Dealing With Failures, Part One

While very gratifying, the job of a judge isn’t always easy: along with hours of study and preparation, we also have numerous moments where we have to make difficult decisions during tournaments. As prepared as we may be, it’s difficult to anticipate every situation, and as a result, we make mistakes; mistakes that oftentimes cause disappointment for a player, fellow judge, or even accidentally interrupt the flow of the whole tournament.


These kinds of situations have a tendency to “paralyze” the person that commits the error. More than once, I have seen colleagues of mine get stunned by an error, to the point that they are unable to continue with the same rhythm for the rest of the day. To be frank, the reason that inspired me to write this article was one of these moments of my own.

During a recent PPTQ/WMCQ weekend, I was working for a new store for the first time. On this occasion, I was promoted to Head Judge for the PPTQ as well as one of the Team Leads for the WMCQ. Without going into specifics, I remember that I was abrasive with each of my team members; arguing with my colleague on the floor, raising my voice to a colleague over a disagreement about a ruling, even to the point of cursing at a member of my team over the deck check method he was using. Today, I have the benefit of hindsight to realize that I made the weekend worse for my teammates and for the Judge family. I may have even made an impact on the players, with or without noticing.

With all this in mind, I have put together a series of points that I believe can help everyone understand and overcome these problems. While they may seem like simple things, even occasionally obvious, every piece of knowledge is a tool in the arsenal we use to return to normal procedures. It’s important to know to take a moment to compose yourself, but knowing how to recuperate properly is key to making that process efficient.

Everyone fails

Whether you have been certified for a month or for years, we can, and probably will at some point make mistakes. Study and experience help quite a bit to ensure that this doesn’t happen, but because we are human, we are fated to fail every now and again.

If we look hard enough, it’s not hard to find stories from players about judges’ mistakes. Scott Marshall, one of the longest-standing and most experienced Level 3 judges in the program (and Level 5 before the level redefinitions), made a post on the Official Judge blog, asking a professional player to forgive a mistake he’d made during a tournament. You can read that article here.

By accepting this condition, we prevent failure from putting a  heavy tax on us, allowing us a better “comeback”.

Many times, failure is inevitable

It’s extremely unlikely that misfortunes in a judge’s personal life would not affect their performance at an event. Personal problems, physical or psychological pains, family tragedies; there are innumerable things that can affect us.

When we leave our comfort zone, the chance that we’ll commit an error is much higher. The most important thing to remember is that a failure is nonetheless a step in the direction of success.

But what exactly is a comfort zone? Well, all of us are accustomed to a particular kind of tournament in our local area. After a time, by mastering that the oversight of that type of tournament, we become complacent, assuming that each event will run correctly and calmly. Security without experiencing the various possibilities of an event generates a comfort zone. We are very good within it, but we don’t know how to deal with unexpected things we’ve never seen before.

Failure always has an immediate negative impact

While I don’t much like to speak in absolutes, this is a point to which I’ve never seen an exception. This could be when we mess up a ruling, give incorrect information to a player, or leave a table for an appeal and forget which table we were helping. After a slip-up, we feel the impact, primarily if we affect the comfort of a player or someone on our team. The failure brings inhibition with it – Once insecure, a step outside one’s comfort zone is considerably riskier, because of the fear of another misstep.

Clearly, these are only some of the things that happen during a slip-up. By remembering these points, we can accept them and, consequently, control their results.

To accept a failure is a huge step. However, to learn from that, to add to our range of experience and avoid future failures, we need to know how to face and overcome the negative impact of that failure. At large events, like RPTQs, WMCQs (now Nationals), and Grands Prix, the judge team works between 8 and 10 hours in a day, sometimes more. Since it’s extremely improbable that a mishap would happen exclusively at the end of the day, we need to be prepared to compose ourselves and continue offering our best to the community. With this in mind, I have put together processes that I believe are beneficial for this process of recuperating from and overcoming failure.

Now, hopefully, we understand more about failures and their impact. Next time, we’ll cover a few ways how we can tame such failure and the emotional and practical impact of it so that we can continue to provide excellent work!

Translated from Portuguese by Riva Arecol

Part Two can be found here.

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