Sunday Sides Team Lead
Sides Team: Marcos Sanchez, Andy Moore, Patrick Cobley, and John Alexander
This is my report of my first large logistical team lead at an event, managing the Sunday Side events including scheduled Challenges and On Demand Events on Day 2 of the SCG Tour in Indianapolis.
Before the event, Riki Hayashi reached out to me to both offer me the position of Sunday Sides Lead as well as discuss with me some logistical changes they were making to the Side Events team. He was very helpful knowing that this was my first Team Lead of this scale and wanted me to help him understand what a new person in this position needs to know so that SCG can make sure to help Side Events Team Leads prepare better in the future. He also let me know that there was going to be an increase in the number of people on this team for this event from the previously standard 3 people total to a grand total of 4.
After speaking with Riki, I reached out to Jonah Kellman who wrote an excellent Tournament Report of his experience that he had at SCG Philadelphia in the same position as Sunday Team Lead. We discussed some of the issues he encountered, and I formulated a plan based off of the things he would have done differently, and would use that as my starting point. However, with this kind of event, as I would soon learn, flexibility is EXTREMELY important.
On to the day of the event. We were in the Indianapolis Convention Center, which has a much longer and narrower hall than some might be used to. This presented a unique challenge, as each row of tables was significantly shorter than what you would experience in Sharonville’s convention center in Cincinnati or otherwise.
During my team meeting early in the day, we all got together and started discussing what our planned layout was. Based on information I’d heard from other people running these events, when space is a concern, it’s likely better to start adding the challenges 1 row of tables over from the end of the last Classic that fires, and had been advised to put ODEs starting further down from that so that they would eventually meet near the middle, so this was the plan we discussed and agreed upon. I had a wonderful team with me, and divided the responsibilities among them – Andy Moore and John Alexander would be the head judges of alternating Challenge events, while Patrick Cobley, would be the ODE lead. I would act in the role of Flex and Support, based on when each group would need me and covering while some went on breaks. It seemed like a great idea at the time, and seemed to cover a lot of the known issues that could arise. I felt like we had a great plan.
But alas, you know what they say about the best laid plans…
Breaks & The Morning
ODEs start firing right away, and I advised Patrick to start the ODEs at the far end of the hall hoping that they would meed the scheduled challenges somewhere in the middle. Meanwhile, my challenge HJs and myself helped out the Modern and Legacy Classics that were getting started early on. While covering the floor, I started to consider when my team would start going on breaks.
At this point, Andy had mentioned to me already he ran late and skipped breakfast, so he was going to get the first break at 12:30. Then I scheduled John and Patrick for breaks after that, and then at 3:30 I would take my break. I had set aside roughly a single round for them to leave, and set it up so that their breaks would start at the 30 minute mark of each hour, so they were able to fire each of their scheduled challenges and then I would cover and turn over their round.
Some of you more experienced with sides could likely see the problem that I was slowly building towards – and if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t worry, we’ll get there.
Things go awry
At this point we start taking our breaks, and we manage to turn over rounds relatively quickly – we were firing on all cylinders, and turning over rounds very well.
As I was about to take my break at about 3:30, I got word from Andy that they needed help. So I went and pulled a judge from the Modern event to help Andy and John with the turnovers, and went on my break.
Here’s where the best laid plans began to go very awry. While I was out on break, we ended up hitting the 4PM mark, where we had rounds ending or turning over for the 11AM Sealed, the 12PM Standard, the 1PM 2HG, the 2PM Modern, and the 3PM Legacy, all while sign ups finished to fire the 4PM Standard. All in all, it was the literal worst time that I could have taken a break at, even with that additional judge going to cover while I was on break.
During this massive turnover, our ODE guy was stranded on the other side of the room which, by the the time the 2nd challenge firing in the morning, I realized was a huge mistake as we were never actually going to end up meeting in the middle. This was a big problem because not only did I have to walk the entirety of the hall to communicate with my entire team, but he wasn’t there to help coverage for all these events while my 2 Challenge Head Judges were just spread way too thin trying to turn over rounds.
This was all capped off by a judge call going unanswered during this turnaround, after having called for a judge 3 times. At this point, another player shouted to the heavens for a judge and got everyone’s attention, but the damage was done. From a customer service standpoint, I had failed the players we were supposed to be helping.
After I get back I hear what had happened while I was gone, and ended up really frustrated with myself, if I’m being perfectly honest. I had put in a lot of work to make sure things like this didn’t happen, but I didn’t map out how much more coverage we would need during this peak turnover time, and didn’t accommodate properly for it. My mistake entirely. But at this point, we had to rally and finish the day strong.
So I double down my efforts to give my Challenge judges all the support they need. I owe a HUGE amount of thanks to everyone else on the team, Andy for holding it down and keeping calm while the storm hit him pretty hard, John for working like a madman to turn things over and keep things going with a positive attitude, and to Patrick for once again demonstrating how great he is on ODEs by living on an ODE island for most of the day and coming out the other side with a big smile and still happy with the work he’d done.
At this point we had weathered the worst, and I did what I should have done earlier and gave everyone else a 20 minute break in between round turnovers as we started to wind down for the evening. As the Classics and Open wound down and people started to leave, I let the Challenge HJs go while I covered the remaining rounds and Patrick finished up with the last couple of drafts that needed to finish up.
What I’ve Learned
In hindsight, as I wrote this report I cringed as I saw the mistakes I made that led to that one nightmare round, and how they could have easily been avoided. I ended up inadvertently handicapping my team by taking an expanded 4 person team and cutting it back down to a 3 person team for challenges which goes against why they gave me a 4th to begin with. Looking back I would have absolutely asked Patrick to start running ODEs among the challenges so that he could have been in our area to help cover when things got busy, and so we could have all worked more inclusively as a team.
Also, I would have completely changed how I managed my team’s breaks. What should have happened is if we were all together, we should have had judges break for 30 minutes from :15-:45 of each hour twice through the day. Doing so would have meant we always had a 3 person team available, and that we had all hands on deck during round turnovers to cover last minute calls and get people set up quickly and efficiently. This would have also prevented calls going unnoticed until someone had to scream bloody murder to get the attention of a judge.
Finally, I learned more than anything that flexibility is incredibly important. While it may have been slightly disruptive, once I noticed after the 2nd challenge firing that we needed to address how far apart ODEs were from Challenges, I should have done my best to help migrate ODEs back to where we all were as a course correct. Because ODEs don’t care about table numbers or anything, it’s something that could have gotten fixed over a couple of hours that would have prepared us for the nightmare round.
Wrap it up!
This experience has taught me some very valuable lessons, and reminded me that it’s not necessarily how well you do something, but what attitude you have as you’re doing it, and what you take away from an experience when things don’t go to plan.
Despite the logistical challenges, I found that I did manage to meet quite a few of my goals – round turnarounds in the challenges were kept short, and players in early challenges were able to jump in to a later challenge because of our turnarounds. The rough parts were great learning experiences though, and I made sure to go over how the day went with every person on the team before the end of the day.
I hope this helps someone about to take on their first Side Events team lead get an idea of what are some things you should expect, and some guidance as to how to react when things do go off the rails. This was to date my most important learning experience in the program, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to do it.