Throughout tournament season, our friends get asked several times to judge speech and debate tournaments. The Jeubs have five competitors involved in 22 total events, and we need to provide judges at tournaments we attend. Needless to say, we rely on our friends (could be you) for help!
NOTE: If you’d like to know the tournaments we need the most help, visit my Judging Landing Page.
The biggest hesitation to volunteering time is simple: the unknown. Our family is so entrenched in tournament lingo that we forget that it is a foreign concept to most people. This post explains two things:
- Why you should judge at a tournament.
- How you go about judging.
Let me say this before answering these two: you won’t regret doing this. This is the truth: we have only received positive feedback from our friends who judge at tournaments. If you have a friend who’s bugging you to judge at a tournament, be encouraged. Once you do it, you’ll see why they are so excited about it. You’ll have a lot of fun and be enlightened!
There are practical and profound reasons to agree to judging at a tournament. First, the practical: we need judges. Tournaments can’t run without judges from the community. There are few requirements for judging (high school graduate, at least 18, can read and write—that’s about it). The students are practicing their communication skills to be able to communicate (go figure!) and the tournament needs judges to make it run smoothly.
But there are profound reasons, too. Seeing these kids decked out in suits ready to harness the great power of communication will inspire you. It takes just one debate round to realize that the skills learned in speech and debate will ultimately reform the world for the better. There’s purpose beyond the skill. And you, dear judge, are breathing into that purpose in a very positive way!
Agree to do this. Don’t avoid it. This is a good thing you’re doing. Now that we have the “why” taken care of, let’s move onto some logistics…the “how.”
A lot of the “how” is mechanical. It’s simple.
- Sign up for the tournament. Most likely you were sent a link to the tournament. Click through that link and start your “judge registration,” usually a prominent link on the site. Basic information will be asked, and you’re asked who referred you. If it’s a tournament I’m attending, please enter “The Jeub Kids.” You’re helping us out big time!
- Select the rounds you want. Tournaments typically last between 2-3 days, but the minimum requirement is 2-4 hours. Registration will list which rounds are available, and you click the ones you pledge to be available. You’ll be emailed a reminder to get the commitment on your calendar.
- Study up. You can skip this step if you want, but most first-time judges like to take some time to browse some information. Go to the website of the league you are judging (Stoa is the league my kids compete) and click through the speech and debate events. Read up on what they’re about.
- Show up. If this is your first time, come about one hour early to the tournament to go through judge orientation. This is a 30-40 minute presentation on what to expect, how to fill out a ballot, and any tournament nuances of which you need to be aware.
- Sign on. After orientation, you’ll be handed a ballot and some note-taking material and directed where to go. There may or may not be other judges in the room with you, depending on the league, tournament and event rules. A timer (typically a little sibling of a competitor) is usually there to assist you. You watch the competitors and fill out the ballots as you were directed and taught in orientation.
- Sign off. After the round, you proceed to the judging lounge to finish filling out your ballots. There are usually some refreshments to enjoy, and there are also tournament staff available to answer any questions you may have. When you are done, you submit your ballots to the tabulation table, and the people there are trained to make sure everything is filled out correctly.
Once you’re oriented in an event, you don’t need to attend another orientation in the same category. There are typically two orientations at a tournament—one for speech, one for debate—but some tournaments may segment that down to more specific orientations. Once you’re done, you’re a trained judge. Take a second ballot if you have time.
Easy Peasy, right? Don’t spend too much time fretting over this. You’ll get better and better as you take more and more ballots. You’ll get to know these kids and become a better judge of their skills as rounds go by.
Come to think of it, this is precisely what we tell the kids: you’ll get better and better as rounds go by. They become better speakers and debaters every round, every tournament, every year. And the judge (that’s you!) is an intricate part of the routine. Sign up today and be a part of the kids’ lives.
Have you judged a tournament? What did you think? Leave a comment below.