RECF Involvement in Events - Student Perspective

Today in an interview we were asked the question, “Did you turn in a notebook?”

“Did you turn in a notebook?”

My coach had the perfect analogy. She said that it was like interviewing someone for a job without seeing their resume. This was at a tournament just 25 minutes away from Greenville, the home of the REC.

Important part: I don’t think that the fault is in the hands of the people at the event. They do a great job each and every time.

Event partners put in tireless work to put events together, and yet some can’t do everything on their own. I am not a coach so I have no idea have how Event Partners interact with EEMs and TEMs. No clue. If someone I know saw that I was poking my nose into this subject they would be shocked.

But here is what I do know.

  • There are events where judging is totally botched. If you want proof, ask me about when the announcer at a tournament said, “If you didn’t get a chance to interview, come see us.” Or when the same team got excellence and design. Or the example given above.

  • There are also events where the volunteers aren’t qualified. I’m sure most of us who are reading this have had this happen to them, or at least read about them on the forum.

  • Early in the season, some refs plain don’t know the rules.

  • All of this is at the expense of the competitors.

So, I have some questions.

  • If a tournament needs qualified referees and judge advisors, especially if their original one drops out, do they recieve help from the RECF? If not, can they?

  • Especially if the answer to the above question is yes, can they enforce all events to have approved refs and judge advisors?

  • Is it possible to send a low level employee of the RECF to tournaments to make sure everything is done properly?

  • Or are there just too many tournaments going on for this to actually be feasible within reason?

This post is made with all due respect and no negativity. Please tell me quickly if there are any factual inaccuracies.


It’s a difficult job, to volunteer at events. There is immense pressure to get a very complicated set of rules and rubrics perfectly executed, and all on the personal time of these people.

There are certain things recf could be doing to help these volunteers out, which happened far too late or not at all this season.

Referee training certifications took many months to release, the rules of this game have changed probably more than any other game, the usual set of very clear and helpful referee training videos were never made at all, though they might have become quickly obsolete in many aspects after the frequent rule changes. Games should be designed with greater emphasis on simple rules which are easy to referee and understand (not simpler games, just simpler rules).

I think recf has done a pretty good job providing resources for judging, especially since judging doesn’t change based on the game each year. But many judges are not very well versed in the world of vrc, and are sometimes just simply volunteers who were asked to fill this role without really knowing exactly how it works.

At the end of the day, the overall quality of events can be influenced by this lack of experience or knowledge on the part of the volunteers, and you can blame that on them or recf of a combination of the two. But without them, the events wouldn’t be happening at all. If quality of events in your region is of concern to you, then you should be encouraged to become one of those volunteers and work up to the standards you desire as a competitor, and help the volunteers around you improve themselves as well, because really that’s the main thing you can do to better the competition.


As an EP, I host many large events and in the past I have also been a judge and emcee at worlds. I use a similar scheme to worlds for my judging organization. We have judges who review notebooks and judge the associated awards (Excellence, Design, and Innovate). We have another set of judges who focus on judging for other awards. If a division has multiple sets of “other” judges (worlds usually has 4 sets of these) each of those groups will interview a portion of the division and then nominate teams as finalists, which are then interviewed again by the judges tasked with ranking teams for a specific award.

“Did you turn in a notebook?” is a completely valid question. Some judges may be focused on awards that do not require a notebook (and never review the notebooks), but want to ask that leading question to determine their next set of questions about your process as a team.

Example: At the IQ events I hosted today, there were a set of very experienced judges who judged the Excellence, Design, and Innovate, and another set who judged the lower awards. The judges who judged the lower awards that do not require a notebook did not review any of the notebooks. This meant that the top contenders were interviewed at least twice by different judges and some more than twice.

In my previous experience at in-person worlds, I can tell you that Excellence Award winners usually receive as many as 6 interviews in a day as they should be top contenders for all awards. As many as four of those interviews will be with judges who may have no interaction with your notebook ever.

That said, yes, finding quality judges and referees is always hard, especially so over the last two seasons. A lot of my go to people have stopped volunteering at events due to concerns with Covid, or simply just being exhausted with the changes that Covid has made to their lives over the last two years.

In your case in particular, there is one EEM and one TEM for Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. They do also employ event support people in each region (I forget their actual title). Even at that, there is not always enough RECF people to go around. There were 17 events in Texas alone today between VRC and VIQC.

EP’s regularly reach out to each other for help finding good quality volunteers, and RECF is always helpful with putting new EP’s in touch with experienced EP’s for help and recommendations.

Yes, there are events that totally botch one or both of these things. RECF does put pressure on those EPs to provide names and contact info for judge advisors and referees before they can have future events approved. I know of former EPs who are basically no longer allowed to host events because they cannot provide confidence to RECF that they have appropriate staff to run a quality event.

There never will be a perfect world in which no poor quality experiences exist. There will always be rookie EPs, rookie referees, and rookie judges. Some have great success from the start and some need to work an event to learn what they don’t know, just as some rookie teams have success and others are awestruck at what they find out they don’t know during their first season.


Indeed there is, Competition Overview | VEX Certified Educators

Certifications for Head Referee, Judge, an EP.

The only certification missing is Drive Team Certification.

I think another factor for events not being high quality is quantity and scheduling. Quantity of teams has a major impact on the event. We doubled the number of teams at our event to allow teams who had not been able to register events (because there are fewer) have a chance with in-person tournament format. Doubling teams means doubling volunteers, and with covid, some key volunteers are hesitant to venues with high density of people. The second factor, scheduling happened to us when we had to reschedule not once, but three times, change format due to covid. So with a moving target, the volunteer team booked for one day because they were available, suddenly became unavailable, and yes you could draw on other EPs for support, but as luck would have it, other events we committed to support were also scheduled the same weekend. Result was reduction of critical volunteers.

Despite the chaotic nature, I am impressed with positive energy teams have exhibited at all our events, and all of our volunteers whom we overload at times. I hope next season to be less chaotic, the past two seasons have been brutal.


Nope. RECF does not and will not have that kind of manpower. If they did, team registrations would probably be in the $1000 range.

It is on the honor system. The EP agrees to do so. However, “enforcement” would really mean that if my head ref got sick that morning then the results of the tournament wouldn’t count… And the only people that hurts is the students.

Finding good judges is the hardest job that I have as an EP. My last tournament had 3 judges for 35 teams. They were very good, and the got the notebooks done ahead of time so they basically started their interviews right away, but you should have a pair of judges for every 6-8 teams. So I should have really had 12 judges.

It would be great if RECF would have some kind of campaign to recruit and train volunteers, but ultimately they won’t do a better job than I can. I’m the local person on the ground and not some other entity halfway across the country.

Thank you for posting this. I hope you are looking forward to being a judge! As a high school student, you can judge at qualifying VEX IQ events, and with your experience you would probably be a really good one!


You might want to look at this, it’s the certification process for Event Partners, it has a section on what the interactions are. It also covers ALL the stuff we do as an EP.

The judges are trying to do pit interviews and teams are all over the place. We leave a note “We were here, we will come back”. But with multiple trips back and forth we missed you. Hence the “last call for interviews”

We try to not put untrained volunteers in positions where they may fail. We try to match them up with someone that knows what they are doing. Sometimes we have people flake out and not show up. I’ve asked parents “Are you a Delaware High School Graduate?” On a positive response I’ve gone “Great, you can count to 50, come be a score keeper” For IQ events it’s pretty easy. When I referee I help by picking up game elements that need a call (that high mogo that fell over the wall in the last 30 seconds and is touching, it should have been removed from the field. I’ll pick it up an move it off, now it’s clear to everyone that it’s not being scored.

We require the referees to pass the test, so I can’t comment on other places. But as noted, this has been an amazing season for rule changes.

It’s B, too much stuff going on. Our Tournament Regional Manager came yesterday, we were one of his 11 events for the day. (Busy day with do-overs from the snowstom) My last RSM visit was in 2019 (in the before times) They are available by Text and phone call. So the EP has access to them when needed.

You are right it is tough. Not going to jump on the obfuscated and frankly quite imperfect judging and reffing practices. bandwagon. Both the judging and refereeing processes are pretty well defined and documented. And the Student Advisory Board had helped make some updates to Judging.

Yes there are, it’s called being certified and here is the links: Competition Overview | VEX Certified Educators

Sorry for some of you that the season is not going well, as EPs and for the entire volunteer community we do the best we can with the resources we have. It helps if you knows someone that would make a great referee or a judge to send them to the Event Partner to add to the list.


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