This is the fourth installment in a series focused on tying the L3 qualities to actions/behaviors you can find at all levels in the judge program. One of the major steps of the L3 advancement process is the creation and occasional revisiting of a detailed self-review. This review specifically must address strengths and weaknesses in the 9 identified qualities of an L3 judge. As I have been spending some time contemplating these qualities, I realized each individual quality is worth a discussion here. One topic I’ve mentioned previously is the idea that a level does not define you as a judge (though it certainly does have implications on the amount of work/testing you’ve gone through). It strikes me that many judges, therefore, may not have taken the time to think about and review their strengths and weaknesses at each of these qualities until they are contemplating going for L3. These qualities are not reserved for L3s or L3 candidates. On the contrary, many of these are characteristics of judges I see regularly, and from those who have likely not yet even thought seriously about the L3 advancement process. These qualities, therefore, serve as a nice framework for a series of blog posts. I hope to bring a discussion of how each quality may apply or be seen at a local (L1) or area level (L2), not just at the regional level (L3).


Level 3 Judges are self-reflective and capable of assessing their own strengths and weaknesses. They can effectively identify areas for their own improvement beyond superficial practices such as rules knowledge, and they demonstrate insight regarding their own judge practices. A deficient judge’s self-reviews lack depth, detail, or accuracy. He or she may be unable to assess his or her own performance in meaningful ways. An exemplary judge is one who enters self-reviews into the Judge Center regularly, shows deep insight into his or her own judging practice, and is able to identify specific strategies for improvement.

Most judges crave feedback; reviews, in-person, or any form possible. Learning from what we do right and wrong is crucial to growth, and we most often look externally for that feedback. We ignore a very powerful source with the most complete knowledge of your actions when you stick to only external feedback though. You can provide the best, most accurate, most detailed review of your own activities and goals.

Who has seen every judge call you’ve ever taken? Who knows exactly why you handled this situation the way you did? Who can give you the best advice on how to improve? Who knows your strengths best? All of these can be answered, obviously, with “you.” There is no better source to go to if you wish to identify strengths and areas for improvement. By utilizing self-evaluation, be it in formal review form, or in simple notes or whatever you personally use, you can easily set actionable goals, and follow-through on tracking progress towards those goals.

Interestingly, this quality doesn’t lend itself well to being split into different applications at different levels. Self-evaluation is a journey, and one that should begin as early as possible. The main difference, if I had to draw lines, would be whether or not you use the L3 qualities themselves as the structure for self-evaluation. I think, in general you can do this regardless of your judge level, but you need to be aware that some of the qualities will mean different things at different levels (which, really, is the whole point of this series!). As long as you ground your observations in objective facts (my deck checks average ~9 minutes, I’d like to reduce that time) then you can use the evaluation as a tool to grow with. An important, and often overlooked, part of self-evaluation is to make sure you construct a plan for how you intend to address any issues you’ve identified. Those deck checks I mentioned above running a bit long? Come up with a strategy where you can grind through some constructed decks on your own time and practice sorting methods until you find one that works for you. Need to work on your opening announcements? Find some resources on public speaking and plan to practice your message in advance, maybe even to an audience.

The real key to self-evaluation is to realize that ultimately only you are the audience. Is there the possibility someone else may view it and use it for other purposes? Yes (if you submit it as a review in Judge Center), but there is only a slim chance that someone would look at it without a good reason. Regardless of who may eventually see it, write it for you. Make sure you are honest with yourself, because lying in this case literally serves no one. The path to improvement starts with honest reflection on areas we need work on. So, with all of that said, let’s take a look at some judges specifically recognized for having strong self-evaluation skills!

Examples from Exemplar!

As with every other post for this series, I took the dive into recent Exemplar nominations (wave #7) to find examples to highlight self-evaluation being recognized. I’ll be honest, I thought this topic was going to be tough to find good examples for. Thankfully, I was wrong, and the judge community is, once again, awesome. Check out some of the gems I found below.

From Riki Hayashi to Marcos Sanchez (L2) – You’ve had quite a year, and while most of it has been positive, you hit a speed bump at GP Louisville, resulting in your worst performance serving in a GP Day 2 Team Lead role. You took that slip up and made lemonade out of it, writing one of the best, honest self reviews going over the issues from the event. Keep up this healthy attitude and introspection. It will serve you well.

From Nick Gajary to Marina Beke (L1) – Marina, your drive to better yourself – and, by extension, your events – is deserving of special recognition. You consistently asked thoughtful, relevant questions of Sherwin, Raoul, and myself all along the road to L1, and you continue to participate and spark great discussions on the Central Region Slack. I’m also impressed by your evaluation of your own shortcomings and the steps you’re taking to overcome them; namely already surpassing most L1s I know by approaching a variety of TOs at different stores, actively looking for experience judging different formats. Keep up the terrific work!

Norman Ralph to Sophie Hughes (L2) – Sophie, you have been recognised by many others (and myself in the past) for your consistently high delivery in the judge program. Be it mentorship on the Facebook groups, challenging policy and philosophy implementation amongst your peers and supporting the players on IRC it has been covered. This recognition is for what many people don’t see. The countless hours of self evaluation and development. We have had several challenging conversations over the last nine months about areas you have struggled with. What has impressed me more than anything is your continued passion to be better at what you do, regardless of how difficult that may seem. It’s easy to be exemplary at what you’re good at; it is incredibly rare to be a shining example at what you’re weakest at, especially when you’re trying to hide it most of the time. Keep the passion and the rest will come.

Todd Bussey to Aaron MacLean (L1) –  Aaron brings a high level of energy to events that he judges. Many judges, myself included could learn from his level of fitness (who runs 15K the Saturday morning of a judge conference?) which is in itself exemplary. Additionally, he displays above average camaraderie interacting with players like at the House of Cards PPTQ. Aaron knows what he doesn’t know and knows who to ask for the those things he doesn’t know which shows demonstrably good self-evaluation and decision-making. I know a few judges that could learn from his example.

W. Matt Williams to Ben Patrila (L2) – Ben, during GP Indianapolis I challenged you to step outside of your comfort zone by being an integral part of the end of round process. Not only did you persevere through a role you find uncomfortable, you showed incredible self-evaluation during our wrap up chat later in the weekend. Self-evaluation is an underrated skill that you were able to display excellence in. Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses is something that every judge should seek out as it allows for you to develop as well as find your own niche in the overall judge program.

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