Good to see you again, judges! We’ve asked some of the top Exemplar recipients “What are some of the best pieces of advice about judging you’ve been given?” Here’s the second part of their responses. The first part is here.
And a friendly reminder: Nominations for Wave 12 are due by February 13 7:59 a.m. GMT.
Australia and New Zealand
L2 Ryan Welson earned nominations for areas including a presentation on learning from failure and his mentorship in places with few judge resources.
His response: The first bit of advice would be Confidence, confidence, confidence! A lot of newer judges seek to a shadow for confirmation of a ruling they provide and I was guilty of that (and still am at times). When you make a ruling, you need to own it; you are either right or wrong. In the event that you’re wrong, then the players should appeal and you will be able to learn from it. Feel free to discuss your rulings with other judges after the call if you need more guidance.
The second is Don’t give up. After a rough period getting to L2, it has been the biggest sticking point. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again… and if that doesn’t work try some more! Make sure you have a great group of people surrounding you to help you and pick you up when you think there is no hope. After failing my L2 test twice I thought it was not for me and that I would have to give it up. My friends, the judging community helped me through it.
L2 Bruna Chiochetta earned nominations for areas including providing players with the best experience possible during a power outage at GP D.C. and for her performance as part of the stage team at GP Sao Paulo.
Her response: My favorite piece of judging-related advice I was given was to not to be too hard on myself when something goes wrong. It’s not easy when you give a wrong ruling or mess up something on an event, but making mistakes is important on the learning process. You can improve with your own mistakes, as long as you’re willing to consider the feedback you are giving and give a thought on what has gone wrong, how you could have made it better and how you’re gonna work on that in the future.
My second favorite advice was to not only get involved with judging events, but with projects and other community-related activities as well. Although experience on events is important, a big part of a judge’s experience is community work. While working on judge projects, for example, you get to know your peers better and learn a lot from them. Additionaly, you are growing as a judge and helping you community to grow as well.
Europe – North
L2 Patrik Fridland earned nominations for areas including organizing a charity event and calming stressed-out judges.
His response: I have two things that spring to mind when thinking about it.
Number 1: Smile, Try to smile when you see other staff on the floor. Some amazing things happen when you smile. When you smile, you will feel more happy. And you will help others smile and in turn help them help themself. And if it doesn’t feel natural at the start, it will feel natural after a while.
Number 2: But my best advice I have been giving is “Try.” When you try and fail, especially in a social interaction, you have at least tried. Human interaction is not always the easiest. Handling people that might be upset is often very hard. And the blunt truth is that even with vast knowledge and skills one will fail, from time to time. But as long as you try, you have always succeeded.
Italy and Malta
L3 Matteo Callegari earned nominations for areas including powering through a tough Friday shift at GP Sao Paulo and empowering a judge to decide if he could work as a team lead with a sprained ankle.
His response: The best way to progress in your judge career is to listen to the many advices your colleagues will constantly provide you. I did receive a lot of them in the last years but one specifically changed a lot the way I judge. “Let players have fun.”
People go to Magic events because they want to compete, yes, but they are going because they want to spend some quality time with their friends and with the game they love. Whenever you interact with players, do your best to solve their problems, to maintain the integrity of their game but above all to increase the level of fun they are having. Smile, be cheerful, and always double check everything is fine.
L2 Max Kahn earned nominations for areas including his enthusiasm while running mini-masters at GP Indy and his write-up about his working a series of events last summer.
His response: As someone who has been judging at Competitive REL since 15, I’ve had a lot of proving to do in the Judge Program. While proving that I was staffable to TOs and able to work with other judges have had their own challenges, one of the biggest concerns I encountered was proving that I was capable to players in my events. As such, some of the best pieces of judging advice that I’ve been given in my nearly five years in the program have all been about improving player confidence through body language.
Walking around the hall of an SCG Open just five days after turning 15 would be intimidating to anyone, but even more so to me as a judge on my first Competitive REL event. After getting a crash course in the basics of taking a judge call, Michael Arrowsmith shared with me some of his tips of approaching a table. When approaching a table, I kneel or squat by the table as to not intimidate the player who called judge. Then, if things get heated between the players, you always have the ability to stand up and take control of the situation. You can also use your arms or shoulders to physically divide the table if two players are arguing or talking over each other. By placing yourself closer to the middle, you make sure that anything that happens during this call is directed towards you and not towards the opponent.
Another note about body language that I would give younger judges looking to progress in the program would be to be confident. If you know the answer to a question, deliver it to the players in a very clear way that specifically pertains to the situation that was asked about. If you don’t know the answer, faking the confidence is better than saying, “I don’t know.” On a multi-judge event, you can always say that you’re going to confirm a ruling with another judge to get a second opinion. If you’re the only judge, using your phone to “look up Oracle text” even for a card you’ve memorized is an easy way to buy yourself more time to think of the answer or look it up. Remember that a majority of your power as judge is how you present yourself as a tournament official.
L3 Meg Baum earned nominations for areas including cheering up a young player who had lost his win-and-in at a Grand Prix and offering to help judges find resources while Judge Center was down.
Her response: The best advice I’ve ever gotten was “pick your battles.”
Lots of judges do things differently. That doesn’t make them wrong. If you disagree with what someone is doing, take a step back and really ask if they are hurting anything. If not, just drop it.
Another great bit of advice is “The master has failed more times than the student has ever tried.” Failure is part of growth. Own it.
L2 Brook Gardner-Durbin earned nominations for areas including mastering his End of Round lead at GP Phoenix and providing an investigations workshop at GP Indianapolis and GP D.C.
His response: I think one of the best pieces of advice I’ve received was in the form of a gentle chide from CJ Crooks.
Setting the stage: It was shortly after GP D.C., which was easily the low point of my judge career. I was supposed to be team leading deck checks but came in underprepared, and it showed. A short while later, CJ and I were both at GP Phoenix, and I sat down to chat with him about the next event – GP Atlanta, where CJ was writing the main event schedule. I had requested a second chance at being the Sunday TL for deckchecks at Atlanta to try to improve on my previous performance. When we had a moment free, I approached CJ about whether he had a chance to make the schedule yet, and whether he’d been able to grant my request.
CJ said he had put me on the team, but had made someone else the lead. We talked a bit more, and then he said (as near as I can remember): “I think anyone thinking they can only learn or contribute to the team when they’re the lead is maybe missing the point.”
There were several good things going on here that have stuck with me. First, CJ’s phrasing (“anyone” instead of “you”) let him convey his message without being overly confrontational — giving feedback in a way the recipient can receive it instead of feeling attacked. This was a small thing, but an important one.
Second, and far more importantly, CJ pointed out to me that it wasn’t just about me and my feelings as a judge — it was about the team, and the whole event. I should have been looking for ways to both learn and contribute from any role instead of feeling like I couldn’t learn about the lead role unless I was the designated lead.
This echoes something Joe Hughto recently said on his twitter account: “Wanna know a secret about leadership in the Judge Program? It’s not about you. It’s about the people you can support. It’s about the people you can help. It’s about the joy you can help others to have. It’s never about you.”
I don’t think it’s a coincidence both of these people have risen to the highest levels of the judge program and shared nearly identical pieces of wisdom.
L3 Maria Zuyeva earned nominations for areas including her performance as team lead at GP Phoenix and her arranging team-building activities like laser tag at GP D.C.
Her response: I was judging my second ever GP, and I was on Riki Hayashi’s team. I’ve heard he was great at giving feedback, so I asked him to write me a review. And he told me to watch him doing things as a TL, and then give feedback to him. About what he did, and more importantly, why he did it that way. Analyze his ways of doing things, and then share observations with him.
When we talked about this at the end of that day, he told me it was the best way to learn – to not only mimic best practices that you see, but to analyze and understand them. And chat about what you’ve seen with the person you were observing – you both can learn from this exercise.
I honestly believe this is the best way to learn how to judge, on different levels. Pick a person you think is an expert at what you want to learn, and observe them doing their job. You won’t be bothering them with tons of questions, and you’ll learn a lot!
L2 Eliana Rabinowitz earned nominations for areas including organizing a mock tournament and helping check every deck in the Top 8 of GP Minneapolis before the Top 8 was announced.
Her response: One of the most important pieces of advice I got when I started judging was to not be afraid of feedback. The Judge Program is really exceptional in that folks really do have each other’s best interests at heart when it comes to feedback.
It can be really hard to listen to when someone sees an area you need improvement in, but if you can put that aside and remember that the other person wants you to succeed, you can learn a lot and become a better judge.
Even more than just being receptive to feedback, you can seek out opportunities to learn. Every single other judge has something to teach you, whether they are a new L1 or a GP HJ. It won’t always be a profound policy insight, but everyone judges for a reason and has their own strengths, and it benefits you to find that strength and learn from it. It took some advice from my mentors in the Judge Program for me to understand that getting feedback is not a “bad grade.” It is a tool to help you improve.
Congratulations to all the above judges for their accomplishments and for sharing their knowledge! (Note: we may not have received all responses by publication. If we receive others, we’ll update this post.)
And as always, if there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!