A couple of years ago, Jodi Humann wrote this post about whether to write a written stage briefing (WSB) or not. Once you’ve decided to write one, what do you put in it, and how should it be handled at the match? (Note: this information applies to all level matches, not just Area or National Championships. If you aren’t writing WSBs for your local match, you should be.)
To begin with, rule 3.2.1 tells you the basic information that must be included in a written stage briefing, namely the scoring method, type and number of targets, and the minimum number of rounds to complete the stage. It also must include the ready condition for the firearm, the start position for the competitor, whether the start signal is audible or visual, and then the procedure for shooting the stage.
It’s important to put this information into a format that holds the competitors interest for the (hopefully) short period it takes to read the WSB. Long, complicated stage briefings tend to lose the competitors attention pretty quickly, so short and to the point are the orders of the day. How to do that?
First, for many matches, the welcome and sponsor recognition are important parts of the match and sponsors like to be recognized for their contributions. You also must note the range officials on the stage, they deserve recognition as well. Once that’s done, it’s time to get down to business. Most competitors are only listening for a couple of things: number of rounds, and start position. Beyond that most are not interested, but there are still important things that must be covered. And, just because they aren’t listening doesn’t mean you don’t have to read it. Here’s an example of a concise WSB that covers everything without being so detailed that we lose the competitor’s attention. (Information not spelled out in the rules in parentheses.)
Stage 1 is a 20-round Comstock stage with 8 USPSA targets and 4 USPSA Poppers. The handgun start position is standing with your feet on the marks, wrists below belt. Your handgun is loaded and holstered. The PCC start position is standing with your feet on the marks, PCC loaded and shouldered, safety on. On the audible start signal, engage targets as available from within the shooting area.
(Questions) (Demonstrate any movers) (Inspection/”walk through” time)
Here is where some people like to add a huge long list of “housekeeping” items, such as how they’ll score the stage, where the pasters and paint are, what the on-deck shooter can do, etc., etc. None of that is part of the written stage briefing, and is usually falling on deaf ears. I would omit it. The competitors are smart enough to figure out which way you’ll score the stage, and if the paint and pasters are visibly displayed, they’ll find that, too. There is one thing relevant to scoring that should be included prior to the questions phase, and that is if the stage is going to be scored early, or if split scoring is going to be used. That’s another blog post.
Let’s break that WSB down and see if it’s in compliance with 3.2.1:
Stage 1 is a 20-round <number of rounds> Comstock <scoring method> stage with 8 USPSA targets and 4 USPSA Poppers <targets, type and number>. The handgun start position is standing with your feet on the marks, wrists below belt. <start position> Your handgun is loaded and holstered. The PCC start position is standing with your feet on the marks, PCC loaded and shouldered, safety on. <firearm ready condition for both handgun and PCC> On the audible <time starts> start signal, engage targets as available from within the shooting area. <procedure, spell it out or it’s not required>
That’s about as minimal as you can get and still provide the necessary information. Why didn’t I list the number of points, or how many scoring hits count per paper, or whether the steel has to fall or not? Because that’s all covered in the rules: 9.5.1 is specific to scored hits on paper and to steel falling, and we don’t use any other kind of steel. And, the math is always the same: # of hits x 5 points = maximum points possible. Of course, if you want to have more or less than 2 hits per target score, you’ll have to spell that out in the WSB, e.g., “the best 3 hits per cardboard target will score”. Otherwise, you can omit it. You’ll also have to list any special things like mandatory reloads, weak or strong hand shooting, and any other procedural items that pertain to the type of course, but you should still keep that to the minimum. It’s a good idea to note any activated targets as well, and whether they disappear or not. Oh, and it has to be read verbatim: don’t add anything, don’t leave anything out, and no ad-libbing allowed. Any changes or additions are the responsibility of the Range Master.
For start position, the rules suggest that this should be demonstrated by a range officer, and that’s an excellent best practice. If the start position is simple, such as wrists below belt, there is probably no need to demonstrate. But, if it is very specific, like “palms flat on the marks, head centered between the marks, facing directly downrange”, then a demonstration is the optimal way to ensure the competitors understand the start position. (Be sure that you don’t forget what it is midway through the stage, though, because that can be disastrous.).
Written Stage Briefings are important to the smooth operation of a stage and a match. Editing a wordy stage briefing like you are trying to get a free three-line classified ad is a good way to start, just don’t leave anything out.