Scaling Feedback for New L1s

Erik AliffRemember how it felt when you first heard “Welcome to Level 1?”

I often ask judges why they joined the program, and as a result, I’ve heard a number of humorous and inspiring stories. No matter how different each judge’s reasons and motivations have been, stories about achieving Level 1 typically share a similar response to the achievement — a combination of personal pride and self-conscious uncertainty at what comes next.

This is why it is so important that we provide meaningful and appropriate feedback for newer L1s! In my last article I outlined a big picture look at what scaling reviews look like. I concluded by looking ahead at how we could break down this concept into manageable goals.

Today, I’d like to focus our attention on the beginning of the path — the time shortly after a judge becomes an L1, specifically two key questions.

The current requirements for becoming an L1 are as follows:

  • Judge two sanctioned events in the previous six months.
  • Brief interview and recommendation from a Level 2 or Level 3 judge.
  • A passing score on the Level 1 judge exam, incorporating JAR and subset of CR.
  • Agreement to be bound by Judge Code of Conduct.

These requirements are meant to be attainable to just about anyone who might be interested in becoming part of the Judge Program. But what happens next? I think that many L1s (and those providing feedback for L1s) can do a disservice to newer L1s by providing them with less than helpful feedback when there are incorrect expectations of new L1s.

In other words, some of the biggest feedback problems occur when we start expecting L1s to act like L2s instead of helping them develop into stronger L1s first. Recall the chart that we discussed last time:

New Regular Very Experienced
Level 1 Recently certified and inexperienced as an L1 Consistent local store experience Early large event opportunities/L2 aspirations
Level 2 Recently certified and inexperienced as an L2 Consistent large event experience Early large event leadership opportunities/L3 aspirations
Level 3 Recently certified and inexperienced as an L3  Consistent large event team-lead experience Large event head judge experience/Greater community leadership opportunities

Most L1s that you interact with have not yet fully developed their identity and foundation as a judge — they don’t have the experience needed to make that possible yet! If we don’t focus on the fundamentals while judges are L1s, we’ll later be working with deficient L2s who may be completely unaware of deficiencies they’ve carried since they first joined the program. In fairness, this problem isn’t a danger only at Level 1. One of the major themes I will be developing during this series is the problem of not calibrating our feedback correctly and often attempting to rush the feedback process.


So, if we are going to provide more useful feedback to newer L1s, what does it look like? Here are a few areas that your next review of a newer L1 should probably focus on:

1. Consistency of rulings with the JAR and the CR
Many L1s tend to work solo. As a result, they don’t always get feedback on the strength of their rules knowledge.

You can help not only by observing their rulings but also by preparing reasonable scenarios to gauge their understanding of the portions of the CR and JAR that they should be familiar with. Writing a review that references specific sections to improve upon gives them a point of reference for measuring their rules knowledge.

2. Customer service at the local store level
Customer service is secondary to rules knowledge. Ultimately, we cannot provide strong customer service to players and TOs without consistency in rulings. That said, judges fill a much broader role than rules enforcement only.

Take notice of an L1’s relationships within their local area. They likely interact with players that they know decently well. How does the L1 treat those players during a call? Does the L1 handle situations with tact and respect? Or does the L1 answer calls flippantly or condescendingly? Is the L1 doing their part to develop the tournament logistics skills needed to make sure that events are running smoothly?  L1s establish habits at this point — we want them to establish the right ones!

3. Response to feedback from outside sources
This isn’t just about how the L1 responds to your feedback, though that’s certainly important. How does the L1 handle feedback from players or TOs? This can be a tricky line to walk as we want judges who can demonstrate both confidence and teachability — sometimes at the same time. How does the L1 handle being questioned? How does the L1 handle being venerated by the local community? We need judges that can handle stress without letting their position of authority go to their heads.

While I know there are plenty of other skills that we can and should encourage L1s to develop, these that I’ve mentioned will help make sure that L1s are becoming strong L1s before they attempt to become L2s.

Join me next time as we provide feedback for judges who are ready to advance to Level 2!

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