Don't judge your judge

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At a speech and debate tournament, some judges only have time to judge one or two rounds, but many are in it for the long haul. They show up at 3 p.m. on Friday and don’t leave until the end of the awards ceremony on Saturday. Here’s a judge’s-eye-look on what coaches, speech alumni and off-the-street judges have been through before watching you perform.

At some tournaments, people seriously get phone calls from speech team presidents at 7 a.m. on a Saturday (with little consideration of the tiring 9 to 5 tribulations they endured during the week) begging them to come to the school for Extemp Draw. Your judges have no sympathy for the fact that you had to wake up at the crack of dawn to get ready, because they did, too.

After dragging himself out of bed, your judge (let's call him Joe) drove to the tournament and headed to the judges’ table. Maybe Joe ducked into the judges’ lounge to grab a donut and a cup of coffee before the round. Then he probably ended up waiting in line for ballots at the judges’ table, and he waited for some patient runner to show him how to get to the room. Maybe Joe ended up having to deal with a really rude runner (it happens). He may have even had to sit around wishing he had a sweater while he waited for competitors to find the freezing cold room for round two of Oral Interp. Maybe he got called back to the judges' table because a coach wanted to make sure that score wasn't a one instead of a four. Maybe he ended up going to the wrong room because two envelopes got mixed up.

I’ve been to tournaments that ended up behind schedule and tournaments that ended up way, way ahead of schedule – but in a tightly-run tab room, there’s not a lot of time for judges to rest in between rounds. At your next tournament, don’t forget that your judges have been running, making smalltalk with coaches and other judges, watching performance after performance, deliberating, scoring, popping into the judges’ lounge for bowls of gumbo (if they judge in Louisiana, that is) before Semis, then rushing to get to their rooms with enough time to collect their thoughts before the students arrive. And it’s a sad fact, but sometimes judges end up sitting through disastrous pieces while waiting for one brilliant performance – and sometimes they end up crying so hard (or trying so hard not to cry) in a D.I. round that they can hardly bear it because the acting is so unbelievably good. Judging at a speech tournament is an amazing phenomenon. It’s fast-paced, it’s fun, and it never happens the same way twice.

Above all, remember that your judges are there because they want to watch you perform well. When you say, “Thank you for judging,” mean it.

I meant it every time I said it. Without judges there really wouldn't be a tournament, would there?

Let's not forget the judges that are also taking their time to write you helpful comments so you can improve. Even if you need a decoder ring to read some of those comments, they're still great to have, lol THANK YOU!!!!!!!! :]

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