Many of us live in San Diego for the warm, dry Mediterranean climate. I know it has been a soggy winter, but rain is a relative rarity. We welcome the occasional wet weather as a novelty. As benign seasonality.
But when it rains… look out! Life stops.
Southern California “storm watch” is a little bit of a joke to folks living in more seasonal locales. As we know though, the wet weather is a legitimate challenge because we do not have the infrastructure or the experience to effectively mitigate the weather-related complexities. The San Diego sports identity is centered around the sun.
As a case study, one of Stylehawk Event Services’ clients was in Southern California last week with a soccer tournament. The United States Medical Soccer Team (USMST) is a group of physicians who play in a competitive, international soccer tournament. Their World Cup is held annually. For the last three years, the USMST hosted the Physician’s Soccer Summit in Southern California. Team members travel from all over the U.S. to participate in three days of soccer, philanthropy, and social and professional development. (A medical conference is part of the event, where team members present medical research in the field of sports medicine.) 2019 was the largest Physician’s Soccer Summit to date, as Canada Medical Football was also invited to participate. As a result, we had over 100 physicians traveling from all over North America to play.
The weather leading up the event was uncharacteristically wet. Soccer programming didn’t start until Friday, but as of the Monday before, we still had standing water on the field. Many of our Southern California fields just do not have drainage systems equipped to handle heavy rainfall, and this was true of our host venue, the George Allen Field.
I stayed in touch with the venue leading up to our arrival. On the Wednesday prior, it was decided that as long as things stayed dry, we would be able get three out of the four fields we had arranged for. A challenge, but a far better result than I had anticipated. I always book a backup, artificial turf field at Dignity Health Park for this event; but we really didn’t want to use it. The backup field is about 13 miles from our host location, so the timeline could get tight if we tried to move teams between the fields while navigating Southern California traffic. As such, we reworked the game schedule to make three fields work. Friday was a great day on the pitch and we were even able to host the food trucks and beer garden on the field as we had planned.
And then…it rained. It was only about 30 minutes of heavy rain, but that was enough to flood the fields. They failed the very scientific “squish test.” I, in consultation with the venue manager, made the decision to close the fields and the relocation work began. Cancelling soccer programming was not an option. Playing soccer is very important to these guys and most of them had traveled great distances for this experience.
This meant we had to:
- Secure a second field from Dignity Health Park.
- Rework the game schedule to account for the number of available fields.
- Coordinate arrival logistics (Dignity Health Park is a large and busy recreation complex. On that Saturday, they were hosting both an MLS Game and a professional boxing event. We had to get participants to the complex, parked, and directed to the field locations).
- Coordinate with game officials to account for the change in game times and locations.
- Deliver water and support supplies.
- Configure fields (field marking, goals, etc).
- Coordinate finances and settle costs (pay officials, service providers, venue rentals as well as audit costs associated with canceled reservations).
The result: zero games or activities cancelled. A full weekend of soccer and lots of happy doctors. In fact, the immediate feedback was this was the best Summit yet.
Executing the backup plan was seamless and the efforts were very much appreciated. The United States Medical Soccer Team is a volunteer organization. The gentlemen who run the team are incredibly impressive physicians who spend their days saving lives. When they get on the soccer pitch, they just want to play soccer with their friends and colleagues. Without Stylehawk, they probably would have been able to navigate the weather-related challenges, but it would have come at a cost. Fun would have turned into anxiety. Rest time would have morphed into work time. The budget would have been sacrificed. Instead, the United States Medical Soccer Team got the weekend they had expected, with great competition and camaraderie.
We always aim for perfection, but know that there is no such thing in the world of events. In a dynamic environment, solid planning, operational creativity, and experience allows for seamless execution. I am proud to have delivered that for the US Medical Soccer Team.