Summer Reading List

Ah, summer. Even the mere mention of summer evokes many things: ice cream, school vacation, trips to Disney World. For me, though, summer was the ideal time to relax with a good book or five. Although, to be fair, I almost always had a book in my hands, whether it was summer or not. So I guess you could say I thought that pretty much every time was the ideal time to read a good book.

Anyway, for the first time in over twenty years, I won’t be on summer break this year. After two decades of continuous schooling — pre-school, elementary school, high school, university, and a master’s degree — I’ve finally broken out into the “real world.” But that doesn’t mean I can’t still have a reading list!

In that vein, today I wanted to share a few of the judge articles that have been most influential at various points in my judging career. Without further ado, here are they are!

Making Rulings Better

Toby Elliott

Toby Elliott

This is the first judge article I remember reading: Bernd Buldt, my first mentor and the judge who certified me, sent it to me in my L1 advancement review.

When I first became a judge, I thought of judges primarily as arbiters of the rules, answering questions and issuing penalties. As such, I was incredibly focused on knowing the Comprehensive Rules, the MTR, and the IPG.

This article helped change my mind on all of that.

While knowledge of rules and policy is both foundational and necessary, so too is knowing how to interact with players effectively, courteously, and enjoyably. “Making Rulings Better” provides a fantastic framework to assist with that, and I certainly needed the help! Thank you, Bernd, for sending it to me: it’s made a huge difference.

Authority, Command & Leadership

Chris Richter

Chris Richter

This is another article that I encountered early in my judging career, and one that I still enjoy reading on a regular basis. Like Toby’s article, it provides a helpful framework that breaks down the sometimes nebulous concept of leadership into concepts that are easier to grasp.

Of the three concepts Chris lays out in his article, the idea of command was the one that was most helpful for me. When I was first starting to Team Lead, I had a tendency to micro-manage the judges on my team. But being in command of a situation doesn’t mean you have to be directly involved. Rather, being an effective commander means finding (and mentoring) capable people, delegating tasks to them appropriately, and trusting those people to get the job done.

I’ve been fortunate to head judge a number of large events, especially in the first few months of 2015. One thing I noticed during those events was that, while I put a lot of energy into organizing teams and communicating with judges before the event, I would nonetheless get stressed or frazzled at the start of the day. In this way, I fell short of the goals I set for myself, and failed to set the tone that I wanted to for the judges on my staff.

When I was Head Judge of the recent SCG Open in Providence, I was determined to change this. I wanted to be the calm, deep ocean that the rest of my staff was expecting me to be. While there’s no easy recipe for recreating an emotional state, I remember two things in particular:

First, I simply tried to relax and loosen up. I knew I had a fantastic group of team leads and floor judges, and I needed to trust that they were doing their jobs.

Second, I made even more of an effort than usual to be visible and accessible. As Eric Levine told me before the event, “the Head Judge sitting on the stage on his laptop waiting for appeals is not an authority; he’s a guy with a laptop.” I took that advice to heart and took notes on my phone instead of my laptop. And while I could have done a better job coming down from the stage more regularly, I interacted frequently with my Team Leads and other judges throughout the day.

Overall, these two ideas worked very well. I felt in command throughout the entire event, from start to end, and I think the judges and players enjoyed a better experience because of it.

5 Steps to Judicial Enlightenment

Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson

Rob Johnson was one of the first high-level judges I ever met; he was the Head Judge of the Legacy Open in Providence, my first “big event.” There’s a ton going on in this article: While the idea of judge advancement is central, Rob also touches on the importance of being involved in your local community, what it means to mentor and inspire someone, and the trap behind seeing yourself as a dispenser of justice.

This is the kind of article you can read and read again, learning something different each time. With that said, I want to focus on one critical nugget of Rob’s wisdom: if you’re currently Level X, “being the best Level X you can be is actually exactly the same thing as preparing for the next level.”

What’s in a Level?

Nick Fang

Nick Fang

Speaking of judge levels, this article was absolutely critical in my journey towards advancement. If you haven’t read it yet, go ahead and check it out before reading any further.

Done? OK, glad you’re back.

First off, I love how Nick starts his article without mentioning his judge level. This is an idea I’ve stolen when giving my “Road to L2” talk at judges conferences in the Northeast, and when I leave out my level during introductions and on event schedules. As Nick acknowledges, level does mean something, but it isn’t everything.

As with Rob’s article, Nick’s is incredibly multi-faceted and takes on a number of issues, including why a player asking for a “real judge” is not just insulting but nonsensical, and how you don’t have to be a Level X judge to mentor Level X-1 judges. Yes, being an L2 means you can administer the L1 exam, but L1s are perfectly capable of working with L1 candidates, helping them study the rules and JAR, and welcoming them into the community. There are more L1s than any other level: we need L1s to be inclusive and open, not just to players, but to prospective judges as well!

With that said, I believe the most significant part of the article is when Nick starts talking about how judge levels are an indicator of scope and how involved someone wants to be with the program, rather than a judge’s skill or expertise. In other words, as Nick says, “higher levels are predominantly about doing more not solely about doing better.” This is a great description of what the levels mean that I think is incredibly beneficial to remember.

Wrapping Up

These are just a few of my favorite things — I mean, judge articles. How about you? What judge articles have you found most enjoyable or influential? Let me know in the comments!

3 thoughts on “Summer Reading List

  1. It hurts me so much that the publisher’s introduction to Nick Fang’s article gives his level.

    1. The OP never revealed Nick’s level. He stated that the article inspired the his “Road to L2” seminars at Judge Conferences.

      Bearz – thanks for posting. I’m going to definitely make sure these are on my reading list!

Comments are closed.