Exemplary Nominations



Written by Eric Levine
Level 3, Japan

Hello everyone! Welcome to the first installment of what will be a semi-regular series here on the Exemplar blogs page. Wave 3 of Exemplar has been in the books for a bit now, and Wave 4 is well underway. We’re trying to find ways to improve the Exemplar program in each successive wave, and one of the best ways we can do so is to provide everyone with the tools to write even more inspiring recognitions. With this in mind, some members of the Exemplar team have chosen recognitions we find particularly awesome and asked the judges who wrote those recognitions to expand upon them a bit. These particular recognitions were also chosen in part because they seemed to hint at a larger story, and we thought those stories deserved to be told in full. Here are a few of our favorites!

First up is a recognition from Morgan Meehan-Lam (L2) to Rhys Kennewell (L1):

You have really impressed me with your growth as a judge in isolation. I know from personal experience that being The Judge isn’t necessarily the easiest position to be in when you have no backup around, but you’ve done a lot of skill building and you have the resources and confidence to make good and/or difficult calls. Your recent handling of an investigation was very well done and thought out and I wouldn’t have done better myself. Keep it up, bud!

This recognition does a great job of highlighting Rhys’s growth overall while also discussing a specific scenario to point to his growth as a judge. When asked to expand upon this recognition, Morgan had this to say:

Rhys was the first judge I certified up in Launceston which is at the other end of my state so he’s been working by himself. I nominated him for Exemplar for a few reasons: As I said in the recognition, I know how hard it is to be by yourself and be motivated to be really on top of your game when you’re alone and have no direct support from other people in the program.

Rhys has been demonstrating a lot of self-directed learning and as such his confidence is better every time I see him. I worked with him at a PPTQ (which he actually approached me to help out with) and he was talking to me about articles he’d read.

He’s active in the community around his store with sharing information and making sure everyone is aware of the rules before they jump into events. He also impressed me very much with his sensitive handling of a bribery/collusion situation that came up post-event. He contacted me for advice, but I didn’t need to tell him to do things like gather statements and he very carefully considered what to do and reached a decision I thought was very fair and clear. He afterwards followed up with the community before the next event to make sure everyone knew exactly what the rules are. Rhys has gone above and beyond the call of duty to make himself a better asset to the community around him, therefore, he’s exemplary.

The behaviors Morgan describes – reading articles, actively seeking out events to work, educating the local community – are all great ways for a judge in a remote area to learn and make an impact. Doing that while having the wherewithal to seek assistance when he needed it definitely seems exemplary, as it’s often difficult to have the wisdom and humility to reach out for help with tough situations.

Next, we have Kevin Binswanger’s (L3, RC) recognition of John Trout (L2):

John, Your work with the summer camps for your students is awesome. You’ve created this thing that gives kids a place to learn Magic and play. But more than that, you’ve built a community. And I love that you’ve gotten the parents involved. I think this is the kind of thing that will pay dividends in making a better Magic community for years.

This recognition is very intriguing – it sounds like there’s a lot of detail behind all of this, but the important thing is that John has taken the time to build a community outside of events and really grow the game while making people happy. That’s the dream, right? Kevin’s recognition of John is really evocative of how he feels about John’s work, and that’s what I like most about it. When we asked Kevin for some more details, here’s what he had to say:

Many teachers I know want nothing more than to run away from school during summer break and not think about school or children or work at all. Not John Trout; instead, he spends his summers spending more time with the students at his school, organizing Magic events! On the surface, it seems very simple: he gets the kids some cards to play with, teaches them how to Magic, and gives them a place where they can play each other. In reality, it turns out to be so much more.

One of the things that struck me about the camps John has been running is that he’s not just giving people a chance to learn a game. He’s building a community. He gives them a sense of unity and identity. There are kids that started in his group who are now tournament regulars, sporting fond memories and keepsakes from their time over the summer.

Part of what makes this awesome to me is that John’s totally humble about it. He doesn’t seem to have an ego about the work he does. He genuinely wants to give back and create the sort of welcoming and awesome environment that everyone wishes existed. I’ve never seen someone light up the way John did when he was showing me pictures of some of the previous years, and how excited the kids were to learn to play. This is the same attitude John brings to all the events he works: he genuinely wants to improve and provide a better experience for everyone involved. He seems to truly enjoy sharing the things he’s learned and helping others, and he seems to delight in the happiness of others.

Well, that just warms my heart. Bringing students together to have fun through playing Magic is wonderful, but Kevin’s description of John’s love for the game and his local community really puts it over the top. The fact that this is John’s attitude at all events is quite inspiring as well! I’ll be thinking about what Kevin wrote next time I judge – hopefully John’s example inspires you as much as it’s inspiring me!

Our next example is AJ Kerrigan’s (L2) recognition of Liz Richardson (L1):

My first large Competitive REL event as a judge was at an SCG Open, and while I had known you prior to that, getting to know you and speak to you at that event was a big part of the reason that I gained my love for judging, particularly at SCG Opens.

You are always a kind person, but are still very realistic and down to earth, especially when it comes to effective feedback and growth. The few times I have had a troublesome day (most recently at Eternal Weekend), talking to you really helped me recover and set myself up to do a better job on the next day, which is a resource at events that can never be discounted. You are always a shining face at the events, and I constantly look forward to seeing you!

The first thing that strikes me about this recognition is the fact that it covers Liz’s attitude and behavior across multiple events rather than a single incident, which is great. AJ describes Liz as someone who is inspiring to judges on their good days and bad days alike, and it’s important to note that those are two different skills that can be difficult to cultivate in tandem. AJ expanded on his recognition for us:

One of the first large events I ever judged at was an SCG Open in Baltimore. I had known Liz for a while as a player, but I never really had a personal interaction with her. Throughout that event, she gave me constant encouragement, telling me both that I was doing a great job as well as pointing out what I could be doing better to improve the event. Additionally, she gave me a lot of tips about what it means to be a judge, and what the different levels in the judge program really mean. I watched her make so many players happy through small changes in how she interacted with each person, and always manage to keep high energy levels throughout the day even when faced with stressful situations. I realized that there are so many different ways in which judges can help improve the experiences of both players and other judges, ultimately allowing them to enjoy the game more. As someone who wants people to love Magic so that it can be around for a long time, I learned from Liz that being an effective and positive judge is one of the best ways to do that.

Towards the end of this summer, I had worked a long string of large events in a row, culminating in my last event: Eternal Weekend in Philadelphia. From the very first judge meeting on Saturday, I could already tell that the stress and burnout were getting to me, and I was letting a lot of little things bother me. I had a rough day and in turn failed to provide many players with the quality experience that I normally like to build. That evening I saw Liz on the way back from dinner, and I talked with her about all the things that had been getting to me that day. She successfully talked me down and gave me some helpful advice on dealing with people who you don’t get along with, as well as some tips on providing players with a great experience despite the mood that you might be in. Ultimately, this helped me to come back to the event the next day and provide players with an experience much more in line with what they deserve, and I am very thankful to Liz for that.

Liz is clearly focused on improving the experiences of judges and players alike, and maintaining that kind of external focus during a single event, let alone across multiple events, can be very difficult. Motivating judges to help others love Magic and their tournament experiences doesn’t just help an individual event – it helps the community at large, and that’s certainly exemplary.

Finally, we have a recognition from Sophie Pagès (L3) to Laurent Gadchaux (L1):

Ton attitude volontaire et ton enthousiasme lors du GP Lille a été remarquée. Malgré le fait que ce soit ton premier GP et ton poste ce jour-là, tu as su trouver un angle d’attaque pour apporter une plus-value à ta présence, trouvant comment améliorer les 8-mens, tout en cherchant l’expérience de tes pairs pour progresser. Garde cette attitude qui est admirable lors de tes prochains événements !

For you English speakers out there, here’s my rough translation: [apologies to Sophie, Laurent, and the French language]

Your volunteerism and enthusiasm at GP Lille were great. Despite the fact that it was your first GP and the job you had that day, you found an angle of attack to add value to your position and looked ways to improve 8-player events, all while seeking out the experience of your peers to do so. Bring this admirable attitude to your upcoming events!

This recognition is a great reminder that everyone has something valuable to bring to events regardless of their experience level or their position in the event. Laurent didn’t just do his job at his first GP, he took things to the next level and exceeded expectations. Sophie had this to say about her recognition of Laurent:

When I met Laurent at GP Lille (his first GP), he seemed quite sad because of his tasks. He would be a runner at the ODE, and was afraid and worried because of the repetitiveness of the task and a little disappointed by this first GP.

I was concerned about him because I love GPs, and I really want judges to have fun and want to come again, and progress if they like judging as much as I do. So when I saw him later in the afternoon, I was quite surprised and happy : far from being shy since he was a young level 1, he helped his leader to improve the system used in ODE part of the tournament, finding ideas to reorganize the room and sharing them within his team. He used energy and enthusiasm to his work, and his dedication was so useful that players felt the improvement and judges had a really great time in his company.

I am strongly convinced that with that kind of mindset, judging would be better for every judge, especially the new ones on GP circuit, because it is often difficult to start in GPs, and having this positivity not only help you to have a really great day, but help others, players and judges to have one as well.

Laurent found a way to inspire himself despite having an assignment that might not seem exciting at first. He used that inspiration to improve his day, the days of his teammates, and the days of the players in the on demand events at GP Lille. The idea that someone can have that much of an impact at their first GP as a newer judge is a great reminder that what we do for players is a lot more important than the numbers next to our names.

I hope this has given you an idea of how to up your recognition game or inspired you to new heights as a judge. I know there have been some regional efforts to do features like this, and I hope those efforts continue! If you have feedback about the Exemplar program, we’d love to hear that as always – send us an email at ExemplarProgram@gmail.com. If you see a nomination that you’d like expanded on in a future edition of this feature, that email address is a great way to let us know as well. Now get back out there and keep being awesome!