Hosting a Parkour Jam: A Beginners Guide

So you’re thinking about hosting a parkour jam but you don’t know how to go about it? It can be quite the daunting task filled with quite the llist of things to think about and do including determining the size of the jam, the schedule, locations, housing, cost, advertising, planning events, and finding volunteers. I don’t claim to be very experienced with hosting jams, but I’ve attended quite a number of them and feel like I have a decent bit of knowledge on the subject. I’d love to hear suggestions and comments if you think I missed something or just have other advice! So let’s get started!

 

Size — Determine how much planning you need to do

Determining the target size of the jam is probably the most important aspect of this list because it will help you  plan effectively and make the event run smoothly. If you’re only planning to have a dozen people at the jam, then very little planning is needed and you can more easily play it by ear.  However, when it comes to an event with 50+ people, that won’t cut it. The size also determines the locations you can train, how many volunteers you need, how many events you should have, and how detailed your plan needs to be to run smoothly. As such, this guide is targeted at jams that will have 30+ attendees.

Beast

Itinerary — Where to go and when to do it

When planning out which spots you plan to go to don’t forget to keep in mind the following:

  • Conflicts – Check that there are no other nearby locations that will be hosting large jams so that you don’t make people choose between the events. Also, you will want to make sure that the spots you are going to won’t be occupied by another event using the same location.
  • Map and Addresses – If you’re having people come who haven’t ever been to your city, then saying “meet at the big pyramid spot” isn’t going to mean anything to them. Write out the addresses, and consider making a map of all of the locations associated with your jam relative to major landmarks, housing, and major roads. The map in figure 1 is an excellent example of a great resource that can just be handed out at the beginning of the jam so that everyone will know when and where to be.
    • Parking – Be sure to let people know where to park because a lot of times it isn’t obvious. Point out where free/cheap parking is located.
      Figure 1. Map from IU Collegiate Parkour Jam that displays where each spot is with its corresponding scheduled time, where free parking is, and where food places are located.
  • Distance – You will want to choose locations that are close to each other or have transportation that is easily accessible and not too expensive. Don’t forget to let people know ahead of time if there will be any transportation costs so that they will be prepared! Walking distance is definitely preferred because then you don’t have to worry about people getting separated or lost. If people can’t get there, you can’t have a jam.
  • Capacity – 30 people in a spot suited for 5 isn’t fun because then you spend forever waiting around for your turn. Just because it’s your favorite doesn’t mean it can support all of your attendees effectively.
    • Consider splitting up into multiple groups! If you do really want to go to some smaller spots, split up into a few smaller groups and schedule how long each group will be at a spot before rotating with the other groups.
  • Permission- If you plan to host your jam at a school, business, or some other public area that may or may not require permission and/or a permit to be there, then be sure to ask ahead of time! It will save you a lot of hassle if you have already warned the owners that you will have a large number of people there on the specified days.
    • Park Permit- You may need to acquire a park permit in order to be able to have permission for having the jam, even at public parks. In order to do so, contact the Parks and Recreation Department for your city. Often times they will have the forms listed online, but if not you will need to call their office.
  • Trespassing – Now this is something that many people in the parkour community have done and do on a regular basis. Last thing you would want to happen during a jam is be liable for allowing everyone to trespass. You could face heavy fines and potentially even jail time.

tresspass

  • Backups – You never know for sure if there’s going to be some unexpected event, bad weather, or you’re going to be kicked out of a spot, so it’s best to plan a few extra spots just in case. If possible, plan some locations that are more weather resistant so that it doesn’t crash all of the fun if the weather is lousy.

Housing— Sleep is important

Now, it’s pretty much a given that we’d all love to be able to host a jam for free, but quite simply put….if you want to host a great jam, then it will cost you money. You need to determine what you think it will cost you and decide if you want to charge for the event.

  • Food – Are you planning on having a cookout? It’ll cost you money to buy all of the food, plates, napkins, and utensils. Get an estimate on how much this will cost ahead of time, and either add it to the cost of the event or consider charging extra for meals. Some people may prefer to venture out to find something they are craving.
  • Housing – As mentioned above, if you need to rent a venue for lodging, it could cost a lot of money. It’s not uncommon to charge a fee for housing.

cincijam2014

  • Shirts – It’s also common to design a shirt to go along with your jam to use as a way to help mitigate costs. Shirts are a great way though to help attendees feel exclusive because they can collect each year’s shirt. Be careful not to buy too many though because it may put you pretty far in the hole.
  • Admissions Fee – In the US, this is a very controversial topic because a large number of people think that parkour should be free at every level. (It should be noted that paid jams are very common in Europe)
    • I would only recommend this if you are planning on hosting a large event where you will be having seminars or will be providing other services.
    • There are people who don’t want to pay for everything that the admissions fee goes towards. You may consider packages with different price points and “al-a-carte” items (food, seminars, etc.).
  • Parkour Park- If you’re hosting a very large scale jam you may want to build a pop up parkour park. This will cost a lot of money and time to design, purchase materials, transport, and build everything. Check your resources before committing to this.
  • Sponsors – To help mitigate the costs of the jam, you may be able to find sponsors if you get started early enough. At this point, it’s very difficult to get sponsors because it is still a growing sport, and the company will want to get enough advertisement out of it to be worthwhile for them as well.
  • Park Permit – Getting a park permit can cost a lot of money. It also varies a lot based on your location and what kind of area you are getting a permit for. Typically they charge by the number of hours that you occupy the space. Be sure to get in contact with your Parks and Recreation Department to get more details.

Advertising — Get the word out about your Jam

This one is pretty self explanatory but TELL EVERYONE about it! If you don’t invite people, they won’t come!

  • Word of Mouth – This is the single most important aspect to advertising your jam because getting groups of people to come will greatly improve the turnout of your event. Parkour is about the community aspect, so if some people know that their friends are going, then they will be greatly inclined to attend as well.
  • Single Source of Details- I recommend setting up a Facebook event page to post information about the jam, spread info, and invite people. You don’t want to post information in multiple places because then it becomes difficult to stay consistent. A website is another great way to have a source of information. For example: Hub V, Beast Coast 
  • 1 Month Minimum- Let people know when you are planning to have your jam at least a month ahead of time so that they can make travel arrangements, ask questions, get off from work, and invite their friends.
  • Social Media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Let these be your way to gather excitement for the jam!
    • Spot photos- Post photos of the locations on the event page. This really helps to get people more excited when you show them pictures of the awesome spots.
    • Additional Media – Make promotional pictures and posters about your jam. Facebook profile pictures and cover photos are a great way to help spread the word.
    • Previous Videos – Another great way to get people excited for your jam is to promote a video of last year’s jam because it will help to show off the spots and give a taste of the fun that happened. They aren’t going to want to miss this years since it is going to be even better!
  • Attending Athletes – Do you know if any big name athletes will be attending? Consider making posts about them to help get people excited to meet and train with them! You may want to consider sending them personal invitations and waving their fees or hosting them as a way to help strengthen their bond.
  • Common Events Page- You can also post your event on websites such as Meetups.com and the American Parkour Events page.

Events — Make your Jam memorable

If you’re planning to have a long jam or a jam with a broader target audience, then consider hosting some events during your jam. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Seminars – Hosting seminars is a great way to attract newcomers to your jam because they will feel much more open to trying stuff and learning new skills. It’s also a way to help add a bit more structure to the schedule and provide something more than just a big training session.
  • Competition – While many do parkour for the self discipline, competitions are becoming rapidly popular and are a great way to help make your jam more exciting for spectators. Competitions can take up a lot of time though so be cautious when determining if you want it to be a part of your jam. There are a number of different types of competitions you could host. I may do another article to enumerate the possibilities, let me know if you want to see it!
  • Cookout – Food is one of the best ways to relax and help bring people together. Buy some food and set up a grill or bonfire for a good ol’ cookout.
  • Viewing Party – Get a projector or go to a theater to show a parkour documentary, videos, or related film.

supertramps

  • Group Fun – Invite everyone to go to a trampoline park, swimming pool, lake, climbing gym, or movie as a way to wind down after a long day of training.

Volunteers — Make your life easier!

Doing all of the things above can be stressful because there’s a lot of stuff! Get others to help you out. Have other locals take charge in leading groups to spots, housing, food, and events!

  • Earliest Contact – In the planning phase, it’s vital to have your volunteers on board throughout the planning phase.  
  • Clear Delegation – Be sure that everyone is clear about what their responsibilities are so that there’s no confusion as to what they should be doing.  

Get To It!— Host a Jam!

Now you should be prepared to host your own parkour jam! Whether you are preparing to host your first jam or just want to improve the turnout at your jams, I hope that you’ve been able to learn some useful tips. If you need clarification or advice about anything, feel free to email me at ruji@americanparkour.com. I’m looking forward to seeing more jams popping up soon!