Several times each month, usually on a Sunday or Monday, we get a question or two that starts along the lines of “This weekend at the match…” and, somewhat astonishingly, it is rarely mentioned that anyone pulled out a current copy of the rules and looked at what they had to say about the situation. Quite often someone who is considered to be “good with the rules” is mentioned as being consulted but, again, no one hauled out a book, electronic or otherwise.
Back when we published a paper copy of the rules and issued rulings on a semi-regular basis, it was common that there were not entirely current copies of the rule book around to be consulted. Seems few people bothered to update their printed copy with said rulings over the lifespan of the book. Those rulings needed to be incorporated to have a complete copy of the rules and that caused issues fairly frequently.
With the electronic rule book starting back in 2019, everyone at the match with a mobile device (aka cell phone) in their pocket should have the current rule book at hand. Indeed, this was the primary driving force behind going to an electronic rule book. By the way, the electronic rules really should be loaded on the scoring devices being used when possible. Yes, we are aware that using the app on scoring devices is difficult due to authentication issues but the PDF versions will work just fine. Using the USPSA and/or SCSA App, you are assured that you have the most current rules with any changes that have been made. If you choose to use the PDF versions then you do have to update those yourself.
And yet, we continually find that no one took the few minutes to look up the situation being discussed to see what the rules had to say about it. All too often this is pointed out as having lead to a exhaustive, sometimes even heated, discussion.
We also hear the opposite situation where people dive into the rule book but then they start parsing the language to try and divine what the rule really means. Although, to be honest this seems to happen more after the match in front of keyboards. Folks, NROI and the USPSA Board of Directors aren’t part of the Knights Templar or any other secret organization that has put hidden meanings into everything. We haven’t gone and encrypted any secrets or been intentionally obscure or cryptic in the rules. Just read it, apply the common meaning to the words, and that’s what it means.
Here is where I remind everyone that the Appendices are part of the rules and that Appendix A3 is the Glossary. Now, not every word used in the rule book is included in the glossary. What we have intentionally done with the Glossary is to include words where we need to apply a very specific interpretation to the word in question and/or define words that cause confusion. For other common words, I refer you to your dictionary of choice. There are several online to choose from if you don’t have a copy at hand. Pick the definition the dictionary provides that best fits the situation at hand and move on. Don’t try and squeeze some other definition in because you think it is maybe what was originally intended by the writers of the rules. That’s just asking for trouble.
We do expect a certain amount of common sense to be applied as well. I know…common sense is in seemingly short supply these days.
Another phenomenon that we run into are those folks who try and examine each individual rule without taking it in context with the rest of the rules. The close cousin to this are the folks that expect each individual rule to stand on its own and contain all the information necessary. Without an understanding of the entirety of the rules it is true that some individual rules may not make sense. This is pretty much true of any book. Go pick up a novel you have never read, flip to a random page and see how much sense this makes. None, right? The same happens with our rules.
Each rule contributes something to the chapter of the rule book it is a part of, and often gives ancillary support to, or gains support from, other rules and chapters. My advice is that if you have not read the rule books that apply to your activities in our sport (Competition Rules, MG Rules, SCSA rules) that you challenge yourself to read all of these cover-to-cover. The whole thing, especially the appendices. Do this every year as part of your tune up for match season and as part of your prep for every major match you might be participating in, especially if you are working as staff. Doing this a few times helps you grasp the overall rule book in its entirety and helps you locate the applicable rules when the time comes that you need to do it. Thumbing through the rules page by page as the match grinds to a halt around you looking for a rule that you are just sure is in there isn’t a good way to gain friends and influence people.
It’s a little shocking to those of us that work majors how many times ROs show up to work and haven’t really dug into the rule book any further than required to pass the annual online exam. This rapidly becomes apparent when a rule needs to be found in the book and the swiping from page to page begins. You should be at least be able to have an idea as to what chapter you need to be looking in.
Don’t try to memorize the rules. Know where stuff is and how to look it up. That helps avoid the “recalling a rule from several books ago that is no longer a rule” problem.
Finally, if you get really and truly hung up trying to understand something in the rules, a quick email to email@example.com will get you an answer to help you achieve enlightenment. Look it up, read it, but don’t overthink it. That’s where the trouble begins.
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