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Friday, June 20, 2014

Head Judging an SCG Open: Rocks and Reaches

I'm going to be the Head Judge (HJ) of the StarCityGames.com Portland Standard Open on June 28th (next Saturday as of me typing this), and I thought it might be useful for some people to understand some of the planning that goes on behind the scenes, especially for those judges who may have an upcoming HJship.

When you are the HJ of a tournament of unusual size, you will have enough judges on your staff such that it is useful to organize them into some kind of hierarchy. This is commonly known as the Teams structure. The Teams are named after the tasks they perform rather than historical warrior groups, because it is easier to understand what the Deck Checks Team is supposed to be doing during the day compared to the Vikings Team (punting, no doubt).

Each Team has a Team Lead (TL), basically a middle management position in the tournament structure. TLs get instructions form the Head Judge, pass them along to their Team Members, and delegate the Team's assignments. They will report back to the HJ on the status of the tasks and the performance of judges on their team.

So who do you make your TLs? I have a convention that I've been calling "Rocks and Reaches" which caught on with the SCG folks. The idea is that some TLs are Rocks, as in solid as a. (Cue Bob Seger.) These are people who have done it before, done it often, and could probably "lead a team in their sleep." For an SCG Open, these are your L3s and strongest L2s. The Reaches are people you aren't sure about, but you're hopeful that they will do a good job because they have a solid track record. They have potential, but not a lot of experience.

When putting together my Team Leads, I make sure to balance the number of Rocks and Reaches that I have. If I have 4 Teams, I go for a 2-2 split. This way, I will have 2 Teams that I can ignore, trusting the Rocks to do their job and do it well. That gives me more bandwidth to focus on the Reaches in order to monitor their performance. If they need help, I am ready to step in and offer it. And regardless of whether they stumble or shine, I have lots of observations from which I can give quality feedback and write a review on their performance.

If you have all Rocks at Team Leads, there's no doubt that your event will run well, but you're sacrificing some development opportunities there. If you have all Reaches, there is a possibility that multiple things will blow up in your face. Day 1 of GPs use all L3 TLs because you want all Rocks on such a large event, because even with all Rocks, stuff will go wrong. On Day 2 of GPs, the Head Judge tends to go with the half-and-half approach, giving L2s the opportunity to shine and get their Team Lead Recommendation that they need to advance to L3.

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