Monday, May 12, 2008

Certification process

by Ernie Bain, Jr., Senior Judge and Umpire

I believe US SAILING Judge's/Umpires are in a professional category, just like any other professional classification. These other professional classifications are required to take a test to qualify for certification when they start their profession, and then each year thereafter are required so many units annually, depending on their profession, to keep their certification. They can receive these units by attending seminars and/or through home study courses by mail or the Internet. If they do not obtain these units in a given year, they lose their certification and to be re-certified must re-take the test. The main intent is to upgrade the knowledge of their profession, i.e., keeping them abreast of any changes in their field.

Currently, US SAILING only requires a test every 4 years, wherein the individual "crams" the rule book every 4 years to pass the test. Of course, that individual must have been active in regattas, both locally and out of their area, and is required to have been a Chief Judge/Umpire for some of these regattas. My suggestion is to follow the certification for other professions, i.e., annual participation in seminars/ round tables and home study courses through the mail and or the Internet, to be filled out and sent to a certified organization, for unit certification. I know many Judge's/ Umpire's are in agreement with this concept, and it would seem to be a better model for maintaining the skills needed for the position.

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At 1:56 PM, Blogger Jos said...

I realize I'm not an US-Sailing judge nor umpire. If that disqualifies me from commenting, please ignore the post I've put up on my blog with a few comments: support-your-local-judge.html

At 7:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Four times as many tests, an online testing system, etc. and no mandatory membership in US SAILING for those who are provided the servies of a certified judge?

At 8:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If this were truly a profession, I would agree wholeheartedly. However, it's not. Don't legislate more requirements for a volunteer who already gives his/her time generously to the sport. If someone isn't a good judge or umpire, don't invite them to an important event.

If sailors or events want professional judges or umpires, then they have to pay for them...and the level of performance would then be expected to be higher and the qualifications more strict. Until events come up with the money, don't require volunteers to spend more time and money so that they can spend all of their free time (and extra money) helping others play their game.

I do think that developing a program of 'higher' education and making it available to judges/umpires for their own self-paced growth/learning would be commendable.

At 8:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a certified judge and while I understand the concept of trying to improve the quality of the Jury pool, this is NOT the way to go about it.
Professional certifications are just what they say: Professional. I am happy to volunteer and I sail and judge in a very active area so I am fortunate to be around other professional and very qualified judges.
Putting more hurdles in the way will not improve the quality of the judges, it will reduce the number of people able to devote the time to the sport (volunteer).
This is the sure route to lose very qualified judges to chase way too cumbersome of a process. You will instead get mostly retired folks who have the time to devote to yearly stuff that doesn't guarantee better officials. A very curious article and I have to believe it was meant to stir up a conversation.

At 9:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think the concept is good, but as a judge, a volunteer position, i do not want to pay to take that test every year nor do i have time, i would rather see a requirement of having to serve as an active judge x number of times a year and maybe a test every other year. I love giving back to the sport but as an umpire, judge and race official I can only do so much and afford so many seminars/tests.

At 9:36 PM, Anonymous Fred Young said...

I am not immediately in favor of a complicated and time consuming recertification process for judges, even though I see merit is Judge Bain's suggestion.

Are judges professional? I think so, although you could argue that fact since they are not paid. Should they behave professionally and be held to a professional standard? Absolutely. Should judges be required to pass a rigorous initial certification? Certainly.

But what is most important? When I think about the sport or sailing, where it is going, and what it needs, I worry about participation. In the US, sailing appears to be shrinking in its participation. Is making it more difficult to maintain a judges certification going to help this? Do we really have a problem with experienced judges becoming worse with age?

I ask myself what attributes I think are most important for a judge, and how they would improve with recertification?

First I think is the ability to listen and ask questions in order to determine the facts. Some might call these "people skills".

Second, should be the ability to explain a decision to a club racer so he can learn from his mistake, and not go home feeling like he wants to stop racing. This might be classified as "people skills" as well.

Third is the ability to understand and apply the rules to the facts found.

I believe each of these skills can be improved more effectively by hearing more protests rather than a recertification program.

I think a judge who knew the rules cold when he was certified, will be able to read the rule book eight years later, and be able to apply a rule correctly. Especially when there are multiple members of the protest committee.

I would certainly be in favor of ongoing training. Perhaps something similar to the Case Book where protest committees could document complicated problems and describe how they were resolved.

In the computer industry, you will find people with all the correct certifications who are unable to perform to the defined standards.

In aviation, pilots receive a license for life, but have some currency requirements in order to exercise the privileges of their license. Flight instructors on the other hand, receive their license for two years at which time it may be renewed by attending a weekend ground school, or proving sufficient teaching activity. Although aviation may be a bad comparison because people don't die from a bad protest ruling.

I appreciate judge Bain's assertion that judges are professionals. And I am certainly in favor of continuing education. It will be interesting to see future proposals regarding this issue.

At 10:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a certified judge and sit on the association appeals committee in my area. In my opinion, what is needed is MORE judges, not the imposition of additional onerous requirements that would make for fewer judges. In my experience, the US Sailing certified judges make mistakes, but far fewer than the "ordinary sailors" who often hear protests at a number of clubs.

My perspective is opposite from Mr. Bain, I believe that it would be better for US Sailing to create a new position of "Club Judge" with less onerous requirements, so that sailors would be more likely to have a panel with basic knowledge of the rules and procedural requirements. The new level would also likely bring more interested sailors into the ranks of certified judges, and could also improve the general level of rules compliance.

My experience suggests that it is also helpful to include judges who are active sailors, and many active sailors do not have time to attend seminars and courses to improve their knowledge of the rules. But they may not need them, either.

If Mr. Bain wishes to expand his expertise, he might enjoy attending an International Judge seminar. I did that a number of years ago, the seminar had a different focus than the US Sailing seminars, and the test was more difficult. He could then become an IJ if he wishes.

At 10:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too am a certified judge and race officer. I respectfully disagree with the earlier comments that suggest re-testing and re-certification are onerous and unnecessary.

On the contrary, we all lose skills and gain arrogance with age and experience. The re-certification process is vital as it requires us to humbly submit to the rigors of proving ourselves every four years.

The more I know, the more I realize how little I previously knew.

We need competent race officials and certification is one way of promoting competence.

At 2:55 AM, Anonymous Jim Ryan said...

I am a certified judge, and while I agree with Mr Bain's goals, I think that would make the situation worse instead of better. In New York, we currently have 11 judges in the whole state. I sail every week all year and squeeze in judging to give something back to the sport. It would be a burden to add 4 times as many tests. I really think just the opposite. I think we should have more tiers in the judge system starting with a Club Level judge (like the club race officer) to get more people involved in hearing protests. Maybe Mr Bain's suggestion should be a requirement for senior judge as I currently don't see much of a difference between judge and senior judge.
Jim Ryan
Seaford, NY

At 3:37 AM, Blogger Adriaan Pels said...

Is there not the danger of creating professors instead of professionals? Creating a group of rules hobbyists instead of race leaders? I was one of the first IJ’s and lucky to serve on jury’s with Eric Twiname. For who does not know who Eric, who died in 1979, was: he was an Englishman, a winner of many champion¬ships in dinghy’s and had as a original thinking writer of many articles and books (Dinghy Team Racing and The Rules Book – 1977 were best sellers) a profound influence on racing, particular on the rules. He had two sentences I agreed. The first: as a judge you must be able to sail the boat you judge. It was during a windsurfer world championship on Barbados he realized: “I should not have come as I am not a windsurfer.” Thinking the same way : I was only judging dinghy sailors and windsurfers as I was one myself. Far in my fifty’s I sailed (a beautiful original wooden but slow Europe) in club races only (outsiders thought I was crazy) to be a part of the experience of the (young) sailors I taught the rules and judged. The second statement of Twiname was: the fact that we fly all over the world because people need rules experts, points out there is something wrong with the sport. And as he wanted to do something he wrote a complete new and simplified set of racing rules and sent them to de IYRU (what is now the ISAF). Instead of taking it in discussion, it was sent him back with the argument: this goes too far and it is confusing when for example article 36 is not article 36 anymore as it was. Eric was psychological sick for a week.
Later the IYRU ‘downsized’ the rules but discussion above shows that still the question applies: is this what we want?
Besides all this: English is not my mother language, as you probable understood, and I wonder who is this Anonymous family? I cannot find one of them in the list of judges, so I think they are not one.

Adriaan Pels, Den Haag, The Netherlands

At 4:01 AM, Anonymous Jeff Borland said...

I am both a judge and an umpire. I already volunteer 10-20 weekends a year, then I try to race another 10-20.

You want me to have to take two more weekends to sit through seminars and take tests (and pay $75 out of my own pocket for each one) every year?

I don;t think so.

At 5:36 AM, Anonymous Tony S. said...

Race Management at any level takes personal commitment. The sport demands excellence and criticizes human error. In a sport where we count on mother nature to supply the fuel we ask humans for perfection. Do I think there should be on line training available - Yes. Do I think that anyone who is an Umpire or Judge should pay - No. Give them the tools to be what they are professionals. With almost 20 years of race management experience, I know you are going to get what I have come to appreciate, great, caring - professionals who love the sport and do their best to make it great for everyone.

Tony S.

At 6:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There seem to be two types of commenters here: active judges who sail occasionally and active sailors who judge occasionally. A well-constituted jury should encompass both. Problems, however, can arise when one group superimposes a good idea for them on the other. In this case, active judges want to keep their standards as high as possible, which poses an undue burden on active sailors.

In addition reducing the number of judges available, increasing the requirements would also separate the full-time judges further from the sport they judge, which is already a contentious issue in our sport. Active sailors would find it more difficult to become certified judges while maintaining themselves at the level of competition they enjoy. This outcome benefits no one, and thus, a consideration of further time requirements to certify judges - without provisions for those who actively sail - would be foolhardy.

An alternative that would accommodate and encourage active sailors to judge would be some sort of sliding scale, where first any seminars and then required regatta judging to maintain certification would be reduced (though never below a certain baseline) in proportion to the number of juried class or rule-sanctioned regattas one sails each year.

Jamie Ewing

At 6:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a certified race officer and part time member on juries when needed, I cannot agree with the posted comment until race officials are paid for their expenses (transportation, equipment, and lodging) for races and the cost of their certifications (approximately $300 to $500 and 2 days away from family and kids, sailing, etc. in a motel somewhere every 4 years). This means that either EVERYONE who sails and receives the benefits of these services needs to join US SAILING so that these costs can be subsidized or the entry fees for races will spiral upward yet another notch (as crew do not think you are not getting the benefits either; I hear far more "discussion" about the race courses and protest outcomes from the crews than from the owners!). This is not to say that all the certified officials out there are perfect, but my observation is those that do the best at taking the classes and tests are not always the most capable particularly in tough situations requiring "out of the box" thinking. One wonders if this is attributable to the fact that a high level of CONTINUING participation as a competitor in racing is not a requirement (the requirement is simply to "have experience as a racing sailor (no time limit)". Thus if you had experience 40 years ago but have not sailed since, you would meet the qualification!). Perhaps a better requirement than recertification every year would be that all the senior officials MUST sail in at least one "high level" event EVERY year to remain qualified.

At 6:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Ontario, Canada, the system is based on a combination of protest hearing experience, racing experience and race management experience. We have the designation of Club Judge which requires seminar attendance and hearing experience. To move up the ladder, one needs to be involved in hearings outside of one's area, chair hearings etc.

From my perspective, it is not lack of knowledge of the rules or their interpretation that causes wrong decisions, it is the ability to assess accurately the situation. Only once have I ever heard a protest where the two parties and all witnesses agreed on what transpired on the water. Testing won't help develop the skills needed to comprehend the situation.

Many have stated we need more people not fewer to judge, and I concur wholeheartedly. This is a volunteer position that inevitably results in out-of-pocket expenses.

Lastly, as an experienced racer, I know that the best way to avoid disqualification is to stay out of the room. I think our RC and PC officials would get greater respect if all racers were required to sit three hearings a year at their clubs and serve on the race committee.

At 9:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not everyone is retired with the time to facilitate these re-tests. Time on the water is more important that taking a test. The best I can see there are several judges out there that are clearly not qualified to judge as they haven't sailied their own boat or program since the ice age. These folks are great test takers but have lost the 'time on the water' element which is missing from US Sailing's criteria to be a judge in the first place...!

At 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm writing from a four-state region which currently has NO (zero, nada, zip) certified judges due to the hurdles placed in front of the two excellent volunteers who constituted our entire pool.

The only opportunities for them to retain credentials were three-day affairs 1,000 miles from home. These folks have been generous with their time, effort and out-of-pocket expenses. They should not also be asked to put up another $1000 in expenses and more in lost work time to maintain certification. Though they have lost none of their ability, they were not willing to make that sacrifice for the "privilege" of further donations.

US SAILING is not making good on its promise to support racing throughout the United States.
Online courses and testing are ideas whose time has more than come. It's available for many professions, why not US SAILING volunteers?

At 12:05 PM, Anonymous John Rumsey said...

Regarding judging of regattas. Professional regattas should have well paid judges because there is big money involved. Club and class regattas should have judges if they want the expense. Get rid of the kinetics rule, the judging of that is too subjective and it was enacted by older sailors that were being beaten by younger sailors who could use there agility to make the boat go faster.

At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

US Sailing took a major step to break out of the “Old Boy’s Club” mentality when they established the testing routine currently used to certify Judges 15 years ago but they are continuing working to regain the old system attitudes.

I agree with many of the points that Mr. Bain presents; “follow the certification for other
professions, i.e., annual participation in seminars/ round tables and home study courses through the mail and or the Internet, to be filled out and sent to a certified organization”.

US Sailing is unwilling or unable to support any area of the country not within a reasonable distance from a “land based Yacht Club”. Not only do the volunteers in our area provide their time and resources supporting events and representing US Sailing over a very large area of our country, they are required to spend significant time and resources for the honor & privilege of being a Judge. ‘They’ have recently DOUBLED the time required for “Classroom lectures” making it impossible to complete a re-cert over a weekend. They are also unable to differentiate between experienced certified judges that have maintained their experience and first time initiates; one size, prepackaged, MS PowerPoint lecture, “fits all”. As a Judge for the past 18 years, this “classroom lecture series” referred to as training has out lived it’s usefulness and to double the time required to review it is an insult to anyone that has served as a Judge for more than 2 cycles!

More real world experience could be gained with the improved use of seminars/ round table reviews of Appeals and Protests and with today’s technology, all of this can be easily handled over the web. I don’t object to “on the water” experience requirements and periodic testing. I do object to US Sailing scheduling these limited “training” sessions to the sailing season and at distances requiring significant travel $$ and lost pay. It’s time US Sailing takes advantage of the technology and improved their support for regions, other the coasts. We all can’t live by an ocean and a 2 hr drive to re-cert session!

At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an awful suggestion to an already seriously flawed program. It is my understanding that we are losing judges at an alarming rate. The original suggestion would drive even more judges away and scare off prospective judges.

US Sailing needs to first look at how to attract new judges instead of placing a higher degree of legislation on the existing pool of volunteers. The current system is plauged with OGYCN attitudes and, in my opinion, discourages younger people from actively pursuing the program. This suggestion would get our younger prospective judges running for the hills!

The judges we currently have are aging and have been volunteering to the point they they are getting tired. Give us a break and revamp the program!

At 4:00 PM, Anonymous Spencer Ogden said...

Sounds like a great way to end up with fewer judges. Top Judges stay up to date and are known for their professionalism and knowledge, they don't need a professional certification to prove it.

At 4:04 AM, Anonymous J.D. Stone said...

If you think we are well stocked with qualified Judges, try to assemble an International Jury. The pool available is extremely small and most are over utilized.

Adding another layer of requirements adds nothing. Rules knowledge is just one component of a good judge. Tack, organization skills, ability to listen, diplomacy, preparation, professionalism etc... count as much or more.

At 2:45 PM, Blogger Jane said...

as a recently certified judge (took several years) and someone who sails regularly, I have no problem requiring continuing Ed/seminars but testing is another issue. I go as often as I can because I want the knowledge and veiwpoints

part of becoming certified is getting recommendations from 3 judges who have sat with you plus the "head judge" that should be enough to insure the "judge" is qualified. at the club where I race I am the only certified judge currently - most of the really good people I have sat with don't want to go through the rig a more ole to become certified. their fellow club members know they can get the job done. requiring more testing with not change this.


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