Sunday, 19 March 2017

Being the Head Judge and getting ahead of the game

Hello dear readers, and welcome once again to Judging From Exile!

Today I have a topic to talk about that is near and dear to my heart - what I learned from being Head Judge for a large event.

A Checkmark on my 'Bucket List'

Yesterday was a big day for me, both on a personal level and professionally as a judge, as I was given the exciting opportunity and great responsibility to serve as the Head Judge for the Toronto Face To Face Games Tournament Series Open 3K event held during Modern Masters release weekend.  

For those of you who are not local to Toronto and it's current meta, just know that Modern is very popular in Toronto, and as such the Tournament Series events there are always successful with player attendance ranging between 140 and 170 players during most events. 

We knew right away that yesterday was going to be a little different than usual, when we had to assign a judge to our draft area in the lobby to fire the first Modern Masters draft side event of the day, and we hadn't even closed registration for the main event yet. 

160+ players registered in the Main Event,  a Face To Face Open 3K
March 18th, 2017

Preparing My Team For Success

For those of you who haven't had the opportunity to play in a Face To Face Open before, you are missing out on some of the best run Magic events going in Canada today.  Face To Face Games takes great pride in their Open Series, and they do everything they can to help their teams perform well.   I won't list all of the little things here that they do to help us succeed, but one thing in particular that Face To Face does which I admire is that they have created 'judge kits' which they hand out to every judge at the beginning of the event, which contains all of the useful things we will need during the day to perform our jobs well.

Every F2F judge kit usually contains:

  • Tape (handy for putting up those pairings and standings!)
  • Scissors (sometimes we need to cut some slips by hand)
  • Blue pens (players always forget to bring their own supplies)
  • F2F branded Power Bank (if our phones die, we can't look up oracle text for the players anymore)

As this event was going to be my first time working as Head Judge for F2F I wanted to step up and really take ownership of the event.  One of the ways I decided to achieve that was by doing some extra preparations before the day of the event in order to help give my judge staff every opportunity to succeed.  I started with upgrading the F2F judge kits to make them even better for my team.

In every judge kit yesterday I added 2 red pens, as judges are expected to have red pens to write out infractions.  I also made some custom reminder cards for our judges, so that they would remember the proper way to fill out penalties on match slips.  I think they turned out really nicely, and I was happy to notice at least one judge using them during the event.

Laminated reminder cards, with the F2F motto on the front,
and how to fill out a penalty on a match slip on the back.

I also made some table numbers for certain places that don't have numbering tents due to rows having an odd number of matches.

Being a leader means being part of the team

Before a large event like this can begin, there is a lot of prep work on site to be done.  I arrived before 9 am and along with a couple other early arrivals we were able to get most of the tables and chairs set up for the event before other staff arrived.  

Once we had the room looking like a tournament venue I had some individual conversations with key members of my team, to ensure that everyone was working with the same vision for the day.  It was important to me that everyone on staff get their best opportunity to succeed, and so the Team Leads and myself planned to ensure that everyone had tasks that were best suited to their strengths, while also ensuring that help would be nearby in the unlikely event that someone began struggling with a judge call or task during the day.   

We then followed that up with a 'town hall' meeting where all of our judge staff was able to take a few minutes to introduce ourselves to each other, and I went over my expectations for the day and gave the team the traditional speech that Head Judges often give.  Everyone understood that taking care of themselves is a top priority during a long day of judging, and that we can all work together to accommodate someone needing a brief rest during the day.

As the room continued to fill with players who had begun preparing their deck lists for the day our judges dispersed into the room to begin final preparations for the start of what was sure to be an exciting event.

Letting go is the hardest part

One of the biggest changes I had to adjust to as the Head Judge was not walking the tournament floor for the majority of the event.  It kind of goes against my natural instinct to stay back and let other people take all the judge calls, as I love to be working in the trenches (so to speak), talking to the players and helping them resolve any problems they have.  

When you take on the role of being the Head Judge, you generally stay away from taking any calls in order to preserve the appeal process.  On the rare occasion you may have to take a call if it happens to be right where you are standing at the moment and no other judges are immediately available, but for the most part the Head Judge has to stay back and watch other people have all the fun.

Head Judge is an appealing job title

As my day progressed yesterday, I was involved in several appeals, which allowed me to interact with some players and scratch that proverbial judging 'itch'.  In one call, I had to overturn the initial judge ruling due to the fact that the version of events told to the floor judge were subtly (but crucially) different from the version of events I was told during the appeal.  No error was made by the floor judge, but I learned a key tidbit of information that changed the ruling.  

During another appeal I upheld a ruling made by a floor judge, but chose to deviate slightly from policy during the appeal partly due to the fact that the deviation felt significantly closer to where we want to be philosophically, and partly due to both players agreeing it would be better resolved that way.  I usually will follow policy strictly to the letter, but on rare occasions we should be willing to bend a little to resolve things in ways that make sense and leave everyone at the table happy. 

Mission Accomplished

As the day came to an end we had run 22 Modern Masters drafts, 1 Modern Masters Win-A-Box, and our 160+ player main event.  While some of our judges began our end of day tear down, I was able to take turns grabbing individual judges for some 1 on 1 debriefings, to hear their thoughts on how their days went and if they were satisfied with their performances.  It was very satisfying to hear that every one of my judges had felt that they had had a positive experience working the event, and they all were happy with how things had been run.

I was blessed to have a very good staff to work with on my first turn at being Head Judge for a Face To Face Open, and the entire day was a big success for judges, staff and players alike.  I had several people tell me as they were leaving that they had a great time playing and that the event had been run especially well.  I'll leave the credit for that to the staff at Face To Face, and to the judges who all performed their tasks so well throughout the day.

It was a long day with leaving home at 7 am and returning home shortly after midnight, but it was an honor and a privilege to be part of such a fun event.

Until next time dear readers, I'll be here if you need me - walking along my pathway through Exile.


No comments:

Post a Comment