Is cornhole strong in red states, blue states, or both?
Let's face it, the 2016 Presidential Election has redrawn the Electoral College map with a little more red than we are accustomed to seeing. Well, there has also been some change in those beautiful, blue states in the Northeast with an abundance of cornhole! Three years ago, there was only a handful of places to toss some bags during the week in New England. Fast-forward to today and south of Boston, you can play cornhole every day of the week and on some days, there are two tournaments in the same town. And if the Commonwealth's Education Department is reading these recaps, don't be surprised to see charter schools for adults on the ballot next year! But, let's stay focused because all this cornhole is really a good thing...
With all these pitching options, the player can decide when, where, and with whom to play. If you consider yourself to be an ace player, you may be in search of Bring Your Own Partner (BYOP) contests. If you just enjoy playing or are new to the game, you will probably gravitate towards blind draws. Geography also plays a role in where you may choose to play. Why drive an hour to toss bags when you no longer have to? Why purchase a $25 ACO membership from me, when you can play a mile away without one?
Even with the game continuing to grow, a player's market makes it a bit challenging for tournament organizers and venues looking to profit off of the cornhole revolution. If you are asking players to pay more than $5 to play on a school night, you may need to become a HOLE lot more creative to remain competitive on a weekly basis!
The Best Format is...
Like politics, there is not a unanimous answer and everyone has an opinion. Perhaps I need a guest writer for this one as I have never had too much success with weekly events and the map above is evidence that I've been wrong before. Nonetheless, I have my opinions and this is my propaganda platform, so here is my three point plan!
1. Low or No Entry Fees
The model has been there for years with bars that host karaoke or trivia. There has never been a cost for embarrassing yourself with a microphone or displaying your command of random facts. Cornhole does not need to be any different, but usually it is. Players are spending money on food and beverage, give them their entertainment for free! A "play for free" model did work in the 3rd Ave Burlington tournaments and led to several NEW players. And no, $5 is not too much to ask.
2. Establish a Format for Everyone
All cornhole players are not created equal. If you plan to keep everyone happy, you should abandon cornhole now! However, if you want to appeal to a large audience, then you should adopt a format that appeals to all skill levels. Blind draws are simple and one of the fairest formats out there. A good player can win with anyone and the luck of the draw may take a novice to the winner's circle; there is no better feeling! Most weekly events in the area with competitive players are blind draws which is a good thing. However, other formats can work as well. Even if New Hampshire may be JV Massachusetts, the Fall 603 Cornhole League had 36 teams from all walks of life play for ten weeks. That's more on a weekly basis than most Massachusetts and Rhode Island groups combined! Contact Shon or Brian to learn how to fill your parking lots with vanity plates.
3. Modest Prizes
Read my lips, "No big payouts!" I realize this approach may not win me many votes, but I'm sticking with it! A big cash payout may draw headlines and get people in the door for a few weeks...until the money overshadows the game. Make it about the money and it will be about the money. If and when sponsors come on board, there will be plenty of money to win at bigger tournaments. But, be careful what you wish for because those Red States are watching... For weekly events, it may seem counter-intuitive not to market cornhole to people who have been playing it for years. But, I would counter that the larger market is new players. And wouldn't the masses prefer an approach that does not cater to the top percent? Oh, wait...