At the Star City Games Invitational, I was given the opportunity to lead Paper team on the Modern Open. I’ve successfully led Sides team at a previous Open, as well as being Deck Checks team lead and End of Round team lead at other, smaller events, so the experience wasn’t entirely new; but this was my first time leading Paper, and other than when I led Sides, which is a different experience entirely, it was the largest team I’ve been in charge of.
I started the day a little bit off my game and don’t feel that it went as well as it could have. I definitely made several mistakes, though I was fortunate enough to have CJ Crooks on my team, who made sure nothing actually caught fire. It was a very good learning experience, and I do feel I came away from it much more prepared to be a team lead in the future. I wanted to take this opportunity to write down some of what I took away from the event, so others can benefit from what I’ve learned.
First, be prepared. I thought I was prepared going into the event; I’d thought over our responsibilities and discussed them with the Head Judge, Nicolette Apraez. This wasn’t my first rodeo. I’d been on Paper team before, so I knew what our responsibilities entailed. Still, there were things I forgot. What I should have done was found someone who’d been Team Lead for Paper multiple times and asked what sorts of things I should be aware of as Team Lead, such as ensuring there was someone prepared to post seatings for the player meeting when all of my judges had been co-opted to help hand out product. CJ told me that most people fail their Team Lead check on delegation and event awareness. Knowing what all my tasks would be ahead of time and how they would interact with what the other teams were doing would have allowed me to assign specific tasks to members of my team, such as grabbing pairings off the printer to pass them out, cutting match slips, and taking down the pairings halfway through the round.
Another thing that I didn’t even think about was having a plan for cutting match slips. At a large event, there are more pages of match slips than a typical paper cutter can handle at once. I’m used to working GP’s where we have access to an industrial-strength paper cutter, but at an Open we have to make do with a normal one. This means that if you cut the slips like you normally would for a small event, there will be large gaps between numbers in the same pile, which means if you just hand that pile to someone they have to pay more attention when passing them out. In addition, sometimes the printer will run out of paper before match slips are finished printing, so you have to be vigilant about how many pages were supposed to print and whether they all have printed. Eventually CJ and I devised a system wherein we’d cut the first batch of slips and place them in four face-down piles so we could see the last table number through the back of the table and ensure the first table number in the next pile was consecutive. Then once the piles were complete each member of the team would take a pile to distribute.
As Team Lead, what I should have done at that point was remain behind, make sure the area was cleaned up, and report to the Head Judge that match slips had all been printed and were being distributed. That way the Head Judge is kept informed of what’s going on, and can give me any task she deems necessary.
Another aspect of Team Leading is team building. Many team leads achieve this by having various challenges for their team, sometimes every round, sometimes for the whole event. While I’ve had some great experiences with these challenges, my favorite being the challenge to find the board state with the greatest number of creatures since it also gave us an impetus to watch more Magic, I decided for my team that our team building was going to be a shared identity. I created a team group chat, which I didn’t wind up doing much with except assigning us all nautical nicknames. It was a fun thing that fostered a sense of camaraderie, which I totally stole from a team I was on at a previous Open under Erik Mock. In that event, Eric created the group chat so we could communicate, and David Homan assigned us all nicknames, using my pirate obsession as inspiration. Erik loved it so much he printed us all nametags with “Lookout” and “First Mate” and whatever other nicknames people had been given, something I’d love to do at a future event but which requires a little more prior planning than I actually put into this one—another reason why being prepared well in advance can be a good thing.
Overall, while I’m not happy with how I did, I’m glad I had the opportunity and am confident in my ability to do a better job in the future. My strengths were in making sure my team was taken care of; I checked in on them regularly throughout the day, asking how they were doing on achieving their goals and making sure they were getting their proper breaks. My weaknesses were in proper delegation and proper communication. While I did communicate regularly with the other team leads, I wasn’t communicating properly with my team or with the Head Judge about what was getting done and what still needed to get done. I look forward to the opportunity to Team Lead again and improve upon my mistakes.