The most common method of pitching competitive horseshoes is “Singles.” Singles play is comprised two contestants on the court competing against each other. The competitive objective of singles play is to determine who is the best individual player that day on the courts. Typically, there will be too many participants to have them each play everyone. To accommodate larger groups, the participants may be divided into smaller classes. Traditionally, classes are organized by each person’s ringer percent. In this manner the contestants compete against others of a similar skill level. Each class will have a Class Champion and the winner of the top ringer % class is crowned the Tournament Champion. Most NHPA tournaments are Singles tournaments.
Pitching Rotation will differ for Count-all and Cancellation methods.
Count-All: To start off the game, similar to a coin toss, one players will “flip” a shoe in the air and the other calls “up” or “down.” If the horseshoe lands with all the caulks facing up it is “up,” while all caulks facing to the ground is “down.” If the player that correctly calls the flip (up or down) wins the flip they get to pitch first, if they lose the flip, the player who flipped the shoe will pitch first. Kids get a kick out of this method of starting a game, so it is recommended (be sure to remind the kids to be careful flipping the shoe in the air and to always pay attention). The player who won the flip will start off. Once both players have pitched their horseshoes, they walk to the opposite court, count up the scores and report them to a scorekeeper. Pitching back the other direction, the player who lost the flip now pitches first. The players continue to alternate pitching in this manner until the game is over, one player always pitching first from one end and the other player always pitching first from the opposite end.
Cancellation: The start is determined by the same “flip” & call method. After the players have pitched, the player who scores will now pitch first. The scoring player will always pitch first in cancellation. If there is a “no score” call, then the player who pitches first is the one that just previously pitched last.
After explaining the method of play, have two kids come and demonstrate a singles game to 20 shoes. Have the youth who are watching keep the score as a means of practicing their score keeping skills and to offer guidance if the two pitching need assistance with the Singles method. The Team component of the Horseshoe America Program is based on the Singles method of play.
In tournaments, the participants traditionally pitch in a Round-Robin where each player players every other player in a class. To set up a round robin you number each player from high to low ringer % in the class then follow a round-robin chart that has been created for the number of participants in the class, which pairs them in games. A good, manageable, class size is 6 players. The charts are set up so that the highest seeded players play at the end of the round-robin, assuming they will win most of their games, setting up a competitive finale. If you have an odd number of participants in a class, one player will sit out each round in a “bye.” Round Robin Charts for 4, 5, 6, 7, & 8 player classes. A Master Summary Chart can be used to tabulate the results of each game. The NHPA provides a windows-based software program called HSMaster that can also produce round robin cards and tabulate results. It is an old program and takes some training for most people to become comfortable using it.
Another method is elimination play carried out by using a bracket. Elimination play is general discouraged for youth leagues as it leaves those who are early out, idle and possibly bored. You will want to keep all the participants active throughout the clinic, team league, and tournaments. If you do use an elimination bracket it should only be for the final round of play to determine an overall champion of the tournament.
The League Tournament on the final day of the program will be a Singles Tournament. Depending on the number of participants and their varying skill levels, you may be able to set up several classes. If you have sufficient number of youth 13 and over (“Juniors”), plus enough 12 and under (“Cadets”), you can first divide the youth by their age divisions then into classes. In extreme cases, with an exceptionally large number of participants, you could further divide the divisions by gender as well as age (Junior Girls – Junior Boys & Cadet Girls – Cadet Boys).