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Friday, January 22, 2016

Feedback as a Scorekeeper

Matt Braddock recently asked me (and Jennifer Dery) for some tips on giving feedback from the tournament role of the Scorekeeper, a role that Jenn and I have both filled at StarCityGames.com Opens and Grand Prix. Matt was primarily asking about SKing local tournaments like PPTQs, but I think the concepts translate well because the types of interactions that you have don't change that much in scale compared to other aspects of tournaments.

The most striking difference of the scorekeeping seat is that it is just that, a seat. Depending on the size of the tournament, you may be stuck in your chair for a majority of the round. Even if you aren't actively entering results, it behooves you to stay in the area to field questions like "How do I drop?" and those rare times that you do get away from the chair are better spent getting fresh air, coffee, or lunch.

This means that you are going to be limited in the interactions that you have with judges in the event. You are rarely going to have the opportunity to shadow someone on a judge call or appeal. When you think about it, this is the lifeblood of judging: the intersection of rules and policy knowledge with customer service skills. What can a Scorekeeper provide feedback on without these things?

One of the people that an SK can help the most is the Head Judge of the event. Your seat, while not ideally situated for floor interactions, is in a good place to see a lot of the things that the HJ does in the tournament, chief among them the HJ opening announcements. During these announcements, Floor Judges are often busy with other tasks like distributing player rewards, collecting decklists, or distributing match result slips (if the announcements happen at the beginning of Round 1). Unless there are some late registrants, the SK is generally free to listen to the announcements and provide some much needed feedback on them.

Some things to consider when listening to announcements:
* Are they too long? You can only hold players' attention for so long. Stick to the essentials. Consider what announcements could wait until later.
* The use of humor in announcements can be controversial. I personally like them. Whatever your preference, if it is used, that's ripe for commentary.
* Did the HJ sound good? This usually encompasses two things. First, do they have a good announcement voice? Generally, it is better to speak in the lower register when addressing a group, especially when not using a microphone. Second, speed is an important thing to monitor. People tend to talk faster when they are nervous, and this can be to the detriment of announcements.
* On a related note to sounding good, were they prepared?

If your event is using match result slips to record penalties that's a great route to interacting with judges about IPG policy. Especially as we transition into a new era of Hidden Card Error (HCE), we will all be exploring the nuances of this infraction. As the Scorekeeper for an event, you are the only person who sees all of the infractions that are issued, so you can spot trends and especially common mistakes that judges make. My scorekeeping and blogging associate Jennifer Dery makes it a habit of writing about such common issues here.

End of Round procedure is another point of interaction between judges and scorekeepers. Smaller tournaments might not have much interaction here besides a quick check like "Table 10 and 14 are the last two playing." At larger events, there is definitely a lot more going on, making it ideal fodder for discussion and feedback.

Those are just a few ways that you can think about feedback from the scorekeeper's seat. There are certainly other ways. For example, if you can negotiate one round to spend some time on the floor, it's a great mental break in addition to an opportunity to interact with judges in a more traditional manner. The point is that being a scorekeeper doesn't have to be the death knell to you giving feedback to others.

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