smash your knuckles. Still had the knock on the string so during tricks that had to be avoided, much like regular moebius style.


I coined the term "full loop" back in 2010 when I did the offibius video. I just took a regular string and tied it together. So the string wasnt untwisted, and the loop was a hell of a lot smaller for better control. But I'm not a 4a based person, so I don't have the potential to unlock what Full Loop yoyoing provides, thus I didn't play it and stuck to Moebius.


Luna sometime last year figured out a super near way to tie the loop together simplistically and has stuck to the style She started out experimenting with the Go-west style, so she then experimented with Sumo, then figured out the neat way to tie the string to make the full loop. Since the string isn't untwisted, one can handle tension better. and most yoyos have huge gaps (1a based yoyos) so one can do this style without worrying about the knot on the string getting in the way.



It’s a challenging style in part due to the length of the string but is open to a wide range of possibilities not available to other styles.  I got excited about it, then got home and promptly didn’t follow up.

I got into full loop yoyo after watching Luna’s promo video for joining the Rain City team.  It's similar to Sumo but uses a regular yoyo string with the loop replaced by a tiny knot that actually goes into the end of the string where the yoyo would usually go.  This creates a single loop.  (Video)

I got hooked immediately.  I had been stuck on 4a having not created a new trick in a couple years.  My 1a style kept getting stumped, trying to do things that just didn’t work.  This was the answer.  It allows for an interplay between 1a and 4a elements with the freedom of switching hands that you get from 5a. 


Here are a few details to get you started.  Luna and I have been working on a series of tutorials to get you going, you can find them on her Instagram (@thesonicpineapple) or either my instagram or youtube (@mryoyothrower on both).


1. String variations - Luna uses a single piece of regular Kitty string.  I use 2 pieces of the slightly thinner R2FG regular string.  I cut the 2nd piece in half.  I then have 2 points where a knot goes through the yoyo loop in a string (video).  I’ve also experimented with Mighty flea string which reduces the drag during multiple wrap tricks, but limits your whip tricks.  I’ve got some string designed specifically for Full Loop available a Return Top Shop


2. Winding - You can’t wind it like a traditional yoyo without getting your loop twisted together.  The best option is the traditional pull start (thumb or two fingers pulling down on the back of the yoyo to get it going) that allows you to then do a breakaway bind.  I use a snap start which creates a frontstyle spin.


3. Bind/ Snap start variations - The bind is a challenge because you don’t have a fixed point on the bearing to create that pull you get from 1a or 4a.  Luna uses a side style bind with the full loop open.  I prefer to do a single extra wrap around the bearing before doing my bind.  This isn’t mandatory, but allows for a much easier frontstyle bind which is important because I snap start instead of pull start. 


4. String management - the first thing you are going to need to do is get used to being aware of which strings are closest to you and farthest away.  If you bind with the added loop like I do it gives you different options on the throw, but you need to develop/practice tricks that give you a predictable wrap.  Accept that in the beginning you will spend a fair amount of time removing loops from the bearing.  This is no different than the time spent getting out of accidental triangles/knots in 1a or chasing your 4a/5a yoyo around when you got started.

 

Check out my Youtube Channel for the ‘Full Loop’ playlist for tutorials on how to setup, throw, bind and a range of stricks from easy (my stuff) to hard (Luna’s Magic). (Click any tutorial on Mryoyothrower.com or just search “Mryoyothrower” on Youtube) 

 


So you want to start a yoyo club

So I went to write a new blog post on starting a yoyo club then remembered that I already had done so and shared it on yoyo skills years ago, here is a link to that post.


I also discovered Chris Allen did a much better job, so I encourage you to click here to check out his article as well!¸


Ack!  How do I start a yoyo club???

There are 3 things you need.  Time, time, and…time!

Yo-yoers are much like cats.  It’s easy to catch their attention, not so much to get them to keep coming back on their own.  To have a successful club, you need a location, and someone to be there, at a specific time, on a regular and consistent basis.  This might mean once a month or once a week, but it needs to be consistent. If you love to yoyo, and want to find some yo-yoer friends, then this needs to be you!  Once you have that, finding (or creating) yo-yoers, and building a community of them becomes a matter of time and patience.

Location can be tricky.  I’m going to use the Vancouver club as an example, as it is what I have experience with it.  When I joined the club there were three or four guys that met a couple times a month or so in a local mall.  I joined up, and in the exuberance of learning a new skill started pushing for weekly meets.  This caused a problem: mall security didn’t agree with our agenda.  Luckily I found a kind-hearted mall cop who suggested I go talk to mall management and see if I could work out a deal.  I did, and, we did!We had achieved a steady time and position, which made it possible to tell anyone we spotted with a yoyo  to “come to the club, we meet every Saturday”.  Every Saturday for 2 years I appeared at said time in said location to maintain our presence and be there for the club. It may sound like a lot of responsibility, but really it was a blast.  Some weeks only one or two people showed up, others we had 20+!


If your local mall doesn’t have agreeable management, or it’s the case that you don’t really dig on throwing your-yo in a mall, take a look around your community.  If your mind is drawing a blank, here are just a few starter ideas:

-A member’s house (transit accessible, and if you have underage kids in the club make it clear that parents are required to attend)

-Sometimes elementary schools will let you use their gym (say hello to increased membership by welcoming the students)

-Community rec centers (again, offer demos or lessons free in exchange)

-Undercover parking garages

-The empty bandstand in the park

-Local toy stores  (offer a weekly demo for customers)

-The covered area near the local skate park (skaters and yo-yoers are a good crossover, but you may run into issues with language if you draw younger kids)

- Pretty much anywhere you can fit a dozen people yoyoing without too much risk of an innocent bystander getting a yoyo related injury.


As you can tell, for a hobby like yo-yoing there are more than a few potential locations, something I had to keep in mind while the Vancouver club was between venues a few years back. Our amicably managed mall came under construction.  We met in a local park for a while, but when fall hit that didn’t work.  Luckily I stumbled upon multi-purpose space (a former fish market).  We went by one day to check it out and stayed to yoyo for a while.  Not only was it not a problem, but the management came out and asked if we wanted to meet there on a regular basis!  They are a very community event oriented place and have been very welcoming.


A final note on location, some venues have liability concerns; offer to sign a waiver.  If they don’t have one, message me, I’ll forward you the one we use.  Both locations we’ve been at have required one.


Location and time accomplished? Excellent, next spread the word.


Facebook, Yoyoexpert forums and poster in public libraries inviting people to join are a great places to start.  By hunting around dollar stores, you will find at one that carries yo-yos that beginners can cut their teeth on which aren’t complete garbage.  Buy one, play it for a bit, then if it’s good, go back and buy 20.  Then go hang out in a park and invite people to come try.  At this point you can give your dollar store yo-yos away, sell them (if the city by-laws allow it), or tell people where to buy them. 


It’s the twenty first century and your new friends probably have access to the internet, so if you find yourself with some keeners, print off cards with links to  information about your club and a site to learn beginner tricks (www.mryoyothrower.com, hint hint).  If you want to be fancy, there are plenty of online sites that will print you business cards for free (plus cost of shipping), or just print on regular paper, cut them out, and glue them to construction paper.


A few things that the Vancouver Club has done to build its yo-yo community are:

Attending local Farmer’s Markets: If you talk to the management and offer to come entertain for free, the are usually happy to let you. I have never left a market with less than ten people who are over the top excited about the prospect of learning to yoyo.  Often the markets will offer to pay you, or let you sell your beginner yoyos.

Starting them young: If you have free time during the week, start talking to Elementary Schools and offer to come in and do a demo, or run a lunch time club.  This worked beautifully for the Vancouver Club.

Go where there are already communities, make them your own: Offer to do a demo at local community centres, cultural centres, after school care centres, churches, and just about anywhere else that people come together.Most of these types of places are desperate for events, I’ve even received the occasional bit of money as a thank you for doing this.

The best ‘trick’ of all: Carry a beginner yoyo with you everywhere and let people try it out, isn’t that how you started?

It can be hugely rewarding to build up a yoyo club.  Having somewhere to go on a weekly basis where you are surrounded by people smiling, having fun and being positive is a wonderful thing.  Its a good feeling to think you helped create this community of hobbyists.  It’s also a fair bit of work, but then most things worth doing are.

-Mr. Yoyothrower

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How to Run a Yoyo Contest

Yoyo contest organizing. 
If you have ever organized a contest, my hat is off to you. It’s not an easy thing. Even the smallest local contest organizer has a lot of responsibility. It’s not a thankless job, the people that attend are always very appreciative, but as far as recognition outside of that, not much happens (and if you are running the World Championship you usually get a pile of negativity). Having said that, this article isn’t about complaining, it’s about giving you a realistic outline of what goes into running a contest. Who knows, you might actually want to run one after reading this! At the very least you might look at approaching the local contest organizer and offering to help out.
For anyone who has attended a contest, you know there are some things to expect. You can generally expect qualified judges and a stage. You can expect to see vendor tables where you can do some shopping , a practice area and somewhere to sit. There’s a sound system for the music and nowadays there is an expectation of a live stream, or at least high quality video is posted to youtube afterward. There are prizes, often a raffle. A good contest usually has access to food and drink as well. You also might notice the banner with the sponsor’s logos on it. Generally this is all put together a handful of people, headed up by a single person.

The Columbia Theatre hosted the 2016 Canadian Nationals.

So what are the key steps needed to pull a contest together?
1. Venue. First step is finding a venue. This is varying degrees of difficult based on the date you choose. It's best to try to give your attendees at least 2-3 months notice to make any travel accessories. For this contest I usually use an elementary school gymnasium. Because I am a teacher I can generally get a really good rate at my schoool, around $500 for the day. That usually includes the sound system, tables and chairs. I have to add on event insurance though, which is another $125. Often some local parents will volunteer to go to Costco and provide a snack table and charge enough to recover costs.
Total $625

2. Judges – This is always the 2nd thing I look for. There is no point in going any farther if there are no judges available. I can usually scrabble together enough people from the local community to judge smaller contests, although its usually a case of some of the 1a players judge the open division and junior division. I always try to pay judges at least something, since it’s a pretty boring way to spend your day when you could be yoyoing. Another element is having a volunteer to run the judges table and process the scores they generate into final scores.. I luckily have a parent of a local yoyo champ that is heavily involved and handles this.
So tack on a minimum of $50 per judge, usually for around 4 people minimum.
$200

Chris Mikulin at the judges table at Western Canadian Regionals 2013

3. Sponsors – With a smaller contest most of the time the best you can get from sponsors is product donations. Occasionally one or two will add a bit of cash, but for the most part they provide the prizes and raffle prizes. They don’t give away something for nothing either, there is an expectation that they are getting advertising, so someone (usually me) has to put the time into facebook, Instagram, reddit and anywhere else to give them public thank you announcements. There is a cost here, generally aroud $150 for the stage banner.
$150 Plus time.

4. Trophies/medals. – For smaller contests I usually go with certificates that I can print at home due to the high cost/low return of a small contest. This gives me the freedom to make up some awards as well (funniest yoyo trick, future professional dog walker, etc)

5. Sounds/video – For a smaller contest this is usually a pair of volunteer jobs. Someone to run a laptop that the players music is loaded into (usually in the morning the day of the event). I have a decent video camera and usually can get a volunteer to run it. Then I have to put the hours in at home to edit and upload the videos with the sponsors logos at the beginning. I usually am able to give the volunteers something from the sponsor donations as a thank you
Cost: A lot of time and sponsor donated products.

2016 Canadian Nationals 1a winners

I can speak to contests up to the size of a small national contest. I’ve run BC provincials, Western Canadian Regionals and Canadian Nationals. To some degree the work involved is the same, just in gradually increasing scale.


BC provincials
I usually treat this as a fun, small contest with the intent of providing a venue for competitiors to hone their stage skills, but mostly as a place for newer yoyoers to have fun and come together to play with yoyo. I organize a couple standard divisions (1a junior, 1a pro, open/X division). Scattered in there are various mini contests (sleeper, rock the baby showdown, walk the dog race). 

Chris Mikulin at the judges table at Western Canadian Regionals 2013

Beyond that most of what is needed is volunteers – an MC, registration desk, raffle ticket sales, setup crew. It’s a big job to put together even a small contest. My hard costs for a small contest are usually just under $1000CAD. It’s a stretch to get that back between limited sponsor cash, raffle and registration fees. Sometimes I do, sometimes I just have to cover the additional costs myself. The upside to running a store at the event is that my table profits are usually at least close to enough to cover the difference

Here is a sample breakdown for Western Canadian Regionals and Canadian Nationals.
For the most part I treat these two the same. I’m usually either running one or the other as Canadian Natinoals alternates east coast/west coast. So When I’m not running nationals, WCR serves as a replacement west coast contest for those that can’t travel.
As far as the main tasks go they are usually close to the same, with scaled up costs. A larger/nicer venue is needed, everything else costs a little more. 

1. Venue – Cost varies from 1000-2000 for the venue rental. Best nationals I’ve held cost 1600 plus 150 for the venue rental. It had the benefit of a kitchen staff so food and drink were included. It also required a lot more setup/teardown but players are usually willing to show up early and help with that.
2. Judges – You can’t run a larger contest just with local volunteers so I usually have to call out for people with more experience. This year I was luckey enough to get some volunteers from the USA to drive up for the contest. They were kind enough to do the job for $50 each and a place to stay. Total cost was $250

3. For a national contest we are usually able to get more cash sponsorship, sometimes up to a total of $1000. The banner cost goes up as you need a bigger one for a bigger stage, so usually around $200 for that. 

4. Trophies – for nationals a good quality trophy is required. 2016’s organizer was able to get something cool from a sponsor, 2017 I spent about $250 for all the divisions to get a 1st place trophy and 2nd and 3rd place medals for each event.
5. MC – for a bigger contest I budget at least $100 for this.
6. Sound and video – I’ve been lucky enough to get a volunteer for this.
All in Canadian Nationals can be run from $2000-$2500

Canada is small beans in the yoyo world. Our community is limited by geography and access to yoyos (The word yoyo is trademarked). Step outside and things get bigger. A few years ago the Vancouver group considered putting in a bid to host worlds’. We ended up deciding it wasn’t feasible due to cost. Getting a large enough venue and covering all of the associated costs was going to end up requiring somewhere between $100 000 and $140 000. No one around here had the cash for that, and we didn’t feel confident we would be able to recoup the costs.

I don't know what costs are for contests outside of Canada, but they probably vary based on size and location. If you life in a major city, venue costs will be likely be a lot higher than a small town.

Steve Brown recently replied to a question on Facebook regarding contest costs by providing a per minute cost breakdown of a couple contests he runs which maker for interesting reading.
I've quoted them below.

“It varies wildly from one event to the next. Worlds 2016 cost roughly $2800/hour to run, which is about $47/minute. Considering that a player who is doing a 1-minute freestyle takes up about 3+ minutes of contest time, then consider that they are getting like a 65% discount. ;) And that's assuming that you are not charging for the administrative time leading up to the event.”

“For contrast, Ohio States cost about $183/hour to run last year, not including administrative time before the event. Adding admin time would probably bump that to about $300/hour.”

For a 6 hour Canadian Nationals that works out to about $400 per hour or around $6.50 per hour.
Food for thought for sure. I think I’ll leave the massive contests to the people who have the knowledge and skill set to organize something that large, but I’m content to keep running our small Canadian events. More than anything what makes it possible is the huge amount of local support I have from parents and yoyoers alike. When I am putting on an event all I have to do is post “I need someone to do _______ at the contest” and I always get a volunteer. Yoyo is not a major sport. I don’t see it ever becoming a major sport. Volunteers will always be what makes our happy little corner of nerdsville run. 

If you have made it through this article, feel free to join in the comments. I’d love to hear either your experiences running a contest, or a shout out for volunteers that have made your corner of the yoyo world a better place!

So You Want to Make a Yoyo

The yoyo community is a relatively small one. With a niche hobby, the suppliers of hardware tend to be more closely connected to customers and as a result are more closely inspected and analyzed than in a bigger one. But for many people the process of running a yoyo company is a mystery.

This article is going to focus largely on where my experience sits. The ‘boutique’ yoyo brand. 

For those of you other than my 6 fans who may not know my history, over the last 8 years I’ve been involved with 3 yoyo brands. I started as a sponsored player with MonkeyfingeR Design out of Calgary (Canada) as a sponsored player. From there I moved onto quasi-manager of King Yo Star Canada. It was an weird position, it wasn’t my brand (It was owned by a toy store owner in China) but I had full authority on promotion, sales and sponsorship outside of China. By the end I had a lot of say over the design as well. Currently I’m running my own brand (Rain City Skills) as the full on head honcho. Between King Yo Star and Rain City skills I’ve now got 9 yoyo releases under my belt.

Let’s spend a moment at the top of the yoyo industry with the giants like Duncan, Yoyofactory and Magic Yoyo. These brands have the spending power to make large runs of yoyos and distribute them around the world. This allows them the option of lower costs and higher profit margins (when making anything, the more you buy the lower the per unit price). It also allows them to work with injection moulded plastics which have a really high initial investment rate but a really good return if you can move enough volume (I’m talking 10 000 units or more). This goes with their brand recognition and reach into actual retail stores. They have employees working for them (although it’s still yoyos, so not a huge number). With financial resources comes the ability to advertise more widely through sponsoring contests and sponsoring the top players, and particularly by advertising to beginners, creating lifelong customers.

Smaller brands are a different story. These are usually one-person operations run by someone who works a full time job to pay the bills and designs/makes/sells yoyos as a passion. They are often designing yoyos themselves and having batches of 50-100 made at a time, doing all of the assembly, packaging and advertising themselves. They don’t usually have the budget to hire people to do work for them, or to spend the big bucks to do google and Facebook ads, so it all comes down to making personal connections with individuals and with groups in the community through various social media outlets.

Having said all of that, in both cases the process of creating and selling yoyos is generally the same. There are a lot of half-truths about the costs of making yoyos that float around. I am not going to list off exact hard costs because every yoyo has a different price to make, based on difficulty of design (time on the machine), quantity made, the anodizing, where you have it made and so on. Below is a list of the costs that go into getting a yoyo to market that are a ballpark average based on my experiences and those of others I’ve talked to.


DIRECT COSTS

1. Design - most people don’t have the time and energy to learn the complex software required to design yoyos. The result is that you usually need to hire someone else to do the job. Some companies that machine yoyos will offer to take your drawing and convert it for you as part of the prototyping cost. One Drop is an example, and from what they told me they have received everything from detailed and accurate digital drawings to sketches on a napkin. Often times though you are looking at paying a professional for the design or at the very least trading a couple of the finished product in exchange.


Above: Various prototypes from my personal collection.

2. Prototype - This cost can range depending on where you are making the yoyos, but it is a key step. What the design looks like on paper is often drastically different than what it looks like in reality. As well there is no way to tell from a drawing how it’s going to feel on the string. Often makers have to do 2 or even 3 runs of prototypes to get that weight and balance right, and that adds to the overall cost of the yoyo run, especially if you are only making the minimum order (which is usually 100). If a prototype run costs $500, that’s $5 per yoyo. Cost aside, the #1 lesson I’ve learned being involved in over a dozen releases and designs over the years is that if you think you need to do another prototype, you really should. Every time I’ve decided not to because of cost I’ve regretted it.


3. Machining - This cost again varies based on where you are producing (China VS USA), complexity of design (simple is usually faster/cheaper) and quantity made in a run (500 vs 100). A lot of the cost involved is in setting up and programming the machine. Shops calculate costs by the machine hour. If your design is simple and they can pump out 10 parts in an hour it’ll be cheaper than if they can only do 4. Material can be a factor as well, Titanium takes a lot longer per part to create so combined with the cost of the raw materials it’s a lot more costly to create.

4. Finish and anodizing - Polished, blasted, tumbled or ? Again, it comes down to time. Polished is cheaper than blasted or any of the other alternatives because it takes less time. You have to clean and polish the parts before you anodize anyway. Adding a step to the process usually adds cost (again usually based on quantity)
Colour? Single colour anodizing is obviously cheaper than multiple colours. Anodizing is a post all to itself, but suffice to say it’s a time intensive process with a fair bit of materials and electricity cost (you can’t forget in all of this the shop is factoring power) If you are working with a Chinese manufacturer a single colour is often included or a very small cost because they do it in house. 
If you are machining in North America you are looking at significant additional costs ($20 per yoyo isn’t unreasonably for a 3-4 colour splash from a reputable shop). 
For the most part there is a minimum order as well, usually around 25 yoyos per colourway (although you can do less, the cost just goes up a lot).

HIDDEN COSTS

One of the challenges is that there are many costs that aren't directly about creating the parts of the yoyo.

1. Shipping.  This cost can’t be emphasized enough.  Here is a list of things that need to be shipped to get the yoyo run made.  Yoyos are heavy, and shipping is charged by weight, so shipping 100 yoyos around is expensive!
       -prototypes - to you from the shop, then to players to test.
       -anodizing - shipping from the machine shop to the anodizer back to you.  If you are making them in China those are usually hidden costs, you’ll             just pay the freight to you, but if the shop is incurring costs you are paying for them.
       -bearings, pads and axles - if you are machining in china you can usually get the shop to source them for you and include with your yoyos, but they               are added weight and you are paying either way.
       -boxes - you can avoid shipping on these if you go to a physical store near you, but it’s often cheaper to order bulk online and you have a better                      chance of finding something that will help your brand stick out.
       -stickers - same as with boxes.
       -throws to team members - The small brands main source of testing and advertising
       -throws to reviewers - Again, key piece of advertising
       -assorted accessories included (string, carry bag, etc)

2.  Packaging. Are you going to ship in a specialty box? Including a carry bag?  Smaller brands have to set this up for every different yoyo to help them stand out.  Bigger brands like YYF can afford to use the same box for most throws, cutting costs by buying 1000’s at a time.  If you are a smaller brand trying to make your mark, you might choose one of the more unique options to help sell the product.  If you are trying to make an extreme low budget throw, a clear plastic box that costs you pennies, hoping the price point is enough to sell the throw.

3. Stickers - You have design costs.  If you are like me and have no artistic talent, it costs money to get a sticker design.  I have found an artist whose style I like an who works with me until I’m happy, and he’s worth every penny of the ~$100 per piece of art I spend. The cost of the actual stickers can vary, again due to quantity made.  As with everything else cost of setup is the biggest piece once the printers are running the difference between 100 and 10000 is a fraction of the difference between 0 and 100.  You can usually get 1000 of a sticker printed for about $50

4. Advertising - This is the big one people don’t think about.  Out of a run of 100 yoyos, maybe 80 actually get sold.  The biggest way to advertise a yoyo is to have people play with it.  
-Your average small brand has around 5 players representing them, so you send them a minimum of 1 throw each (more if they are competing with it).  
-Next you have reviewers.  At least 1, sometimes more (I sent 4 gamers to reviewers).  
-Contest sponsorship.  Smaller contests will allow you to donate product or a combination of product and cash, so you are looking at 2-5 throws from each run, and at least 200-400 cash per year just to sponsor one or two contests.  You might pass up this advertising venue, but I’ve always received my biggest bump of ‘fans’ and the associated sales after I attend a contest, even if I don’t have a table.
-For the larger brands there is also the cost of direct advertising on youtube, Facebook or google ads.  

FINALLY: THE MATH

So lets throw some imaginary math at this to put it in a bit of perspective.  I’m going to pick some numbers that are a reasonable ‘average’ price for the various steps involved (Numbers in USD).  These will be based on a short run of 100 yoyos made in China, with a medium complicated design.  These are average costs, you can do all of this cheaper by cutting corners, and you can spend more for quality and branding.
1. Prototype run - $400 per run (shipped), we’ll assume only 1 prototype was needed = $4.00
2. Yoyo parts - $15 per yoyo.  $1500 for the run.
3. Axle - $0.20
4. Bearing -$1.50 (decent quality budget bearing)
5. Pads $1 per pair (sourced through an existing company, not custom made) 
6. Anodizing (in china) $4 per yoyo for 3 colour splash
7. String $0.15
8. Shipping to North America $120/100 = $1.2 (includes customs duties)
9. Simple boxes $0.50
10. Custom Sticker Art 100 = $1 each
11. Sticker printing (1000 is usually the best value) $50 (shipped) = $0.5 each yoyo
12. Carry Bag $1.5 (Incl shipping from China)

Total that up you get a cost of $30.75 per yoyo.

Lets account for 1 for the owner, 5 for the team, 1 for review and 3 for contest sponsorship.  That’s $321.
Divide by the remaining 90 adds $3.57 per yoyo, bumping costs up to
$34.32 per yoyo.  

OK.   Next bit of math - Finding a price.  If you are selling direct and not retailing at all you get to make a bit of money, but it’s more work to sell through the run.  If you choose to retail here is your math.

Most retailers ask for a minimum of wholesale x 1.7.  For some it’s closer to wholesale x2 (which is a standard minimum markup in any industry, yoyo retailers take a smaller cut than most businesses).  Going with the minimum.

34.32 x 1.7 = $58.34. 

That’s your retail price if you aren’t going to make a penny on the yoyo.  For retail stores I usually try to give myself $5 as a minimum, so new math:

40.7 x 1.7 = $66.84

If you have a look back up, we started with raw parts costing only $15, $20 anodized.  At the end of this adventure the brand owner earned $5 per yoyo on a maximum of 90 yoyos which gives you $450.  If you have ever tuned a yoyo you know how much time is involved in assembly of the 100 throws, add in packing them up, all of the design, testing, social media work and that’s peanuts.

Move to North America?  Add $20 per yoyo at least.  Have to do a 2nd or 3rd prototype?  $5-$10 more per yoyo.  Bi-metal or Titanium? Sponsoring a high level player or want a spot at the big kids table sponsoring nationals or worlds?  The costs keep going up.

Yes, you can get things made cheaper, the fact that there are metal throws on the market for under $40 tells you that.  If you can afford to make 1000 yoyos the price can drop as low as $5USD for the parts, that’s how you can find aluminum yoyos on EBay for under $10, but can you sell that many? What is displayed above is not an unreasonable set of numbers for a short run of made in China yoyos from a reputable, quality controlled shop.  

So there. One persons averaged numbers on how yoyos are made.  One of the wonderful things about the internet is that you can find just about any information.  If you are thinking of making your own yoyos, I wholeheartedly suggest you do some research and see if it’s something you want to pursue.  Companies like Magic Yoyo, Vosun and FPM all do yoyos on demand, or if you want to stay in North America hit up One Drop or Foxland Precision and get some prices.  

Feel free to comment or hit me up at mryoyothrower@gmail.com if you have questions on any of this!