Feedbag #2: Tips for New Judges

image.aspx_1_croppedHello and welcome to the second, extremely timely edition of The Feedback Loop’s monthly Feedbag feature!

Last time, we covered the topic of self-reviews.
This month’s question comes to us from a newer judge:

I’m a fairly new L1, so when I work at events, I know I’m the least experienced judge on staff. As a result, I’m not sure how to offer feedback to more experienced judges. What kinds of things should I try to observe and record as a new judge/reviewer?

Reviewing as a newer judge can be intimidating. Trying to come up with something constructive to offer to a more experienced judge can be tough. It’s easy to feel like you have nothing to offer your peers — but note that I’m using the word “peers” here.

Your inexperience doesn’t invalidate your opinions.

As a newer judge working with more experienced judges, it’s likely that part of the responsibilities of the experienced judges on staff will be helping to train you. You may not be able to offer hard feedback such as “you can improve logistics task X by doing Y,” but you can absolutely evaluate other judges on how effective their mentorship is.

An interesting thing about the judge program is that a lot of the best practices are not codified in policy anywhere; instead, institutional knowledge is spread by word of mouth and direct mentorship. This means that it can be easy for an experienced judge to assume that the rest of the judges on staff know a particular aspect of tournament best practices. And the inexperienced judge, sensing the assumption that everybody knows this particular piece of information, might feel too embarrassed to ask for the information.

Do you work with people whose assumptions hindered the learning process? Let them know so they can slow down and explain more effectively in the future. Did you work with a judge who posed policy questions in a way that didn’t mesh with your learning style? Explain your perspective to improve the quality of communication for the future. Or maybe you worked with a judge who was really able to break down Hidden Card Error in a way that helped you finally understand it. Tell them! It’s really important to let people know what they’re doing well, so they will continue doing it.

Simply observing your fellow judges can teach you things, too. Watching an experienced judge walk through a call that might seem intimidating to you but is routine to them can help you develop some best practices if you keep your eyes and ears open.

I can share an anecdote from my own judging past, when my eyes were brighter and my tail was bushier. I was L2 at the time, working a PTQ along with an L3 head judge and an L1 floor judge. At one point, a player at a table got the head judge’s attention to express concern about slow play. The head judge asked my fellow floor judge to keep an eye on the table but didn’t explain why. Recognizing that the L1 floor judge had not yet encountered a good explanation of slow play, I chatted with him to clarify some pointers for watching the match.

I spoke with the head judge afterward to let him know about that situation, recommending that he make sure his less experienced floor judges understood his instructions in the future. But I also learned a lot that day by observing him — the way that the head judge handled an Outside Assistance situation developed my understanding both of the Outside Assistance policy and of conflict resolution. I made sure to include that in the review, too.

One final note: While it’s always a good practice to discuss feedback with your recipient before submitting it as a review, you may find verbal feedback to be particularly valuable when you review a more experienced judge. Your discussion of your feedback can be a learning opportunity on its own, and you may find that a decision that seemed confusing actually had some good reasoning behind it.

Thanks to our anonymous contributor for submitting this great question. If you’d like to see your question in the next edition of Feedbag, please contact me via Judge Apps.

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