Well, here goes nothing! In this case, nothing = my second attempt at a tournament report. 🙂
This is long. There are takeaway points at the bottom for those who enjoy saying ‘tl;dr’.
I started the day off strong. I had five different alarm clocks primed for 6:00am, so that I could make it out the door before 7 and get to the venue by 8. I live about an hour away from the venue and I was not going to be late for any reason. This was because it was my first time team-leading and I was looking to get my recommendation. (on the way to L3!)
Before this GP, I sat down and considered my strengths and my weaknesses to set goals for the weekend. I’ve decided that one of my greatest strengths is my positive attitude and one of my weaknesses is delegating work (as opposed to doing it myself). My goals for the weekend were to use my positive attitude to improve the experience of everyone I interacted with, address my weakness at delegating work by stepping back into a more leadership and managerial-oriented role, and of course, get my GP Day 2 Team Lead Recommendation.
I decided to start things off right and picked up a bunch of chocolate covered croissants on the way. Many of the judges weren’t used to Hong Kong breakfasts, and even if they were, I didn’t think anyone would mind a snack. Doing something that a person isn’t expecting is one of the best ways to ensure that they have a positive experience. Good customer service fits nicely into the slot in someone’s mind of ‘what they’re expecting’ while exceptional customer service sticks out and reminds them of the quality of the MTG community. (Think about picking up the pack wrappers after a draft vs. spotting when a player is going to sideboard into a completely different deck and grabbing a handful of the requisite lands. Both of these are great things to do while one of these the player expects and doesn’t really think about as you do it while the other can really stand out and make it so the player has a very positive tournament)
Anyway…. I digress.
I got to the venue at 7:45 and changed into my Judge gear. I went and sat down with the Head Judge Riccardo Tessitori , his second-in-command John Alderfer, and Raymond Fong, the other main event team lead. Raymond and I had met at the end of our shifts on Saturday to discuss and divvy up responsibilities and so our meeting basically involved the two of us briefing Riccardo and John about what we had discussed and letting him know that we were on top of things.
Raymond’s team would handle logistics and paper while my team would handle deckchecks and End of Round procedure. Other various responsibilities were also split between us.
My all-star team was comprised of Jernej Lipovec, Dong Sha, Wella Anne Ladera, and Zhu Junyue. After meeting with Raymond and Riccardo, I went over and had a team meeting with them to start off the day. Everyone introduced themselves and I outlined our team’s responsibilities and my plan for meeting those responsibilities. I then randomly paired the other four members of the team up. Jernej and Zhu were paired and Sha Sha and Wella were a pair. Pairs were responsible for knowing where their partner was at all times, getting to know their partner, discussing any interesting judge calls with their partner, and helping their partner improve. (during our introductions, each person outlined an area that they wanted to improve during the day). To facilitate this, I did my best to check in with an individual’s partner instead of that person. For example, instead of asking Jernej how his day was going, I asked Jernej how Zhu’s day was going (and vice versa). If they didn’t have a good answer, I encouraged them to work together more to be able to answer such questions going forward.
All in all, the team did a great job interacting with their partners and helping them improve. This might have been lucky because both Jernej and Wella were looking to improve their mentorship skills and both Zhu and Sha Sha were relatively less experienced (this was Sha Sha’s first GP!). Partnership went even further: I directed pairs to write a review for their partner at the end of the tournament (and an additional one for me if they felt like going above and beyond!). Because we were the deck check team, being in pairs made it easy to complete deck checks. Additionally, I told my team that they didn’t need to come to me and ask me to go to the toilet or to go and get water or something. As long as their partner knew where they were, I was okay with that (Woo delegation!).
IMPROVEMENT POINT: I also introduced the team to a game that I learned at GP Vancouver called ‘Do you have the token?’. The game is great and a lot of fun. The day starts with one person randomly and secretly having a special token. Then everyone participates, asking ‘do you have the token?’. If you are asked for the token, you respond with a rules or policy question. If the person gets it right, you either give them the token or you say ‘gotcha! i didn’t have the token!’ or something. The person who ends the day with the token wins. The game is another great way to improve the interaction between team members, HOWEVER, I don’t think I should have introduced the game this weekend because I had just introduced them to the partner set up, giving them a bunch of rules to follow and requiring them to interact with their teammates already. Throwing the token game at them ON TOP of their partners was too much and the team mostly forgot about it. I could have reminded people about it more than I did but I preferred people to focus on their pair.
Each pair was responsible for a beginning of round deck check and a mid-round deck check. Once they completed these two deck checks, we went and covered the floor alongside Raymond’s team until End of Round.
Ahh End of Round…
Having done End of Round procedure a couple of times, (working with Sashi C Loco, Riccardo Tessitori and Christian Gawrilowicz) I came to Nico Glik (the score keeper) and asked him for the outstanding tables with approximately 14-15 minutes left in the round. He told me that there are three types of team leads, the type that don’t complete their tasks, the type that do the minimum required, and the type that go above and beyond. He told me that the team leads who come up and simply ask for the outstanding tables fall into that middle camp, doing the minimum required, and he encouraged me to handle the outstanding tables myself, because the tournament was small (55 tables for day 2), to set myself apart and ensure that I get my team lead recommendation. I had gone into the tournament thinking that asking for the outstanding tables from the scorekeeper is what great team leads did and I’m very thankful for Niko believing in me and pushing me to greater accomplishments. I went to my team and asked them to go out and check how many outstanding tables there were (trying to delegate!) but I believe this was a pretty big mistake. I then waited near the main stage for my team to return but they didn’t, some of them got caught in judge calls, others sat down at matches to watch them finish up, and others started collecting slips. Then Niko asked me if I knew how many matches were still outstanding and I had no clue. I went out and handled the remaining matches and thankfully there were no issues, allowing me to tackle the issue in the next round.
Wella had been standing by listening to the conversation and I wanted to exhibit that I was competent and sure of what I was doing, even when Nico’s advice was radically changing my understanding of the End of Round procedure. Wella had told me that she had a lot of experience doing End of Round and had requested to be put on my team so that she could work on End of Round and practice it. She asked me if I wanted advice, and I told her I wanted to think about how I was going to handle End of Round for a few minutes and that I would get back to her.
During round 2, after we had completed our deck checks and my team had gone out to floor judge. Nico and I sat down and talked about our earlier conversation. I hadn’t received his advice very well the first time. (and I’m not sure I received his advice well the second time either). In our original conversation, I thought he was telling me that I was doing a poor job with End of Round when in fact he was simply trying to encourage me to do better than the average. After out sit-down talk, I had a much better understanding of what was expected of me. I went to Wella and told her that I would love it if she could go with Sha Sha around the 12 minute mark and tally up which tables were still outstanding and come to me around the 10 minute mark and relay the information. This way, she could mentor Sha Sha as well as teach me her methods. Unfortunately, I didn’t communicate this clearly.
In round 2, at around the 8 minute mark, I went looking for Wella, because she hadn’t come to find me at 10 minutes. I found her near the main stage with a print-out of the outstanding tables from Nico, doing End of Round procedure as normal. I let her handle the rest of the End of Round procedure that round because trying to change things then was unnecessary and likely to cause delays. After the round, we talked and I found that she had forgot to come to me at 10 minutes. I talked to her about my discussion with Nico and we reworked responsibilities for End of Round. For the remaining rounds, she came to me with outstanding tables around 10 minutes, but I also went out and found the outstanding tables myself because often, during the middle rounds with parts of our team and Raymond’s team missing for lunch breaks, there was not enough judges for me to be able to stay off the floor and her to simply leave and report to me. This method worked well, with me having a clear understanding about the remaining tables and handling things for Niko without him having to do extra work.
The rest of the day went by smoothly. At the end of the swiss rounds, I had a very brief meeting with the team to talk about how everyone’s partners’ day had gone. I gave out the prize to our token game to Sha Sha (as she was the only one who had remembered the game and had gotten my question correct) and received some more feedback from the team. All in all, the day went smoothly and I felt like my team operated well.
Late in the day, Riccardo came and asked me if I would be interested in participating in and/or leading the top 8. I jumped at the opportunity to lead it and things went on from there. I spoke with the Tournament Organiser during the last round and figured out how he wanted things set up. I then made sure my team and Raymond’s team knew that they would need to help move some things around before going off-shift.
The entire transition went really smoothly. Tables, chairs, and banners were all moved and a few judges stayed behind to assist with the top 8. Nicola DiPasquale offered some great advice during this portion because he had done top 8 before and knew that I was new to it. There was one part that I could have improved on: after the draft, I let all of the top 8 players go to their deckbuilding seats instead of doing it one or two at a time, so that they could be kept apart from spectators and the other players.
The top 8 all went very smoothly with Jernej, Nicola, Alex Yeung, and John Alderfer capably handling most of the table watching. During the first round of the top 8, I went and had a quick debrief with Riccardo. He told me that he was recommending me as a team lead (to my elation). The rest of the tournament went very smoothly.
1. I should communicate my instructions clearly to my team members to prevent miscommunication (like during the End of Round procedures)
2. Feedback is very valuable but it has a certain time and place. If the feedback is crucial to the operation of the tournament, receive it or give it then. Otherwise, wait until the end of the tournament. (Thanks to Wearn Chong for this!) Jernej gave me tons of invaluable feedback that really helped me a lot, but some of it could have waited until the end of the day. Due to the fact we discussed it during my shift, I overanalysed it (because I had a lot on my mind) and tried to pre-emptively fix things while also managing my basic responsibilities. I’m fortunate that I didn’t over extend by trying to fix minutiae and mess something big up.
3. Don’t overload the team. I think the pair/partner system is a great setup and I’d highly recommend it to anyone leading a team. The token game is also good (and doesn’t have to be limited to one team). However, throwing a lot of new information at people at once makes it more difficult for any of it to stick. Feel free to do either of these things (and both if you’ve introduced them previously) but don’t try to introduce too many new things at once, as it lessens the efficacy of your efforts.
4. Take more small breaks. I had brought up that I wanted each pair to manage their own bathroom and water breaks but I think I should have taken more opportunities to just say ‘you two! go take a ten minute break’. Not giving breaks leads to exhaustion in the team. I said at the beginning that I wanted to delegate and not do things all by myself. That also involves putting myself in my team members’ shoes. Some of them have different needs. I, for one, am incorrigible about taking breaks. I rarely take any and have skipped lunch before. I shouldn’t expect my team members to do the same and should be conscious of their needs.