Czech and Slovak Judge Conference

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Inspired by the Polish judge conference and by the European level 3 judge conference, Czech and Slovak judges decided to host such a conference too. Why? There are several reasons. First of all, to share our knowledge and experience. Secondly, to get to know each other better. Finally, to have fun and to give the judge program a social aspect.

This article should be an inspiration for all of you who are considering such a conference or are already preparing it. As far as I know, there are other European countries that are preparing such a judge conference. I would like to summarize how we prepared things for our conference, what it was like and what resources we used.

The discussion about a conference started in December 2006 on our Czech and Slovak judge list (the Czech and Slovak judge communities are linked together as we used to be one country – Czechoslovakia). We discussed topics that would be useful for presentations or workshops at such a conference. We gathered many topics. However, nothing happened for two months until PT Geneva where many Czech and Slovak judges got together and we wondered why we had not done anything to get things moving.

Out of the blue, Jan Brodzak, a level 1 judge, offered his summer house for the conference and it seemed the easiest way to get a place for the conference. I contacted the distributor in the Czech Republic and asked them if they could reimburse the travel costs for all the judges who would take part in the conference. They agreed. Moreover, they provided a draft set for everyone and three board games for the three best inputs to the conference. Furthermore, I contacted the European office of Wizards and asked them for support. They sent a foil Balance for every participant. We instantly solved two major issues – place and the travel costs with more benefits than we hoped for. The last thing to do at that time was to find a date for the conference.

To find an appropriate date, talking to everyone and trying to find a suitable date for everyone seemed impossible. Therefore, I decided to only consult with the key participants who had to be present at the conference; Jan Brodzak, the owner of the house, our tournament coordinator and me. We found a date and I posted it on our judge list together with the expected program. The program looked like this:

Friday

16.00-20.00 Arrival of judges
20.00+ Dinner and free entertainment (draft, board games or just talk)

Saturday

8.00 Breakfast
9.00 Kick off
9.15-13.00 Presentations, workshops, discussions
13.00 Lunch
14.00-19.00 Presentations, workshops, discussions
19.00+ Barbecue garden party, free entertainment

Sunday

8.00 Breakfast
9.00-12.30 Presentations, workshops, discussions
12.30 Conclusion
13.00-14.00 Clean up

There was a requirement that everyone had to contribute to the conference if he or she wanted to participate. For those who did not want to have their own presentation or workshop, they were offered the option of doing other things like writing a summary from the conference or even cooking a dinner for everyone (one of the judges really wanted this :-). In this way, we were not short of contributions. The date was announced approximately 7 weeks in advance (I would advise announcing the date even earlier).

In the beginning, it seemed like 17 people would join the conference. However, many judges wrote to me later that they would not be able to come. Finally, we had 10 participants. I think this might be because some of them did not believe it would be fun to come. My advice on this is: try to present the conference as both learning experience and fun. We did not think about the barbecue party until we got there and it turned out to be one of the best things we could do on Saturday night.

Another thing that turned out very well was the weather. It was really beautiful and we could do some of the workshops and discussion under the open sky sunbathing at the same time.

And what were the topics that were presented on the conference?

  1. Roles of level 1 and level 2 judges in the judge program
  2. Feedback – how to give it and receive it + workshop
  3. How to retain authority and not loose the sense for reality at the same time
  4. How to support young players in your store
  5. Support of the judges from the distributor
  6. Team work and team leading
  7. New penalty guidelines
  8. Discussion about the future of the Czech and Slovak judge community

The most useful of these topics were numbers 1, 2 and 7. The first topic was presented by an experienced level 2 judge, Rosta Reha. He chose an original way of presenting since he let the audience discuss things and he only supervised the discussion. Step by step, we built the list of things level 1 and level 2 judges should be able to do and what their role should be.

The second topic, presented by me, was about how to give and receive feedback. After the presentation, the judges were divided into two groups and each group was given 6 different feedbacks. They were supposed to find what was good in them and what was bad. Then the two groups compared their findings.

Topic number seven was about changes in the (at that time new) Penalty Guidelines. The presentation was held by an experienced level 1 judge, Zdenek Sury. He studied the guidelines thoroughly and pointed out all the changes. Throughout the discussion that followed, judges talked about the reasons behind the policies. In my opinion, everyone was up to date afterwards.

As someone pointed out, we had pretty difficult topics for level 1 and level 2 judges. First, we only had two level 2's and one level 3 present. Secondly, our level 1 judges are very experienced and some of them could already be level 2 if they wanted to be.

In our group, we found discussions very useful since there were a smaller number of people. We agreed that philosophical topics were not very useful and that we should (for the next time) focus on narrow topics.

What topics did we not have? There are many, but let's mention some that would be very useful:

How to work with your local community
Workshop on how to head judge a larger tournament (say 50-80 players)
How to get to a GP or PT (including some promotion of international tournaments)
The use of electronic resources (digest, gatherer, different documents, judge articles, Saturday school etc.)
Disqualifications

We could not have everything and we gave priority to the topics that judges suggested themselves before assigning them. We also had one level 1 judge who is also a level 3 player. He offered us the view of players to the discussions. This was also very useful. However, if we did not have this opportunity, we would not probably invite a level 3 player for that purpose.

To sum up, the conference was a success. We concluded that we would like to do it at least once a year. If you consider such a country conference, or state conference, don't hesitate to contact me if you would like to hear some advice or any help with anything (email me through DCIexam.com).

Thanks to George Michelogiannakis and Dorian Redburn for taking their time and correcting this article.

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