As competitors we always talk about stage plans: Where we will move to, when we will reload, the order of target engagement. The mental planning helps when it comes time to actually shoot the stage. But very seldom do we actually look at the stage from the RO perspective until we are handed the timer, and often it isn’t until the shooter is about to run us over that we realize that the stage is trickier to RO than we thought.
We have all seen the videos from matches that show ROs in precarious positions, usually from their own ignorance of what the competitor was doing. These videos have been from all match levels, but usually are more common at matches with embedded squad ROs. Squad ROs don’t have the luxury of focusing exclusively on a single stage like stage ROs. Stage ROs usually figure things out after the first few shooters, but often after many days in the hot sun, they can also make mistakes.
What does a RO stage plan consist of? It’s a lot like a stage plan for shooting the stage, but focuses on not interfering with competitor movement through a stage while allowing for the RO to monitor the shooter. Simple stages with a rectangular shooting area that involve horizontal or uprange/downrange movement are the easiest to RO. As the RO, you need to stay out of the shooter’s way and be close enough to pick up the last shot. Great, that’s a solid plan. But what if the shooter misses a target? Do you notice and hang back? What if you didn’t see the missed target? Are you ready to get our of the competitor’s way when he/she comes back uprange? What about stages with lots of twists and turns and dead-ends? These types of stages contain what we fondly call “RO traps”. These are stages that require even more planning on the part of the RO because blindly following the shooter usually ends up with the RO blocking the shooter’s path or being downrange of the shooter.
I hear a lot of ROs say, “I’ll just ask the competitor which way he/she is going.” We discourage that since that is not part of the official range commands, and even if the competitor voluntarily tells you this information, ignore it! Often, they will do the opposite of what they tell you after being zapped by the neuralizer (a.k.a. timer beep).
Being a RO is much more than just holding a timer, it’s a serious job. You are there to monitor competitor action, use the proper range commands, and apply the rules fairly and consistently. And formulating a RO stage plan is part of that job. Here are some pointers on how to create your RO stage plan:
1.) Walk the stage as a competitor first and identify where the shooting positions are. Think about how the high-capacity and low-capacity division shooters will approach the stage. Identify any potential dead-ends you don’t want to follow the shooter into and locate a good position to still monitor the shooter, but also stay out of the way. Mentally prepare to run the timer, before running the timer.
2.) While running the shooter, pay attention to target engagement. If they don’t shoot at a target, assume that they will come back for it. Hang back in case they do, but eventually you will have to catch up with the shooter to catch the last shot. You may have to follow and be prepared to back up, quickly!
3.) If you find yourself in a bad spot and make contact with the shooter, say “Stop!” and give the shooter a reshoot. If you are close to making contact but don’t, let the competitor finish and offer a reshoot before announcing the time and scoring the targets (see 8.6.4). If you believe the competitor intentionally made contact in order to get a reshoot, then call the RM.
It only takes a couple of minutes to make a RO stage plan. Make a plan and then grab the timer. Don’t let a stage catch you off guard!
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