Nomination Guidelines

Written by Bryan Prillaman
Level 3, United States, Florida

Hello all,

In today’s blog we are going to talk about the guidelines the Exemplar team uses to evaluate a nomination.

Before we get started, I want to explain why we are going into more detail. The primary goal is to let people know what we are looking for. If you know what’s expected, you will use that information when you write a nomination, and the result will be more impacting nominations.

The secondary goal is to help judges understand why their nomination might be deferred. As mentioned in the last blog post a deferred nomination will not be included in the wave it was submitted in, instead the author will get an additional slot next wave where they can attempt to re-submit the nomination (or use it on someone else!). However, “trying again” doesn’t do much good if you don’t understand why your nomination was deferred in the first place. That’s where this blog post will help.

Nomination Guidelines

When we evaluate a nomination we look at 4 core criteria:

  •         How specific the nomination is;
  •         How desirable/praiseworthy the action/behavior being recognized is;
  •         How relevant the action/behavior is;
  •          Representation


We want people to be able to read the nomination and pick out what the judge did that is worth repeating. We want judges to read these nominations and say “That is a behavior I want to copy”. This is one of the reasons nominations are public. Being vague doesn’t accomplish this goal.

Specific nominations also provide positive reinforcement. If the nomination is too vague, then the recipient doesn’t know what they did other than just be themselves. Nominations that are specific tend to be more meaningful and have a lasting impact.

Finally, it helps the Exemplar team evaluate the other criteria. If we don’t understand what the person did, we can’t evaluate the other criteria.

One way we tell if a nomination is too vague is to see how many questions the reader has after reading it. If you read a nomination and come away with questions like “what did the nominee do?” we know we have a potentially problematic nomination. Let’s look at this nomination below, for instance:

“This is in recognition of the effort you’ve been putting in recently, stepping up your presence in the community. Keep up the good work!”

First, we ignore the “Keep up the good work” sentence; it doesn’t actually tell us anything. The rest of the nomination is for “effort in stepping up” their presence in the community. But what kind of presence? They put effort into something. What sort of effort? Were they just at the local store more, or were they actually driving change in some manner? What did they do? As you can see, that nomination leaves the reader with more questions than answers.

A good nomination gives specifics.

“A few months ago Jim had a real confidence problem. His announcements at FNM were quiet and players talked over him. He was also fairly conflict averse, but he realized the only way to fix the issue was to talk to the unruly players, and get them to realize their impact on the event. He simultaneously began practicing his HJ announcements and they have become louder and more confident. This has directly translated into Jim having more respect at his events and in the eyes of the community.”

These two nominations are both about the same nominee, for the same behavior. In the first nomination, the reader has no idea what efforts had been put forth and see what is Jim did. In the second nomination, we know exactly what Jim’s problems were and how he was able to overcome them. The second nomination gives a path of improvement to any judge who might have encountered similar problems and Jim can proudly see that others are noticing his efforts.


The action/behavior here is something that we want to encourage others to be doing. If a judge is not exhibiting this behavior, then starting to do this would be considered a “good thing”. There is necessarily a value judgment here, but it is one we need to make. These actions or behaviors are either uncommon or above expectations for a judge. Level can play a part in this, but shouldn’t be too heavily factored in. This includes model behaviors in all roles of judging, either at events or outside of them and can include project work or taking on additional responsibilities in the judge program.

A good nomination is for something that can be held up publicly as an example to all judges as something to strive towards. Typically there is an attitude that drove the actions in addition to the actions themselves.

When Barabas began judging at a local game store, I was worried. It had a reputation for having a lot of unpleasant characters. But he had decided that changing this store was going to be his next challenge. Over the course of several months, Barabas slowly was able to alter the course of the store. By focusing on precision education over heavy handed punishment, Barabas was able to make the store a welcoming location for all players, without losing any of the previous customers.

It should be easy to see why this behavior is desirable.  Not only did Barabas change his stores environment, he did it in the right way.

Unacceptable nominations are nominations for things that aren’t praiseworthy, or in line with the baseline expectations of a Judge.

Congratulations on passing your L1 test, you studied and prepared and passed with flying colors. I look forward to seeing what you can do in the future.

This nomination is for passing the Level 1 exam. This is something that every single certified judge has accomplished, and most had to study to pass it. The bar for Exemplary behavior must be higher than the default expectation or requirement.

If the judgeapps forum is any hint, this next bit is going to be a bit contentious. Here are other things that we don’t consider desirable/praiseworthy for the purpose of Exemplar:

  • Working for Free/Giving up comp – Non-charity work for free is not something we can hold up as behavior for judges to emulate. We don’t want judges to feel that the path to exemplar nominations is to give their efforts away. Exemplar is not an alternate means to compensate judges when TOs won’t. There are judges in the program that feel pressured by TOs and other judges to work for free, the Exemplar program is not going to add to that pressure.
  • Working Events – Judges judge. It’s what we do. Working a lot of events, in itself, is neither something to encourage or discourage. We want to recognize excellence, and working a lot of events translates into a lot of opportunities for excellence, but not excellence itself.

Often these items get combined into one nomination:

Jacey works so many events, I don’t know how the region would survive without her. She sacrifices so many weekends and drives long hours late at night for nearly no compensation. Her dedication to the community is exemplary.

I feel bad deferring nominations like this. Jacey is in a bad situation and it’s tempting to nominate her for suffering through it, because you feel bad for her, but that’s not appropriate for Exemplar. Hopefully by deferring the nomination, next wave you can write a nomination like this:

Jacey was the only L2 in a 2 hour radius of Townsville, and overworked with local PPTQs. However she discussed with the TOs how she was getting burnt out, and worked out a plan with them to allow L1s on staff for the purpose of training. Jacey worked with two candidates over several events and now Townsville has two more L2s. Additionally she had a productive conversation with one of the more frugal TOs in the area and worked out an agreement where judges on staff are compensated appropriately.

In this case, we aren’t nominating Jacey for suffering through a bad situation, we are recognizing her for identifying a problem and taking steps to solve it.


The nomination must be relevant to the Judge Program. This means that the actions or behaviors add value to judges or the judge program directly. While there is conceptually some overlap between relevant and desirable/praiseworthy, we are looking for nominations that are both. A relevant act can be summed up as: A judge performing an action or exhibiting a behavior, while doing things judges do, which impacts other judges or the judge program in a positive fashion.

A good nomination here, not only tells me what the action was, but elaborates on how the action/behavior added value to the judge program or to a judge in relation to the Judge Program.

Eric started to gather all common tournament best practices reported in tournament reports posted on Judge Apps and combined them into a blog/wiki. It’s super awesome that these instructions keep other judges from having to reinvent the wheel at their local events.

Suzette has been an amazing influence on me. She has spent a great deal of time discussing with me, not just rules but tournament operations, and program construction. If I ever ask her a question that she doesn’t know the answer to, she goes and gets the answer. She doesn’t make me feel stupid when I ask questions, and explains things until I understand.

An unacceptable nomination is when the only relevance to the judge or the judge program is that the person involved is a judge. Nominations for tournament organizers for TO actions also fall into this category as do all nominations for ‘services’ a judge would normally pay for. If the nomination contains both relevant and not relevant components, we make a determination as to which element has the greater focus, and treat it accordingly.

TO nominations are tricky; lot of TOs are also judges, so there is a lot of overlap, but the Exemplar Program is about recognizing judges for judge things. A nomination for a TO staffing judges, or having a clean store, or working with judges on a PPTQ schedule is a “TO thing” not a “judge thing”.

Another contentious item we consider unacceptable is nominations for “services”. By this I mean things like “Thanks for letting me sleep on your floor” or “You picked me up from the airport” or “You showed me around the city”. We don’t allow exemplar nominations for saving you money. If you want to thank them, then you can buy them lunch. Friends doing things for friends because they are friends just part of being a person.

The day my dog died, you drove 2 hours to show up on my doorstep with a bottle of whiskey. This shows a compassion and friendship that is deeply meaningful to me.

Thanks for picking us up from the airport. You saved us time and money on our limited GP travel budget. Your hospitality and friendship are huge assets to the program.


This category is more of a meta category that is concerned less with what the judge being nominated did, but rather how the author is expressing it. Nominations are public and representative of us as a group. We want the nomination to be presentable.

A nomination is acceptable if it contains minor grammatical errors. Some fun is allowed, but not to the point of detracting from the nomination itself. Basically, as long as it avoids items on the unacceptable list, the nominations representation is fine.

An unacceptable nomination contains one or more of the following :

  • Excessive in-jokes;
  • Insults or divisive topics;
  • Profanity or slurs;
  • Excessive copy/paste of nominations within the wave or across waves.


Hopefully this article helped solidify what we are looking for in good nominations and some areas to avoid. The team is currently finalizing the results of the wave. Nominations will be out soon. I hope you all are looking as forward to reading them, as I am looking forward to releasing them.