The only contact most recreational athletes have with international competition is cheering or booing events on their TV screens. But now every public park softball team and pickup basketball player in captivity can get into the picture. Ron Watson, a 22-year amateur rugby player and former president of the Hawaii Harlequins rugby club, has organized a lineup for 1983-84 of open international tournaments in softball, rugby, skiing, volleyball, bicycling and basketball. "The tournaments are an Olympics for the average Joe and Jane," says Watson. "Participants can mingle with recreational athletes from other countries during games, at the host hotels and at social events like banquets, mixers and fishing cruises."
Watson launched his get-togethers for Cinderella teams from around the world with a 1979 rugby tournament in Hawaii that attracted 32 teams from nine countries, the largest international field in history. The winner was the longest of long shots: a team from Tokanui, a New Zealand farming village of 200. In fact, Tokanui had been a long shot just to show up; to raise money for their expenses, the players spent 18 months buying and selling livestock, shearing sheep, gathering hay and auctioning off everything from door hinges to cars.
Watson's current format still encourages underdogs to enter. Each tournament begins with round-robin play designed to gauge your level of ability, or your team's, and enable you to be assigned to the appropriate division for the remainder of the event. There are separate divisions for women (except in rugby), over-35s and for basketball teams with no players over 6 feet tall. And all winners are presented with trophies at a dinner held the last night.
Each tournament lasts a week or more, with warm-weather events held in Hawaii and the skiing in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. Since some tournaments require a good deal of advance planning by participants, not all events are offered annually. For more information, call Watson at 1-800-367-2333.