10 years with Prague’s Barrel

Two of our colleagues are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year. Why have they joined our team? How are they enjoying the work and will they stay? Read more in the interview with Martin Žižka (sports manager) and Barbara Tesařová (coordinator for Scandinavian and French speaking countries).

How did you hear about Prague’s Barrel?

Martin: It was 10 years ago at the university, where we were studying. I remember that I went to the doctor that day and they were tearing my toenail and I was thinking about skipping the class. Eventually I came 30 minutes late but it was worth it because at the end of the class Peter and Sofie came. Peter, likeable guy with a kidney bag and Sofie, a little bit strict lady with glasses. They were looking for people to help them with European Company Sport Games and even though the presentation was not that good, the idea sounded pretty awesome to me. So I have signed up for the job. 4 of us signed up and Sofie with Peter took us for testing to the first Prague’s Barrel in June 2011. 

Barbara: I do not remember the details at all. Just that I thought the job could be interesting and I wanted to be part of it. I was looking for some extra work by that time so it was great timing. I was really surprised that only 4 of us signed up for it because we were about 90 people in the class together. Before the first Prague’s Barrel some of us went to the European Company Sport Games in Hamburg to have a look and idea on how it will look like in Prague 2 years later. That was good for team building.

What was so interesting about it?

Martin: I had a dull job by that time and I have always wanted to sign up for a work placement in sport. Very interesting for me was the level of responsibility. The idea of organising an event for 5000 participants (European Company Sport Games) was amazing and I wanted to be part of it. I was also amazed by the attitude of the organising team during my first Barrel. I was responsible for transportation. The friendly atmosphere during the tournament was incredible. Nobody was supercilious, everybody was helping the others to reach the goal of satisfied participants. It convinced me that I want to do this. 

Barbara: For me it sounded like a great opportunity. We got very big responsibility during the Prague’s Barrel tournaments and Games as well. Nobody would have done that for us. Students or people right after university are inexperienced and companies are treating them as such. But Peter has a totally different approach, lucky us. I was really amazed by the first Barrel tournament with so many different people from different countries. I was responsible for payments and the controlling and since I am a very responsible person, that was a great job. 

Martin, did you imagine that you would be the head sport manager and one of the most important people at Prague’s Barrel?

Martin: Not at all. Peter risked very much to do all of this with young inexperienced people. When I think about it now, it was very clever. Experienced people are very careful with all the decisions, because they are aware of the consequences. Persons without experience but with a lot of enthusiasm and good management are excited and taking more risks. They are not afraid. We have dealt with all the challenges. But if I would do all of that now, I would be much more careful and scared. 

How did you end up like a sports manager for all our tournaments?

Martin: During the first tournament I was organising the transportation. I have to admit that I think and I know that at the beginning I wasn’t completely convinced. Sometimes it takes me longer to get used to a new team and I could not have gone to Hamburg with the organising team for the previous Games. But with small steps and ideas I got to the position. When the ice hockey tournaments started to take off I took the job of sports manager there and we were taking turns with Jakub (he was our friend from university too). During our Games I was sports manager together with Jakub. I was also interested in our website, how to make it look better. And slowly I took more and more responsibilities even with Prague’s Barrel. I’m responsible for the website, advertising and email marketing. After the Games Jakub focused mainly on the new project with Peter, laser tag arenas Mercuria. So I was responsible for all the tournaments. I was also slowly taking part in choosing the sports venues and evening locations. I have always cooperated with Peter because his negotiation style and his instinct for choosing people is unreplaceable. But I’m happy that we have earned his trust and he is leaving more and more responsibilities to us. 

The same question for Barbara, did you imagine to be an important part of the Prague’s Barrel team? 

Barbara: Not at all. For a long time I was kind of a sidekick in this team. I was doing only payments registration and controlling. But I like the tournament so much so I came to Sofie after my Erasmus stay in Norway, where I learned Norwegian so I understand a bit also Danish and Swedish and I wanted to help with getting new teams to our tournament. Sofie agreed and I took the Scandinavian “market”. I have also helped with maintaining the website, writing marketing emails and social media, I took a big focus on Instagram. After some time our colleague, who was responsible for French speaking countries, quitted. I thought okay I was learning French for 10 years, not using it at the moment, but I can get back to it, so I took the challenge and got a French “market”. So in comparison with my beginnings I have like 100 times more responsibilities now. (laugh) 

You tried all the organising roles during Barrel tournaments. How was it?

Barbara: Everybody in the tournament is important, every single person. I was lucky to be a coordinator, sports manager and a hostess as well (not at the same time, laugh). I cannot say somebody has an easier job. I often admire our hostesses because they have to get up early for the first bus to the pitch or arena and I can sleep longer sometimes because I don’t have to be there early. Also it is a big responsibility to take care of a team, our hostesses have to have good managing skills. On the other hand as a coordinator I have to stay informed all the time, I need to know every detail of every team and make everybody happy. Sports manager has a very tough role, he needs to be strict but fair and make difficult decisions. As I have said, everybody is an important part of the team. 

Did you want to change something about the tournament? Did you get to do it or not? 

Martin: We are making some changes all the time but they are small. I personally decided to have music during our Friday boat cruise and that turned out great, amazing parties every time. I have also created a mobile app which is helping the participants. But I think that all of these are not only my ideas but they came from the team’s brainstorming. 

Barbara: I focused a lot on the controlling part and built some tables etc. for the process to be smooth. I am trying to boost the social media a bit and engage the participants more. And Also I came up with the idea to do these interviews. (laugh) 

How long do you think you can work on Prague’s Barrel? 

Martin: I have already thought about it once. Last year I was kind of happy to be on “coronavirus pause” because I could focus on my family, I have two little daughters. So I could be at home a lot even though I was working. But when I see our colleague Leoš I see that there is no age limit for Prague’s Barrel, you just have to keep the right Barrel spirit. Once I was thinking about whether I want to continue with Prague’s Barrel but I know I want to! The atmosphere during tournaments is incredible and it is a boost for me. 

Barbara: Martin has an advantage to be a man. (laugh) To always be the smiling and charming part of the tournament is a little bit worse role to keep at a certain age. But I hope I can be here as long as possible.