Despite our best efforts, we all show our human side now and then. That’s the side that is fallible. The side that we all love to hate. To err is human…or so they say. It is often how we handle that errors that defines us to others. Interestingly this seems to be something we all struggle with from early childhood until we shuffle off our mortal coil and pass on to whatever is next. And our human behavior affects every aspect of our lives including being an official at a USPSA/SCSA event.
An old platitude springs to mind “excuses are like ________, everyone has one”. Yep and making an excuse for most of us is as much of a reflex as anything else. Likely a reaction learned in early childhood as our parents started to hold us accountable for our actions. Whether it is trying to explain what happened, and usually why it is not our fault whether it is or not, or to point out a failing somewhere else it is, nevertheless, an excuse. And just like your mom didn’t believe most of our childhood excuses, no one else really does either.
There is a fine difference between an explanation and an excuse. An explanation doesn’t try to shift blame or even place blame except to accept that the blame lies with ourselves. An excuse invariably attempts to shift blame on to someone or something else. “Mark said we call it this way” is an excuse. “We thought we had to call it this way but I really should have checked to be sure that was accurate” is an explanation.
Thankfully most of the mistakes we make on the range are minor in nature. Making a wrong scoring call, failing to restore a target, letting a shooter start in the wrong start position…and so on. Minor stuff. No harm, no foul, generally.
Sometimes mistakes we make are a lot more far reaching and they can impact other people and matches. A mistaken DQ call that is upheld by the RM means you sent someone home for no good reason. A mistake in how you are operating a stage might get that stage tossed from the match. Lost stages can, and often do, have an effect on the order of finish in the match. Believe me, the top finishers are doing that math, they know of any impact to their placement.
And of course there is always the specter looming of a mistake wherein someone might get hurt.
So what to do? Quite simple really, and yet often so very hard. If you realize you made a mistake, admit it and learn from it. Owing our mistakes can be very healthy. I firmly believe that as long as we learn from our mistakes and thus don’t keep making the same mistake over and over that mistakes are really valuable opportunities. It is when we ignore the lessons that are offered by mistakes and keep repeating these mistakes over and over that we really have a problem.
While we hopefully learn from these mistakes which we will inevitably make, it is very important that you keep the lesson and discard the guilt. Continually bearing the weight of past mistakes is decidedly unhealthy.
Finally, while we should always strive to not make mistakes and take appropriate caution; we cannot allow ourselves to become so paralyzed with fear of making a mistake that we refuse to try.
One of the best ways to avoid mistakes is to work together with others as a team. Many people set to a common task naturally make fewer mistakes. A true team will allow everyone a voice and everyone will listen to every voice. Teams ruled by an individual with the rest of the members being ignored aren’t teams. There is a difference between leadership and dictatorship. When RO teams make mistakes it is almost always because they were not functioning as a true team. Often a single member has declared that this is the way we are going to do things and the other voices were not heard or they were afraid to speak up. Or, the team fractures and one part of the team does things one way while the other part calls it another way. This is most often found in enforcement of rules such as the calling of procedurals. Either way it is a recipe for disaster.
As humans, we are often better as teams. We make fewer mistakes and the work output has been shown to be more than the same number of individuals working separately. There are also the benefits of camaraderie that come with functional teams.
Another way to avoid mistakes, and one which I always mention in all my classes, is to always refer to the rulebook when making calls. Every time I have blown a call it has been because I ruled based on my memory and not on the current rule book. Got a tough call to make? What’s the book say? Can’t find it? Call the RM.
Mistakes are part of being human. That fact cannot be denied. Learn the lesson offered and move on.