The Professor Role at Tournaments
1 month ago
Now that you all know what you have to do in order to become a Professor, you might be thinking, “so what exactly do Professors do?" Above all, ensuring a fun, fair, and fast tournament is the key. And doing so should be done in accordance with the Professor Program Core Values. So if you are ready to volunteer your time to ensure a positive experience for all at Play! Pokemon events, here’s a little glimpse into the role of a Professor during a GO tournament.
The role of a Professor always starts earlier than the competitor and ends later. There are many preparation tasks to do and clean up projects to complete. The Professor’s journey at an event starts at what we call Day 0. Prior to any of the tournaments starting there are full staff gatherings and individual team meetings to discuss plans and preparations for the event and to go over expectations for your exact role. You may be asked to help with the check-in process, including preparing the goodie bags that competitors receive. There are often official Professor Seminars at these events that provide some additional in depth training and discussions for Professors. For the GO team, our preparations mean spending some quality time with the devices for the tournament to ensure things like show taps were turned on and all updates were processed. This is a great time to check in with your leadership team to make sure you are familiar with the expectations they have for you for your role for the event.
After Day 0, make sure to go and get some rest because Day 1 will be an early start! For Baltimore the GO staff were asked to be at the venue by 6:30AM so we could do additional device preparations. Depending on when all staff arrives, there is typically a brief team meeting to talk about individual assignments, go over the break and stream schedule, and prepare the space for competitors to arrive. This includes getting all the phones plugged in to the charging cables and setting them to the WiFi connection. Once prep is complete, each Professor has a designated role throughout the tournament with different expectations for what they are to be doing the entire day.
For GO, there’s a few different roles that may be utilized during a tournament:
Scorekeepers are responsible for roaming the tournament floor and entering match results into Challonge. They also help handle later arrivals and no shows, and issue penalties related to those issues as needed.
The Scorekeepers work very closely with the Bracket Coordinators who handle the set up and management of the tournament in Challonge. They assign tables to active matches and mark matches to be featured on stream. They are stationed at the tournament stage and are also available to answer questions and help direct players to where they need to be in the event they are unsure.
Floor judges choose an area of the main event floor and wander the aisles. They keep an eye on game play, ensure folks are following COVID-19 protocols, assist with technical issues or questions, and keep spectators at a reasonable distance from the active matches.
Floor judges as well as scorekeepers may be asked to assist with team list checks during the tournament. You verify that all the information the competitors entered is correct compared to their in game information as well as watching back a video replay to be sure the correct moves and CP are being used. All matches are recorded so that judges can review in case of a technical malfunction or team checks.
When matches are also streamed, there are a certain number of judges designated to oversee the matches on stream. There is a monitor with the game play feed of both competitors available as well as a means of communication with the production team. Stream judges will also enter scores for the match on stage and typically have at least one other person off stage watching as an additional set of eyes.
With Pokemon GO being such a technology heavy event, there will often be a Technical Lead to oversee this aspect of the tournament. They are the point person for all technical issues and are there to ensure the phones and wifi connection are in the best condition possible for the players. They are typically also the point of contact for the venue technical staff as well as other tech companies and vendors involved in the event in order to assist with any troubleshooting that may need to occur.
There is a lot to do throughout tournament days, but your Team Lead(s) and Head Judge will ensure that you have breaks typically including a full lunch and dinner break depending on the length of the event. The Head Judge also serves as a manager to the Floor Judges. They will often schedule breaks and stream judging rotations, as well as be available to make final rulings in the case a dispute requires an appeal. They are there as a resource to all of the GO staff and are the person that escalations for any issues should be sent to. They are the only person who can issue a disqualification, so if there is a severe issue make sure you contact them as soon as possible to help you find a resolution.
Team Leads oversee scheduling of breaks for the other roles as well as the overall flow of the event. They are the final decision makers and will also step into the Head Judge role when that person goes on their break. They oversee the leadership team for GO and are essentially the head tournament organizer for that event for GO. Leads are often asked to be a part of the staff selection process and role assignment for their team. Your Lead typically has a lot of experience at Play! Pokemon events and is a great resource to learn more and grow. Along with your Head Judge, the Leads will provide feedback to you at the end of the event in order to help you excel in your Pokemon journey as a Professor.
If the event takes the entire day then you get dismissed by your Team Lead(s) and/or Head Judge to go home for the evening. But if there is still time in the day, you may be reassigned to assist with another area. Side events are often a very busy place that need lots of extra hands to help out. Often you will be asked to be a runner, which means you would get a list of people playing in a side event, gather the prizes for the event, bring them over to a table, and then give the judge the sheet and prizes for them to run the event.
I had the really fun job of calling for event flights at Worlds. They had those buzzers you get at restaurants that call your number when your table is ready, which they use to call all the players for an event. So I would call numbers, collect the people, and then send them off with a runner. On Sunday of Worlds, I got to experience the Learn to Play lab where I taught folks some of the basics of the TCG. I played a fun game called Poke Catch that teaches the basics of attaching energy to Pokemon, move costs, battlefield layout, etc. Very basic, but a good small step to helping people learn to play the game. (I'd like to see a GO version one day!!) I got to see a lot of young kids there, but I also got to talk to a lot of parents who were learning to help their kiddos.
Do not be afraid to ask your leadership team for opportunities to learn. There may be opportunities for you to shadow another area outside of the realm of Pokemon GO to learn about the VGC or TCG. Sometimes there might be a need for some help in the Hive, the tournament command center. Match slips need to be printed off, pairings need to be posted, match results need to be entered. While you may not be as familiar with the other competitive games at the tournament, there are still lots of opportunities to help out during the course of the event.
I also want to provide you with some advice that will help you be successful no matter what role you have at a Play! Pokemon event.
Take your breaks! Even if you don’t think you need it, take your breaks. You are on your feet at almost all times, so taking the time to relax is important.
Highly recommended supplies. I recommend comfortable shoes and gel inserts to provide some extra cushioning. Event halls typically have concrete floors, so there’s not a lot of support for your feet. Another awesome item a fellow Professor suggested to me is a water bottle pouch or sling. I found one online for less than $10 and it is awesome to have my water bottle on hand at all times. It allows me to keep my hands free as well as have some important items with me like my passport, room key, credit card, and Pokemon GO Plus. I would also recommend a small notebook and a pen. Taking notes on players arriving late or penalties is a great way to keep track of everything you did during the day in case there are questions later.
The behind-the-scenes of these events are a lot of hard work and long days, but it is such an incredibly rewarding experience. It is so much fun getting to work with a diverse staff of intelligent and kind Professors, and see the players battling at their best. And Professors are well taken care of for all the hard work they do. There are often meals catered for staff so you don’t have to worry about wandering the venue to find something to eat. They sometimes provide staff with uniform shirts or badges, thank you gifts, and Pokemon products. I literally had to buy another suitcase when I was in London because I was not ready for the amount of stuff I was bringing home despite being warned. (But I also may have gone overboard at the Pokemon Center.) There are plenty of opportunities to socialize with other Professors outside of your team or gather with members of the community who are there to play and spectate. During one of my lunch breaks I was fortunate enough to meet one of the major organizers for the North American Regional tournaments and learn about their role and some of the upcoming events. It is a wonderful opportunity to network, learn, and grow.
I’m looking forward to seeing more of you on the tournament floor soon! And as always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out.