By Koko Christiaanse
—Last Saturday the UCSRN held an online tournament, replacing this year’s scheduled tournament, which was postponed until next year due to the Coronavirus. The tournament is an annual event that brings all University Colleges in The Netherlands together for a day of fun and competition. The activities in the tournament range from soccer to painting and is open to all University College students. After the decision to cancel the tournament was made in March, representatives from EUC and AUC proposed the idea of holding an online tournament. The new online tournament was scheduled for the original date of the tournament, May 16, which gave organizers little more than a month and a half to pull off something never done before.
The online tournament was unprecedented in its organisation. Usually, the hosting UC puts together a tournament organizing committee and operates separately from the other UCs. This time, the UCs collaborated in order to create the event. Alexander Sleeckx, part of AUC’s organising team, says, “When we realized it wasn’t going to happen, AUC and EUC representatives wanted to make an online tournament. A tournament team was born.” According to Mitchell van Dijk, student at UCT and the UCSRN’s social committee chair, participating UCs were eager to organise the online tournament. He says, “A lot of UCs immediately were like yes, we want to do this as well. I think most of the UCs, except for Leiden, and all the others were very enthusiastic that there was an event that gave the opportunity to meet with students from other UCs .”
In contrast to a regular tournament team, members were not the social representatives from the hosting UC but rather separate people who felt engaged with the process, meaning that there were people from each UC that were active in organizing the online tournament. Van Dijk says, “we divided all the work. AUC did the e-sports, EUC took care of writing down and thinking of all sports activities, and Twente did the cultural side and Middelburg thought of a treasure hunt.” The University Colleges connected via Whatsapp, Zoom, and Discord. They also created instruction manuals and templates to share with each other.
Van Dijk believes that the tournament was a success. He says, “The tournament team was very happy with it, and on the day we had to make adjustments but they all worked out.” Sleeckx says, “I think it went pretty darn smooth. We definitely had competition, which was great to see.” Van Dijk says that organising the tournament was challenging and motivation was low at times, but “then there would be someone in the group chat saying, no, this is going to be awesome and a great thing, and that got us to continue.”
However, working with multiple colleges did create some difficulties. Van Dijk says, “Some troubles were that we couldn’t find platforms in the beginning. Everyone has to work with discord and twitch, and it’s a bit of a learning curve.” The input from each UC also differed at times because of final exams, which were not all synced together. This said, van Dijk says, “Everyone did their part and we could rely on each other before a certain day.”
The activities in the online tournament were based on the actual tournament. Sleeckx says, “We had to think of how we can make this doable with social isolation in a confined physical space, so it was more about showing off your skills in a creative way by yourself.” Several E-sports were also included in the online programme, such as FIFA, Overwatch, and League of Legends.
AUC won the online tournament this year. Nilesh Lalhabadoersing, winner of the FIFA portion of the tournament, says, “Of course an in person tournament is better and much more fun, but for the occasion and what was available this was pretty well done.” Antoine Bourcieu, participant in the Hearthstone event and winner of the Chess event, says, “the online tournament was really well set up on Discord. The organizers did a great job, and I was grateful to experience UCSRN one last time, as I’m a third year.”
Despite positive feedback, the event didn’t go without some hiccups. Sleeckx says, “The tournament was supposed to open live, which didn’t go very well because we didn’t find a dedicated host and the internet connection was unstable.” As a result, Van Dijk had to improvise a filmed opening to the online tournament. He says that someone else was going to give a speech, but was sick on the day, leaving him to do the opening speech.
Van Dijk also notes that the team had to be very flexible throughout the day. He says, “we had to find some last minute streamers, but some people from UCT were excited to do it, which was very nice.” There were also some issues with the judges as some activities took longer than expected, which meant that the judges for some events were still busy with the previous one.
As a participant, Bram Mak, AUC student who participated in the Battle of the Bands, says the tournament has room for improvement. He says, “There were organizational problems. For example, the sign-ups were a week before the tournament, which is very short notice.” According to Mak, the teams only knew who they were going to perform with two days before the event. He says, “It was very stressful to make something decent, we didn’t have time. I think that what we produced is a logistical miracle.” He also said he was disappointed that he could not see the videos that other UC’s produced. Despite this, Mak says, “It was fun, we had to work together very hard, and I had never seen AUC students coordinate like that together.” AUC’s music team video can be watched here.
One of the most frequently cited outcomes of the event was the collaborative spirit that the tournament evoked. Sleeckx says, “It all looked really cool, it was big, and seeing all the other people at UCs in the Netherlands, to see all the UCs working together… it’s really great to see that motivation from everyone.” Van Dijk, on similar lines, says “That was very good for the connection of the UCs, and I would recommend that to the next chair and board, to stimulate it a bit more as well. I think it would be nice for two UCs to organize something for their students together, which isn’t possible, and it would be nice to work more together in the future. ”
While the online tournament was received with enthusiasm as an alternative option, the UCSRN is still preparing for next year’s tournament. Lukas ter Maat, Chair of the tournament organizing committee from University College Twente, which was meant to host the tournament this year, says, “Most things have already been done, and now we can only make it better. We already figured a lot out and have contact with people in Twente and people who can manage events like this.”
The UCSRN was ensured and fortunately only spent 500 euros out of their budget. With an extra year to plan the tournament, ter Maat hopes to continue planning throughout the year. He says, “We just have to make the reservations again, and sponsor-wise we need to approach everyone again. But we have more time to find more sponsors and make it even bigger.”