NS Sports is a sub-forum on the forums which is dedicated to roleplaying sports within NS nations (ie. RPs about sports leagues based in the real world or that take include real world nations don't belong in NS Sports). NS Sports roleplay is (usually) freeform and, by tradition, isn't necessarily realistic or even about sports. Of course, there's nothing wrong with being realistic or writing about the actual sports, but realistic RP about sports co-exists in NS Sports, often in the same tournament, with unrealistic RP about sports and with all kinds of RPs that have a tangential connection, if any, to the sport. In addition, NS Sports roleplay has included many nations over the years that weren't realistic at all. Just one event, the World Cup, has seen significant nations that have sent teams comprised of bears, sentient ponies, monks from a realm of dreams and nations where men, not women, are the "weaker sex", among others that likely slipped my mind as I was writing this. While the overwhelming majority of nations send all-human teams comprised of humans whose biology roughly resembles real life humans, there's no requirement to do so.
So, you're wondering, how do you start participating in NS Sports tournaments? You begin by signing up in a thread that is specifically labeled [competition name] Signups or something similar. Just be careful to avoid tournaments with AO, Rushmore, Esportiva or another region name in the title unless your nation was located in that region when the signup thread opened and to avoid the signup thread for the Runner Cup unless you entered the most recent World Cup. Generally speaking, signups are usually kept open until they are closed by the elected host(s) of the tournament (I'll talk more about hosting later), but thread titles are not always changed to state that signups are closed so I recommend reading the last few posts of the signup thread before posting in it. If you can't find a post by the host or somebody else stating that signups are closed and if the thread isn't weeks, months or years old, then you can sign up. I suggest reading the instructions in the thread OP and/or observing what everybody else is doing to determine how to sign up, but for most tournaments all you have to do is state that you sign up and you're entered into the tournament. If you wish to sign up additional nations (known as "puppets"), you'll usually need to declare "puppet of [main nation]" in your sign up post with the puppet and "confirm [puppet]" with the main nation. In the case of the World Cup, you'll want to specify that you "enter the BoF" in your signup post if you're entering for the first time with that nation as the BoF is an additional tournament that gives you the opportunity to compete against other new nations (and new puppets of more experienced nations) on an even footing.
Once you've signed up for a tournament, the next thing to do is wait until the host posts the tournament threads. Once the host has posted a "Roster Thread" or an "Everything Thread" for the tournament, you can post a roster in that thread. A roster includes, at minimum, a list of names and positions but can also include quite a bit more information about your team. The primary purpose of a roster, besides providing named characters for you to RP about, is to provide information to your opponents to help them RP your nation accurately. Once the host has posted an "RP Thread" or an "Everything Thread", you can begin RPing. As stated before, NS Sports roleplay can be about the sport, about things tangentially connected to the sport or even about things related to your nation(s) that aren't really connected to the sports. You can also roleplay collaboratively with other nations in your group (and even nations in other groups or nations participating in other tournaments) or you can roleplay about your nation without interacting with other nations.
Eventually, the host of the tournament will post a group draw or other draw, which informs you who you will be playing with and announce a date and time for the first roleplay cutoff. Around that time, the host will "cut off" for the first matchday of the tournament, produce the results with a scorinator (a computer program that produces sports results) and post the results either to a "Results Thread" or to the "Everything Thread". Depending on the tournament, the next cutoff will usually come either 24 hours or 48 hours later, with cutoffs following at roughly the same frequency until the end of the tournament. Each cutoff represents an opportunity to obtain roleplay bonus for your nation, which will increase your chances of winning matches but which will not guarantee victory. Scorinators are designed so that there is always a chance that either team could win, although you'll find that nations that RP and/or have high rankings generally win more than nations that don't RP and/or have low rankings. You'll hear (especially if you complain about results in the discussion thread) from quite a few people that the point of RPing isn't to win but rather to have fun writing about your nation, but it is also true that winning tournaments is often more fun than not winning them (except when you do it without RPing, as I have in the past).
Another popular form of roleplay in NS Sports is the domestic newswire. For these, you scorinate a season of a domestic league and roleplay that season as much or as little as you want. Then, you enter the best teams from your league into an international tournament and wait for whomever is running the newswire to scorinate the tournament to find out how your teams did. Then, you scorinate a new season and enter your teams again. The most popular domestic newswire, by far, is domestic soccer (UICA) which even has its own transfer system (run on the IRC channel #nstransfers).
What to sign up for
The most prestigious and most popular events in NS Sports are the World Cup and the NS Olympics.
The World Cup, in particular, is a soccer tournament that is so big (in the past, the field has been as large as 202 nations) that it also includes two other tournaments called the Baptism of Fire (BoF) and the Cup of Harmony (CoH) plus an unofficial tournament called the Runner Cup. To sign up for the World Cup, BoF or CoH, you have to sign up in the World Cup [number] Signup Thread. In recent cycles, the World Cup Signup Thread has "closed" once host bidding closes, but the hosts are permitted to open it back up once they are elected and they almost always do, so if they're voting on the host you might as well just sign up anyway. If you're eligible for the BoF (ie. either entering your first World Cup with a particular nation or your nation previously entered a World Cup but not any of the last 3 and never entered the BoF), then I highly recommend entering it in your signup. All you have to do is mention that you want to enter the BoF and you'll be entered. As an additional note, if you enter the BoF you also automatically enter the World Cup that immediately follows it. To enter the CoH, you must post a roster during World Cup Qualifying, post at least one roleplay during Qualifying, fail to qualify for the World Cup and be invited by the host(s). As a general rule of thumb, if you meet the other criteria for an invite and roleplay around 50% of the matchdays during World Cup Qualifying at a level of quality deemed adequate by the CoH hosts, you will receive a CoH invite. If you do not receive a CoH invite or you reject your invite, you can (sometimes) enter a tournament called the Runner Cup, which is effectively a consolation tournament for nations that did not qualify for the World Cup or receive an invite to the Cup of Harmony. Its generally regarded as a low-prestige tournament and doesn't help your World Cup rank (like the BoF and CoH do), but its a soccer tournament tangentially affiliated with the World Cup that is significantly easier to win than the 3 official tournaments. I certainly don't recommend seeking out a Runner Cup entry as opposed to a spot in the CoH or the World Cup finals, but if you don't get in either of the official tournaments and want to enter a post-qualifying tournament for nations that participated in Qualifying, its your only option.
The NS Olympics are generally held twice a year, generally in the first 3 months or so of the year (the Winter Olympics) and toward the end of summer in the northern hemisphere (the Summer Olympics). These events have a much more complicated signup format than the norm, so I strongly recommend reading the signup thread carefully before you attempt to sign up and paying attention to how other people are signing up for it (especially those signups that the host accepts). Generally, you'll need to use a very specific format for the Olympics that makes it easier to input data into the scorinator and you'll need to assign "skill modifiers" to your athletes, averaging no higher than 50.
If you're looking for more soccer tournaments during the period between World Cups, you may want to join one of the "big 3" sports regions and start entering that region's regional tournament, but even if you don't join one of those regions you can still enter youth tournaments such as the Di Bradini Cup (U-21 WC), Sporting World Cup (U-18 WC) and U-15 WC. The DBC (U-21) is held pretty much every cycle, but the other two may or may not be held depending upon whether their organizer chooses to run them.
If you're looking for other sports, some of the more prestigious tournaments in NS Sports are the World Baseball Classic, the World Bowl [American football], the International Basketball Championships, the World Cup of Hockey [ice hockey], the Rugby World Cup (which has separate World Cups for Union and League plus a series of Sevens tournaments that replaced the former World Cup) and the various cricket tournaments. There's also a World Grand Prix Championship, which seems to be a fairly popular and prestigious auto racing event and there is a tennis organization and probably other sports that don't come to mind. These are widely regarded as the "world championships" of their respective sports, but other tournaments often exist for those sports. For example, there is an International Baseball Slam for baseball, NSCF for American football (which is a college football league), the annual NSCAA tournament for basketball (a college basketball tournament) and the World Junior Hockey Championships for ice hockey.
You may also be wondering how to identify whether a tournament host is qualified to host a tournament or not. The first, most obvious, way to tell is by determining if the host in question has won host votes for significant tournament with a host voting process in the past. If somebody has significant hosting experience, it is reasonable to assume that they know how to host a tournament. If they don't have hosting experience, then the way to tell is by reading their host bid carefully and/or observing whether or not more experienced nations are signing up. Be aware that OOC portions of a host bid are generally regarded as much more important than IC portions, so please don't vote for somebody to host just because they have a stadium that seats a million people. Also be aware that many experienced hosts will sometimes bid under puppets, so be sure to read the experience section of a host bid carefully if you don't recognize the nation name as that puppet you've never heard of could very well belong to a former World Cup and/or Olympic host. On the other hand, don't get too hung up on experience either as sometimes the best bid and the bid with the most experience are not the same bid. If you're not sure whether the host knows what they're doing, you can always sign up anyway but you should be aware that there is a much higher chance of some kind of serious mistake in the handling of the event in those cases.
Most tournaments have a thread called the "Discussion Thread" which is, nominally, for discussion of the tournament. However, discussion threads are generally not used as chat threads. In fact, the first version of the World Cup Discussion Thread on the current forums was locked by the moderators for "spam" because it devolved into a chat thread. It also isn't for telling everybody about every single one of your results or about where your nation is ranked in the latest rankings. Such posts are generally regarded as "spam" and whenever they happen inevitably lead to reminders not to post them. It also isn't a good idea to "complain" about results, either yours or anybody elses, on the discussion threads. The host probably isn't rigging results and, if they were, it would be pretty much impossible to prove without either a confession or watching them do it.
So what is the point of the Discussion thread then? The discussion thread is for discussing substantive matters related to the running of the tournament, for making RP plans, for apologizing to your group mates because you don't RP, for reporting problems to the host, for congratulating the tournament champion and for some banter. If you hang around long enough, you'll eventually get a feel for what is and is not appropriate on discussion threads.
So, you want to host a tournament of your own and are wondering how to do it? Or maybe you know how to do it and are just wondering how you can win a host vote?
To bid for a tournament, you must A) be eligible to bid for it and B) post a host bid at the appropriate location. For most tournaments, the appropriate place to post a host bid is in the signup thread. For the exceptions to that rule, let's just say that you'll know the appropriate location when you're ready to bid for them.
If you're new to hosting, you're not going to be able to start out by hosting the World Cup or the Olympics. Even if you manage to put forward a legal bid that goes to a host vote, you'll lose the vote if you have absolutely no previous hosting experience. Even if you are unopposed (and it is highly unlikely that a bid from a completely inexperienced host for either of those events would be allowed to go to vote unopposed), you'll inevitably lose to reopen host bids because those tournaments are regarded as too large, too significant and too complex to entrust to a host without at least some experience.
So what do you do then, if you want to host the World Cup or the Olympics but don't have the experience? The answer is that you get the experience by starting off with small events are gradually working your way up to ever-larger events until you reach your goal. You should also make an effort to read other people's host bids and ask questions about them, as this will help you learn how to write your own bids and to anticipate and pre-emptively answer questions that other people might have.
When writing up your host bid, remember that the OOC details such as the format, the choice of scorinator, roleplay bonus, tiebreakers and the like are much more important than logos, formatting or IC information. There's certainly no reason why you can't make your bid look nice and include substantial amounts of IC information in it, just as there's no reason why you can't write a host bid in the form of an RP, but make sure that the important details are in there and make sure that you're satisfied with them because, once your bid wins, you will be expected to stick to it.
If you want to maximize your chances of winning host votes, you can play it safe and go with the most conventional and non-controversial bid possible. However, if you do so, you run the risk of having your bid look virtually identical to a rival bid, which can cost you if you post your bid after theirs. My own personal rule for bidding has always been that my bid must be different from rival bids, so that voters have a clear choice between bids. In some cases, I've put forward bids that I knew were long-shots because I wanted to give the voters a chance to choose something significantly different from the norm that I felt would make for a more exciting tournament and be more conducive toward roleplay. There's always a not insignificant portion of NS Sports that prefers whatever happens to have been the norm recently (which is why we often have several editions of the same tournament in a row that feel exactly the same as one another) and will always vote for that over anything different, but there are also quite a few voters who will vote for something different when given the opportunity. If you're inclined to be creative and do something different from the norm with tournament formats, don't be afraid to do so.
Once you win the host vote, closing signups and managing the tournament is on you. My recommendation is to aim to follow your host bid as closely as possible. Secondly, make sure there is always around 24 hours or more between your cutoffs. Third, make sure to count all RPs between cutoffs, including RPs posted between the cutoff and the posting of results. Fourth, be willing to admit your mistakes and ensure that they are not repeated. Finally, never rescorinate a result unless there was a problem with the initial scorination. A result that is a highly improbable result is still a possible result and therefore, if it happens, it should be allowed to stand.
I should warn, as well, that bids for the World Cup and other WCC events, from my experience, draw the most scrutiny and the harshest critics. Olympic bids will also draw objections if you're deemed to be insufficiently experienced to host an Olympics, but if you're deemed qualified to host, The Olympic Council generally lets things slide for the most part. If you put forward a WCC bid when you're deemed insufficiently experienced, expect your bid thread to be dogpiled with replies informing you of that "fact" and insisting that you withdraw your bid.
The most popular scorinators are xkoranate and NSFS. While NSFS is said to be the easier to use of the two, I've never had any need to use it personally as xkoranate supports NSFS's formula for every sport supported by NSFS (plus many, many sports that NSFS doesn't support).
Over the years, I have produced many modified sport files for xkoranate, many of which are regularly used for major tournaments. These do not remove the existing formula options for those sports, but rather add new ones.
American Football (This is the formula that I refer to as the World Bowl XXII formula, as it was first used at that World Bowl. It is a modified version of SQIS that produces more realistic scores than the stock version.)
Arena Football (The NSFS3 formula for Arena Football was created by Shadowbourne and used for Arena Bowl IV, which was my first ever NS Sports event. The World Bowl XXII formula for Arena Football was created by me and has not yet been used for an Arena Football tournament as we have not had one since Arena Bowl IV, but I highly recommend that future hosts use that formula.)
Baseball (This is adjusted to be slightly less random than the default NSFS baseball, but is still ideal for full seasons, not short tournaments, which is why I recommend that baseball tournaments continue to use the 3-game-series format for now. I plan to produce a version for shorter tournaments at some point in the future, likely whenever I next decide to bid for the WBC.)
Beach Soccer (This is a specially designed beach soccer scorinator, which is an alternative to using the baseball scorinator for the sport)
Ice Hockey (This is SQIS for Ice Hockey or as The Royal Kingdom of Quebec calls it "Saintland's Modifiers". It is now the most commonly used Ice Hockey formula and was originally based off of the World Cup 68 version of SQIS. I've included a version with shootouts and a version without shootouts.)
Soccer (GRSL) (This is the formula for the Greater Republica Soccer League, my domestic soccer league that uses some rather unique rules. I do not recommend its use for international soccer tournaments as it does not bear any resemblance to the RL sport.)
Soccer (WC68) (This is the modified version of SQIS that was used for World Cup 68, the first and, as of this writing, only World Cup that I hosted. It was created by my co-host Legalese and is less random than the stock SQIS, but does not effectively guarantee the top-ranked nations will qualify even if they rank coast or inflict large amounts of randomness on mid-ranked nations like NSFS does. Its my personal favorite soccer formula for international competitions, but rest assured that both stock SQIS and NSFS have plenty of advocates of their own.)
I have also created Must10inator, which is a boxing and MMA scorinator. Be forewarned that it only accepts text file input and only produces text file output. That link is to the latest pre-compiled Windows version. If you want Must10inator on another operating system that supports C++, you may download the source code and compile it yourself.
If you're bidding to host the Olympics or an Olympic-like event, you may be interested in Input Maker (link goes to pre-compiled Windows version), which is a program that reads text files containing Olympic signups and adds them into input files, dramatically reducing the time commitment involved in setting up for hosting the Olympics. You may download and compile the source code if you wish to run it on an operating system other than Windows that supports C++. Before using Input Maker, please read the instructions in this post as signups have to be formatted in a very specific way or the program will not work properly. This means that you may have to do some manual adjustments to the signup formatting, but by doing so you will save yourself much more time.
NS Sports has its own IRC channels, which are off-site chat rooms that are unmoderated by NationStates moderators, who generally (from my experience) do not visit them. Thus, they are often home to quite a bit of "discussion" that would violate the rules on the forum from stuff that would be considered spam to various off-topic discussions to complaining about users (who aren't participating in the channel) that somebody who is participating in the channel doesn't like. Its also commonly used to plan RPs and to find host bidding partners. If you choose to go there, I urge you to take all things said about members of the NS Sports community while they are not on that channel with a grain of salt. Its very easy to end up sharing somebody else's grudges and/or somebody else's dislike of particular newer members if you hang out on there alot and you're not particularly careful. I'd recommend withholding judgment about somebody until you've interacted with them personally and had the opportunity to make up your own mind.
With that warning out of the way, I'll tell you how to get on the NS Sports IRC channels. If you're not particularly concerned about revealing your IP address (which can be used to discover your approximate location and, if you use an educational, corporate or governmental network, your school/employer), you can go straight to Esper.net and use their web client or connect to irc.esper.net:6667 on any other IRC client. However, if you're concerned about hiding your IP address, you may want to create an account at a website called IRCCloud, which also has an app in both the iOS App Store for iPhone/iPad and the Google Play Store for Android. IRCCloud will also provide you with 24/7 connectivity and logs for the first week after you sign up and logs/connectivity for 2 hours after you disconnect thereafter (unless you pay them for 24/7 uptime). The NS Sports-related channels on EsperNet's IRC server (irc.esper.net:6667) are as follows: