A Coworker is a Coworker, No Matter The Level

Sara Smith

Sara Smith

In January, I judged at my first Grand Prix, a team sealed event in San Jose, California. I was told during the day that the idea of writing a tournament report or getting any special feedback from the day was useless, as I was on the Logistics team, and a lot of my time would be focused on those tasks. Instead of listening, I went out of my way to give and get feedback that day, and two situations in specific would underline the necessity of reaching out to and giving feedback to all judges of all levels.

In team sealed events, everything is bit wacky, specifically when it comes to typical problems like slow play. How much is too much collaboration between teammates before you need them to make a play? In one situation, I cautioned a team too harshly regarding making a decision at the end of extra turns, and confused them by interjecting when I was nervous and didn’t have control of the situation. I was given this feedback later by L3 Riki Hayashi, who was approached by one of the players. When I was given the feedback, he explained the situation to me, but also included information that I didn’t feel was necessary for improvement, and made me feel bad instead of being constructive. After mulling this over all day, I decided to give him feedback on his feedback. When I let him know my thoughts, he gave them serious consideration, and then gave me fuller reasoning for his earlier points. He didn’t look at me like I was funny, or tell me I was wrong. His further insights helped me to understand an aspect of floor judging I hadn’t before considered deeply.

Later, I dealt with a situation where I was unsure whether a backup was necessary, so I called Kevin Desprez, one of the red shirts (appeals judges) over to check it out. He ended up doing a partial backup that wasn’t supported by policy, in other words a deviation. While I was able to give an L3 feedback, an L5 seemed impossible. Upon discussing the situation with others, I was encouraged to ask about the backup. When I did, I was given a great look into the decision making process of a person who helps shape policy. While he conceded that the backup he made was a deviation, he gave me some of his thoughts on why he made the choices he did, and the conversation continued even a few weeks later at a different event. This discussion would not have been possible had I simply taken his actions as truth, and I appreciated the push from the other judges to continue the conversation.

At your first large event, feedback is something that you receive on a constant basis. Whether it’s from your team lead or a mentor, new judges take in a lot of ideas and thoughts from other judges. This in no way means that you shouldn’t be also giving feedback. It is important to start the feedback loop early in judging. So important, in fact, that it’s a requirement on the L2 checklist. Flexing that muscle and reviewing not only judges of your same level, but also higher level judges, is paramount to development as a judge. It’s easy to look at higher level judges as wisened, all knowing beings. However, you must also remember that we are a professional, growing organization. It doesn’t matter who you’re working with, or where in the process they are. Feedback can lead to corrective actions, but it can also lead to productive, thoughtful discussions about policy. So don’t be afraid to share your thoughts just because someone has a bigger number next to their name. Feedback is an opportunity to help everyone from red shirts to recently certified judges continue to learn.

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