As we move into December registration for the 2013 Loppet Kubb Tournament is in full swing. Many familiar faces return including all of the 2012 semifinalists, as well as veteran kubb teams like The Ringers, Lakerol Originals, and Kingpin. As a kubb enthusiast I love watching the sport of kubb grow. So while I love seeing the veteran teams slug it out in the later rounds, watching teams play in (and truly enjoy) their first tournament brings me a unique joy.
I was truly blown away by how many people braved the elements to participate in the 2012 Loppet Kubb Tournament. Looking back almost a year later, I’m even more amazed at how many of those were first time participants. Why such a large percentage of first time participants? For starters, credit the Loppet. The City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation has undoubtedly captured the spirit of not just winter recreation, but the collective attitude Minnesotans know so well – the idea that we can’t let a bitter and prolonged freeze stop us from doing the things we love. The Loppet offers the chance to do just that. In this case, that thing we love? Kubb.
When early registration ended 3 days ago, the total number of teams signed up for the Loppet Tournament had already reached 25. The growth of our tournament reflects the broader growth seen around the Midwest and that of the U.S. Championships in Eau Claire. However, it doesn’t fail to continue to amaze me how far we’ve come. Three years ago we scraped, begged, and borrowed our way to an 8* team “tournament” in a Minneapolis backyard. Since then the Minnesota Kubb Winter tournament has doubled in size from 8 in 2010, to 16 in 2011, to 32 in 2012. The goal (while lofty) is to once more double in size this year to 64. Such a growth rate is not indefinitely sustainable, but it speaks to the potential of where kubb can go in Minnesota and the Midwest.
Here’s to a great 2013 Loppet Kubb Tournament,
Eric Goplin – Director
* Many of them less-than-willing participants convinced (bribed) to attend with the promise of hot toddies.
I truly believe the inevitable future of kubb in the United States is 6 player tournaments. It might take years, but if the story arc of U.S. kubb follows a similar path to it’s European counterpart, it stands to reason that 6 player tournaments will gain traction while 2 player tournaments will at some point seem entirely antiquated. If this is in fact true, and with the United States Championships already bending that arc by requiring 3 Player teams, several people have asked me why the 2013 Loppet Tournament continues to play as a 2 player event? The answer is a somewhat practical, but mostly tactical one.
Functionally, a 2 player tournament makes it easier for more teams to participate given the potential weather extremes in February. A person looking to play in the tournament need only convince one friend it’s not crazy to stand out in the freezing cold throwing wood instead of two. Also, teams signing up with three or more players are cushioned against any one player bailing out the day before the tournament after seeing a bad forecast. These are small factors though, more so the decision to continue with 2 player teams is about the future of kubb in Minnesota.
In carrying out our mission of supporting the growth of kubb in Minnesota, the immediate strategic imperative is to demonstrate a consistent yearly increase in team participation. This does several things to legitimize kubb as both a part of the Loppet Festival and a sport that’s not a fad – consequently making it easier to shop sponsorship, attract press, and market the sport. Entering only our second year of partnership with the Loppet, moving to 3 player teams and the subsequent drop in the number of teams hurts our long-term outlook. Why? Because while individuals participating in the tournament would likely increase even if we did switch to 3 player teams this year, the fact is success for this event is currently measured by team participation, regardless of the asterisk noting team size was increased. This strategy is not indefinite. The goal is that several years of solid growth entrenches kubb as on ongoing part of the Loppet, thus putting the tournament in a better position to absorb the move to 3 player teams and the potential drop in team registration. Year two of this Loppet experiment just isn’t the right time. Who knows, maybe kubb is so big in 2014 that we can switch to 3 player minimums and still increase the number of teams?
-Eric Goplin, Director