drill meet judge

The Drill Meet Judge

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It’s a difficult situation and I’ve been there a couple times. You are a judge at a drill meet and the next team steps up to take the field for competition and as soon as the team steps off, you notice something is wrong. The report-in isn’t the best but you continue observing and the performance just gets worse and worse. How on earth did we get to this point?

See also, “Yeah, but he just dances…”

It Begins With the Instructor

JROTC instructors don’t have extensive experience in marching or teaching it. Some don’t have any interest in drill and ceremonies, some don’t want anyone to know they haven’t marched in over ten years (or more) because if we did know, we’d be shocked or some other negative reaction, because there is a certain unrealistic expectation (either perceived or real) about those of us in uniform. There’s several other reasons for this, but this is just an overview. Please read this article about the JROTC Instructor for more. See also the Reading Plan for JROTC Instructors and Cadets.

In any case, it is the instructor’s responsibility to ensure his/her cadets are able to accomplish the mission and that mission is to know and be able to adequately perform the service D&C and related manuals. How well the team performs is something for another discussion/article. Right now, we need to ensure our cadets at least know what they are doing even before you head over to the competition site. If they don’t, you are failing to do your job as a JROTC instructor. I do understand that some instructors, if not all, are pulled in 50 different directions each day. Instructor duty is a tough and very rewarding job.

Today’s Drill Meets Miss the Mark

There is very little education going on at drill competitions and I’m not talking about in-depth-it-takes-hours-to-teach education. What I mean is educational feedback. There isn’t any. Yes, scoresheets have been altered to include certain aspects of what I created many years ago, but it still doesn’t work.

Over the years I get messages from cadets, some of whom I have taught, telling me they came in second place with a score of 10,847 points at one drill meet and then went across town to another drill meet the next weekend and won with 489 points. Points do not matter at all because the numbers do not relate to a written standard.

What Can Be

The World Drill Association that I created years ago can be the answer to several issues in the Military Drill World. It needs to be run for the benefit of all involved and concentrate on the cadets.

The WDA Adjudication System is just waiting to be used. As a matter of fact, it has been used and teams walk away with a much better understanding of how their performance matched up to the written standard. Please don’t give me that “We need something easy to use”. “Easy” means “Lazy” and, in this case, it means you’ve never been exposed to proper adjudication with a purpose-built system and trained judges. I have been dealing with both since 1979 when I entered high school band and went to competitions.

Cadets around the world spend hours each day perfecting routines for months and that requires trained judges. Do you honestly expect to appropriately evaluate a relatively complex marching routine by a group of people in uniform whose only qualification is that they graduated Basic Training/Boot Camp? Drill Sergeants, Drill Instructors, Training Instructors, and even Honor Guard members are still not equipped to assign a number value to a visual performance. Make time to get the training, it’s not that long or difficult, it just takes effort and some hours out of your week.

With the system I created, points matter and even point spreads (the number of points between placements and even sub-caption spreads) matter.

Why Do We Need Training to Adjudicate?

Because we need to learn how to mostly evaluate and not just react. Reaction is natural, we do that every day. We like or dislike something based on our prejudice and bias and there’s nothing wrong with that, in essence. What we need to do is learn to recognize both, how to put them aside, and then work on evuating and reacting based on a written standard.

Untrained Judges

One Way To Handle a Situation

The video below is 40 seconds of about the third minute of an NJROTC color guard performance. This short segment shows the team getting kicked off the drill deck due to the judge’s frustration with the team. This is an option for a judge. I just don’t recommend using the option. When you do use this option (please don’t), at least explain why. Don’t get angry and yell.

The cadets here had no idea what was wrong or why they were forced of the drill deck. That’s inexcusable. Being yelled at by the other judge to get off the deck quicker was just ridiculous. This is not Boot Camp, this is supposed to be a professional-level drill and ceremonies competition. Any form of punishment is unacceptable in this situation.

A Better Way

I want to restate and expand on what is in the video. The judge has a tool that he/she is to use at a competition, the scoresheet. You are to assign a score and you can fill up the blank spaces with comments.

The team in this video should have been allowed to finish and then told they were disqualified and the reasoning behind the disqualification. That reason would be very simple “disrespect to the American flag (national ensign)”, which is in just about every drill meet SOP in the nation, or at least it should be. The national in the video is being carried lower than the organizational and that’s unacceptable.

The logical outcome is to give a score, write feedback, and disqualify the team, but at least they would be able to learn what the problem is.

Having said that, the judges should have caught the national being carried lower just by seeing where the harness sockets rested during the inspection. They should have then told the team to adjust the harnesses even before the competition started- actually, this should have been part of training months beforehand.

This team contacted me through private message asking me to explain what the reason might be for their dismissal. I was happy to assist and help educate, but why didn’t the judges do it? Why were the cadets dismissed and disregarded? Because the judges are not trained to be and react like judges, they reacted like Drill Instructors, through no fault of their own. Our current “system” is broken.

In Summary

We have problems that need to be addressed and fixed:

  1. JROTC instructors who lack the necessary requirements for ensuring cadets have the appropriate skills for D&C.
    • An Association can be created for instructors to tackle the educational issues for instructors.
  2. Drill meets that do not focus on the betterment of competitors.
    • Part of the Association’s oversight which I’ve already accomplished.
  3. Adjudication scoresheets that are not based on a written standard.
    • Part of the Association’s oversight which I’ve already accomplished.
  4. Judges must be trained.
    • Part of the Association’s oversight which I’ve already accomplished.

It’s not an easy fix, I understand that. However, we do need to start down this road ASAP.

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