Sour Grapes: What Not To Do After Losing A Round

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Once, after judging a cross-examination debate round, I was approached by one of the competitors after I handed in my ballot. She walked up to me after finding out that she and her partner had lost and said, “How could you possibly have ranked them higher than us? I mean, they completely sucked.”

I was shocked. In my four years of judging, this had never happened to me before. I was always taught that a certain sense of decorum was required when dealing with judges – when I competed, I was expected to be polite, courteous and never to approach a judge after around asking for a score or an explanation of a score I felt was unjustified.
I explained that I thought she and her partner did a fine job, but that the other two competitors were more successful in presenting their case and cross-examining, and then I wished her luck.

But she continued to criticize my decision. She asked again why I had ranked her and her partner lower than the other team, and that it was ridiculous and there was “no way” the other team should have won, and that I must have not been listening to the round. I told her that while I appreciated her enthusiasm and interest in feedback, it was ultimately my responsibility as a judge to evaluate the round and determine who deserved the win. Both teams were strong, so I had to evaluate each team’s performance and choose one as the winner.

I understood her anger at losing, but and it reflected very poorly on the competitor and her partner. I had voted for the other team for two reasons: First, the opposing team’s argument was better structured, backed up by more recent evidence, and both competitors presented themselves and their case better than she and her partner did. Second, her poor dictation, flimsy cross-examining skills, lack of coherent rebuttals, and endless repetition of the same points without further elaboration. It is not my duty as a judge to defend myself against a sore loser who cannot accept that another team was better in a round.

It is natural to become frustrated when you realize you can’t win t hem all, but it’s also rude to accost a judge after a performance. Instead, read the ballots and try to adjust your interpretation of the event based on the comments and constructive criticism. Your judges are there to help you improve and to teach you how to succeed. If you are truly just seeking feedback, do so with courtesy, and you may be able to learn from your mistakes.


Yikes! I've judged a couple of times and NEVER had anyone approach me afterwords for an explanation. That's completely uncalled for. Did you tell her how childish and unprofessional it is to question a judge like this? Did you contact her coach?

If a competitor ever approached me after a round, I would be sure to handle it much in the way you did. However, I would also refer her to read my comments for clarification, and then I would be certain to inform that student of how inappropriate this behavior is at a tournament and why they should refrain from bad-mouthing or approaching judges like this.

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