If you have never worked a Major Match, you may not have seen what goes on during the associated Staff Match. It is one of the things that we don’t describe in the rulebook, but is still part of the mechanics of our sport. Kind of like the “Leave the shooting area clear for the on-deck shooter” comment you have probably heard many times: it’s not in the rules, but is part of our best practices.
Here are a few things that happen during the Staff Match that everyone should be aware of:
- The Staff Match is part of the Major Match, but is the early flight/schedule before the main match occurs. In our self-officiated sport, the staff are for the most part shooters, competing to win their Division, Class or Category just like every other shooter in the match. They have volunteered to work as well as shoot, and they are shooting for score. There is no “Staff Discount” for scoring calls or reshoots for brain farts during Staff Day. Range Master scoring calls, popper calibrations, disqualifications and all other USPSA rules are all part of the Staff Match. If anything, the Staff Match is likely to be stricter rules-wise than the Main Match (it’s harder to argue a 180 break when a whole squad of Match Staff RO’s just saw it happen).
- The Staff Match is also the final opportunity to fix the match. It’s the last chance for the Match Director, Range Master and Staff to collaboratively correct Written Stage Briefings, adjust target and barrier placement, and generally give a final proof of the stages before the Main Match starts. The staff that is shooting is expected to use their critical experience as shooters to point out shoot-throughs, potential scoring issues, opportunities to “break a stage,” safety issues and anything else that the build crew MD/RM team may have missed. Sometimes this means a delay while a problem is resolved and may also result in whole squads of staff reshooting a stage because of stage modifications. The intent is to avoid having to throw out a stage or encountering a significant problem later during the Main Match. There is also an implied requirement for Staff Match shooters to be ready to help out more than we expect from paid shooters at the Main Match.
The Staff Match creates a unique challenge for the MD/RM to make sure the Main Match runs smoothly while at the same time ensuring that there is no competitive advantage or disadvantage to shooting during the staff match. Additionally, there is an expectation that a Staff Match shooter will point out a hole in a stage rather than exploit it and effectively break the stage. We are all competitors, but during the Staff Match we are also trying to make sure that the Main Match goes well.
Having non-staff shooters during the Staff Match adds a level of complexity that many Match Directors choose to avoid, and you should never expect to be allowed to shoot with the staff. There is reason for Staff Only squads. There have been shooters who were allowed to shoot with the staff and took advantage or broke a stage rather than pointing out a problem. For most Major Matches, shooting with the Staff as a paid shooter is usually not an option. Although the Match Director may allow it, you should probably not get your feelings hurt if you try to shoot with the staff and get denied the opportunity.
The bottom line is that the Match Director and Range Master are working hard to run a smooth, fair, and fun match. Their staff are competitor volunteers, who also only want to compete in and officiate a smooth, fair, and fun match. The Staff Match is simultaneously a part of the Main Match and the last chance to make adjustments as required.
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