It is somewhat rare to have a student in a Level 1 Range Officer course who is an active competitor that hasn’t taken a turn “on the timer” working as an RO at their local club matches. I still remember, vividly, the first time someone handed me the timer (Hi Guy Neill!). I survived and so did everyone else. But I quickly realized I needed to get busy with learning what this whole RO thing was about. Pre-RO Seminar experience is quite valuable and greatly aids someone as a student in an RO class by giving them a solid point of reference to build from. However, it can be just as detrimental to their success as a student and RO. This is largely dependent upon the quality of coaching, intentional or otherwise, the RO-to-be gets at the local match level.
Students that show up with a solid handle on the major rule concepts and the range commands generally have had a quality experience at the local level. And, conversely, those that show up with a lot of “local lore” type rules knowledge and with the wrong range commands are likely going struggle throughout the class. They will battle confusion as they work to overcome old habits and knowledge and replace it with correct information. This also tends to be a barometer showing how well their local club follows the rules.
Perhaps you are asking yourself where all the wrong information comes from. Range commands get altered in the name of humor (my personal favorite “Fondle and make lethal”), or they just get abbreviated for whatever reason (“hammer, holster, clear”). There is a place for humor and brevity; at a USPSA match while running shooters is not that place.
And then there are the ancient gems that come from the early lineage of our sport so far back no one really recalls their roots (“slide forward”, “slide down”, etc.), and those that used to be correct but got changed a while back (“load and make ready”). Finally, we have the range commands that come across from other disciplines and get mixed in (“Shooter ready”). If you are reading this and wondering if you are using the correct range commands, it is time to get out the current edition of the rule book and check out chapter 8.
Off the mark rules come about by all manner of different methods. A lot of it is, I suspect, based simply on not checking the rules when making a call. Someone makes a call, isn’t real sure but doesn’t want to hold up the match or doesn’t want anyone else to know and chances are pretty good the next time that situation comes around someone else will remember that call and think it is the right call. “Well, Bob called it that way and he’s good with the rules.”
Or, people make a call the way they think it should be, or which seems logical to them, without checking the actual rules to see if that is correct or not. And in the same way, what gets called once is likely to be used again and again.
And a lot of the remainder comes from not staying current on the rules. A big part of the reason to move to an electronic rule book was so we could publish, as necessary, a complete, up-to-date rule book instead of printing a paper book and releasing a stream of rulings and other updates over the lifespan of the printed book. We found that far too many people never updated the printed books and so the rulings etc. were ignored leading to a lot of problems. Oh, and “I don’t have a rule book handy” is not even a good excuse anymore. Pull that thing you call a “cell phone” out and use the USPSA App or pull up a PDF of the rule book. Most scoring tablets can easily have the rule book PDF loaded to them as well. So, “No book” doesn’t fly anymore folks.
All this comes back around to our soon to be RO. If they gain their pre-seminar experience with a club that cares about the rules and which strives to stay up to date, correcting each other about improper range commands or calls made in error; then that student is going to find the RO Seminar easy. If the soon to be student gains their experience where there are few/no certified ROs to begin with, people are still using ancient printed rule books, if they are using rule books at all, and the range commands are inconsistent and/or littered with rib ticklers…that student is going to not have much fun at the seminar.
Even worse, when they return back to their club and try to change the attitude because they now realize there are problems; they may be ridiculed and, gasp, told they “need to care less about the rules and more about having fun”. This all goes back to the old “It’s a local match, we are about having fun. The rules are only for those big matches.”
And that sort of stuff folks, is bad for the sport. There is one set of rules for all official USPSA matches regardless of level. There are very few exceptions and these are outlined in rule 3.3. Do the right thing, follow the rules. Do the even better thing and follow the rules, expect others to follow the rules, and help mentor new competitors/ROs by using the right rules. You will be better for it. Your club will be better for it. And the sport will be better for it. Thank you!