Feedbag #5: TO Trouble

image.aspx_1_croppedHello and welcome to the fifth installment of the Feedbag! Last time, we covered how to have a conversation with someone who has provided feedback you disagree with.

Our question for this month comes to us from “PO’d by TO”:


I’d like to write a tournament report, but my experience with the TO was largely negative. The event was poorly planned and managed. What should I do?

To begin with, I’ll focus on the tournament report aspect. If the tournament organizer creates negative event experiences for judges and/or players, you’ll probably want to consider actions ranging from providing that feedback to the TO to declining to work for them in the future. More on this toward the end.

You should still write this tournament report. The fact that the event wasn’t run well from the TO side will probably create a very interesting report! However, the trick is writing it in such a way that you don’t look like you’re blasting the TO in public.

You might have heard the expression “praise in public, criticize in private” before, and it’s generally good advice to follow. Although the nature of a tournament report makes it public, there are still steps to take to be professional and also describe how this event went off the rails. Keep in mind that the event is all in the past now. It doesn’t matter who this TO is. It doesn’t matter whether the the TO had a bad day or they were replaced by their evil goateed twin. All that matters to you is sharing your experience for the benefit of others.

I see tournament reports as having two audiences:

1. Judges who can read your report and learn from your experiences.
2. The judge who will administer your L2 test or advocate for your L2 candidacy (if this report is written as part of the L2 advancement process).

You can still provide value to both these audiences even if the TO did a suboptimal job on their own event. Keep these people in mind and decide what parts of your experience are useful to them. Did you step up and get the event back on track despite the TO’s best (or worst) efforts? That’s great! Tell us how you did that! Did you realize things were going downhill, but fail to confront the TO about it? That’s okay, too — you’ve probably learned from that, and now your audience can, too.

Your tournament report should still have a lot of value despite, or maybe even because of, the TO’s behavior. You can still share that with us, just remember to be clinical — the lessons are what matter here, not the individual.

Okay, so now you’ve written a super-amazing tournament report that lets other judges benefit from your struggles. You’ve still got a TO on your hands who has produced a less-than-fully enjoyable event experience. Many of us get involved in judging because we’re invested in creating good player experiences, and part of that investment can be helping TOs improve from event to event so that players have a better time at the next one. A third potential audience for your tournament report is the TO! Sharing your report could be a way of clarifying the reasons the TO’s event faced challenges and ways to improve future event management.

If you’re interested in helping your TO improve, analyze the issues that occurred. How did you solve them? Why did they happen? Did the TO not know any better, going with a plan that was destined to fail? Did the TO ignore your input and insist on on something that didn’t make sense?

The TO is hiring you not only to answer rules questions and solve in-game problems but also to be their event expert. You’ve got credibility and leverage as a result. In my experience, many TOs will defer to you if you push back against a questionable decision because they trust you to handle their event completely. If the conversation isn’t that easy, treat them as you would another judge: provide critical feedback. Highlight what went wrong, why it impacts the event, and what the TO can do to correct this next time.

Thanks to “PO’d by TO” for this month’s question!

If you’d like to submit a question to the Feedbag, either using your own name or by combining a pronoun and a color, please contact me via JudgeApps.

2 thoughts on “Feedbag #5: TO Trouble

  1. I think there’s an audience you’re missing for tournament reports: other judges who will work with you in the future, and want to get an idea of what kind of judge you are.

    If I’m working with a judge for the first time, or staffing an event, I’ll read judges’ tournament reports to see if they’re interested in logistics problems, tricky rules interactions, or just doing the minimum necessary to fulfill a requirement. And reading a poor tournament report by a judge (especially one submitted in the last week of December!) sets me up for low expectations of that judge. In contrast, reading a great tournament report makes me more likely to be excited to work with a judge.

    1. This is a great comment, and something I didn’t think of when writing the article despite having done this exact thing in the past.

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