Tuesday, December 8, 2015

2015 Mid-Atlantic Judge Conference: Teams and Leading Them by Ryan Stapleton

One thing you learn when you're scorekeeping and judging is that there are about a dozen different ways to do things, and none of them are wrong. From structuring folders for backups to devising a seating plan for on-demand events, there are a variety of effective, streamlined strategies, and some of them work better for different people.

Me? I like to use Dropbox more than I should because its ability to restore previous versions of files has saved me in the past. Your Grand Prix Head Judge? They might want end-of-round procedures managed by the floor team, or they might have a dedicated team for it.

Ryan Stapleton is a Level 3 Judge from Northern Virginia, and his seminar from the judge conference in September was all about Grand Prix teams. He covered a lot of information, including:

  • Common teams and the things they're responsible for
  • Variations on team structures
  • How these structures apply to smaller and larger events

Whether you're gearing up to judge your first Grand Prix or trying to decide how to organize the staff for your large local event, understanding the nuances of these different structures will provide some insight into tournament operations that you might find helpful.

Ryan started his seminar by asking a question: What teams are there?

Here are my notes on the answers and the discussion that followed, in mind map form:

(View larger in Google Docs)

But this mind map is just a start. It's a rough tree of concepts, things that need to be done at large events and just one of the ways that workload can be divided up.

Common Structure Variations

Understanding your team's role is only part of the picture: Understanding how that role contributes to a smooth event is also important, and to do that, you first need to figure out what all of the other teams are doing. We talked quite a bit about the different ways these tasks and responsibilities could be divided up at events.

Deck checks tends to always be its own team. Unless your event is small enough that you're not using formal teams, there's a dedicated group of judges handling decklists and performing deck checks. Beyond this point, things become *very* flexible.

For example, the breaks and floor teams are often combined, and end-of-round procedure is often assigned to one of those teams, or maybe to paper.

There are pros and cons to every choice. Let's look at the delegation of end-of-round (EOR) procedure. Judges responsible for this task get a list of outstanding matches from the scorekeeper near the end of each round, and they use that list to make sure that those matches are accounted for and have whatever assistance they need to finish the round.

Some Head Judges assign EOR duties to members of the paper team because it puts them near the stage when rounds turnover to get pairings and result slips out quickly. Other Head Judges choose a different team because they want the paper team to have time between rounds for team meetings or other small breaks. Instead, they'll assign EOR to the floor team.

Sometimes there's not a dedicated floor team, so these duties are assigned to logistics. This choice is particularly popular at constructed events, where the logistics team doesn't have as much on their plate as they would at a limited event.

And sometimes, EOR is its own team.

Just from this one example, it's easy to see that the responsibilities of judges can be delegated in a ginormous number of ways, all of which are effective at achieving different sets of goals. The short and long of this section basically boils down to this: different Head Judges have different expectations about team organization. And that's kind of awesome.

Smaller and Larger Events

How does all this apply to your local 1k that has five judges on staff? What about a massive Grand Prix that has more than 100?

Small Events

At smaller events, there may not be a schedule with formal teams and team leaders, but the structure is still there. Even if you're at a PPTQ with only one other judge, some of these organizational elements are still there.

Instead of having a paper, logistics, deck checks, and floor teams, these events are commonly divided into just two teams: deck checks and everything else. Alternately, individual judges are delegated specific tasks, and everyone reports to the Head Judge with no team leader. At very small events, like your locak GPTs and PPTQs that often only have a Head Judge, there's only one team: the Everything Team.

(And yes, it is possible to check 10 percent of decks *and* post pairings and distribute slips and answer calls and scorekeep all by yourself...but I don't recommend it.)

Large Events

Larger events have the opposite problem. Beyond a team leader and five or six team members, it becomes difficult to communicate and organize actions effectively. So, what do you do if you need 20 judges in order to meet the 10 percent goal on deck checks? Split deck checks into two or three teams, each with a team lead. Sometimes these team leads report to a Deck Check Overlord, and sometimes they report to the Head Judge directly.

At GPs, the rooms are often so large that single paper and floor teams will struggle to manage the entire tournament floor on their own. In this case, these teams may also be split and assigned specific areas.

Large events may also have a team that isn't present at all at small events, and that's coverage. The coverage team is responsible for relaying information to the commentators and other on-site event coverage guys. They also often table judge camera matches to relay game information for the stream.

Ladies and gentlemen, Ryan Stapleton.

Thoughts on Team Leading

We spent so much time discussing why it's important to be flexible about team structures and assignments, so we only had a few minutes at the end of Ryan's presentation to talk about team leading. But, even in that short time, there were a few excellent points.

Team leaders have some basic responsibilities. They have to make sure the tasks assigned to their team are accomplished. That's pretty basic. They should also be aware of where their team members are, what they're doing, and whether they've taken a break and consumed copious amounts of water.

But they also have another responsibility that often gets overlooked: they are, in many cases, the leading contributor to the overall event experience of the judges on their team. They direct tasks and provide guidance, but there's also more that they can do.

Making Things Interesting

These are some of the examples we came up with of ways team leaders can make an "ordinary" day of judging an engaging learning experience.
  • Meetings
  • Scenarios
  • Games
  • Team-building activities, like getting to know each other
  • Team breaks
Keep in mind that Head Judges are team leaders too.

Ryan's seminar was a great introduction to staff organization for large events, and he also provided some insight into being a memorable and effective team leader. What experiences have you had, with or as a team leader, that stand out?

1 comment:

  1. One trick I discovered when Team Leading at a large event such as a Grand Prix is to have the wrap-up team meeting at the end of the penultimate round. Then when your shift is over and the HJ's debriefing is done, your team can just leave. (By that point all the judges are anxious to leave anyway.)