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Answer to Playing the Competition 'Game'

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  • Answer to Playing the Competition 'Game'

    A Michigan fire department asked for advice on preparing for the extrication competitions being held regionally and nationally.

    "In the past two years, our department has participated in three Transportation Emergency Rescue Committee (TERC) extrication competitions, including the International Extrication 2000 Competition in Louisville, Kentucky. Our past teams have done very well in these competitions and we are presently preparing for the upcoming Dearborn (Michigan) competition.

    Because our team is looking to take its skills "to the next level", we'd like to know if you know of a good checklist that our Incident Commander can utilize.

    We've seen a couple of teams utilize clipboards in past competitions and it seems to have worked very well for them."

    My reply-

    I understand what you are trying to do and have just one suggestion; look over the judge's shoulder. Not literally, but there is a way to find out what the judges expect while you're competing.

    Remembering that the TERC competitions are just 'shows' and you are being asked to complete a 'script' or pre-determined course of action, the best thing you can do is go to the TERC website. There you are able to get a look at a 1997 version of the 'JUDGE'S CRITERIA WORKSHEET'.

    Follow this link http://terc.org/judgecritera.html to view the sheet.

    Print out the form and make your 'performance' at the competition meet all these criteria. At least you'll know what those judging you are using to base their ratings on.
    Ron Moore
    Fire Training Manager
    Plano (TX) Fire Rescue
    (214) 728-6776

  • #2
    Just one thing that I would like to add, while an extrication competition is a great learning tool I also agree that many are just shows.
    My small Volunteer department has only had a team for two years now (including this year) and while we did have lots of fun competing and watching other departments we also had to remember that what we were doing was just that, a competition.
    Our team got really down when the judges took us aside and nit-picked everything, many points we didn't agree with (I won't go into them right now). The one thing we now know is that what happens at real calls with real people and real injuries is so much more important then "looking good for the judges." One member suggested restructuring our training to apease the judges in a hope to win one of these competitions. Our chief disagreed (and so did may of us after he explained why): Working a real call is different in so many ways then working a competition. I guess what I am trying to say, is that "There is a certain amount of pride in bringing home a trophy, but it is more important to make sure the job is done right when lives are on the line."


    • #3
      I am Regional Judge and one of the Long time organizers of one of the Regional Competitions. So do take that into account as you read my reply. Yes these events are are shows. Hopefully, they are show where rescue teams come to show off their tools talents and techniques in an arena that promotes advancement and sharing of Resuce Innovations and Ideas. As to Pleaseing the Judges- well that is the way the game is played anywhere you go. Anytime you have Subjective or Objective evaluation of any competitors performance to determine the winner - to win you have to play for the Judges, How else would things be measured??? Now having said that, most judges I know will tell you do it as youd do it in the streets. Now if the Judge disagrees with what you are doing, try to figure out why???. Judges are human beings some are good, some are Better and some are Great! The Great ones inspire you to Look at what you are doing and why you are doing it. I personally DO NOT want to see "canned" repsonses to the scenarios or to the score sheet for that matter. I want to see a Team identify the problem, create or select a solution all the while being prepared to go to plan B or plan C. SO in Closing I would truthfully say DO NOT PLAY TO THE JUDGES (Heck they change from event to event any way) PLAY to the IDEALS as out linned in the Judges Sheet as Mr. Moore has pointed out.

      Rescue is the Art & Science of matching your tools, talents and tricks to needs of our customers!
      Carl D. Avery


      • #4
        Hello Ron, how are you? I am an International Judge and the word "show" really has no place in the TERC Regional and International Competitions. I for one, tell rescuers that I am not here to see a "show", just show me what you would do on the "street". That is what best serves their own communities!

        The whole purpose of the TERC competitions is to spread training, and not keep any secrets!
        I see this interaction with the various teams competing.

        See you in Burlington.

        Mike McNamara

        [This message has been edited by mike mcnamara (edited 03-21-2001).]


        • #5
          Ron, Re: "Competion Game" - I have competed and judged and would like to respond to your post. The comment regarding a "Scripted" response has me scratching my head. From my experience any team that attacked a scenario this way would fail miserably, not just in the scoring but also in the rescue. There are too many variables involved. eg: powerlines, fuel spills, placards, air bags, new vehicles vs. old vehicles, degrees of entrapment, the list is endless without even mentioning the set-up of the scenario. If I came upon a vehicle on 4 wheels with 1 adult in the driver's seat vs. the same situation with a child's running shoe laying 6 feet from the car my whole approach, size-up and evaluation would change dramatically. These hazards and props are not placed by accident. They are there to see if the team has a solid grasp on how to deal with them and in the proper sequence. Just like on the road, there never two scenarios the same. It may look like there is from the bleachers but not from the team or judge's view.

          I can't think of another training exercise that comes even close to the extrication competitions. Of course it's not real but where else do you get the kind of pressure the teams feel while "Doing It" in front of some of the world's best and a couple of hundred of their peers. I remember that feeling well and it ain't nice.

          Some comments to the team from Michigan:

          There is no doubt that some judge's are better than others. There are probably lots of reasons for this but I find the main reason is that some feel they have to bring to the team's attention every little thing they noticed during the evolution.

          A team that has no idea how to build a box crib does not need to hear that they left 1 piece of 4 X 4 laying around that someone could trip on.

          A team that does not how to place a manual spreader in the door properly does not need to hear that their dust mask covered their mouth but not their nose.

          A Capt. that has no control over the team and lets everyone freelance does not need to hear that he forgot to call for the police.

          I have heard & seen judge's critique all the big ticket items then go on and on about all the nit picky stuff as well. I feel this is the wrong approach and team's should not hear this until they clean up the big items.
          I have seen teams leave a critique and I've known they will never return.

          BUT - I've left many a critique after competing and heard nothing but nit pickin'.
          I walk out with the biggest grin on my face cause I know I'm close or even there.

          As a judge, when a team does really well I will tell them so and warn them that now I'm going to start my nit pickin". They always understand where I'm coming from and usually chuckle.

          Believe me - A clipboard will not make any difference. Keep up the good work, you're almost there!

          Respectfully Submitted,
          Harvey Garner


          • #6
            To Harvey, and Carl and Mike and all who get involved in this particular thread...Thank you! I for one appreciate what you do at a personal level to make the TERC competitions a reality.

            I'm pleased that this thread has generated some genuine 'coul-searching' about what we do and how we do it. Here's the reply I sent to Mike McNamara. Mike is the chairperson of the 2001 International Extrication competition and Learning Symposium to be held in Burlington Canada.

            "I've gotten some very interesting comments from real participants both present and past about the reality of the competitions and what they have evolved into. It's an eye-opener when you get unsolicited comments from real people. Guys that take the time to write from the heart.

            When I said 'Show' in my Message forum, I meant "show"... doing it for the judges and the 'score'.It is interesting to hear from teams across the country that feel that as much as we like to think that the competition is a total learning experience, the actual competition is perceived as more of a show than anything else. We need that to change perception.

            The report from one team who wrote to me on this topic sticks out in my mind. They said that the 'doing it for the judges' pressure was such an over-riding feeling after their two competitions, they have withdrawn from the event. They feel their time can be better spent training for real-world extrications. They objected to the judges post-scenario
            review especially. They referred to the 'nit-picking' by the judges as they described it as a waste of their time.

            I'm not taking sides on this discussion yet. The Message Forum will continue to grow on this controversial topic. I am troubled however about the perception of the competitions becoming a good 'ol boy syndrome. When I see the same teams year after year winning the competitions in all three categories, I have to stop and think that
            maybe these teams have truly mastered the art of the 'show'.

            Personally, I think there has to be a better way. What do you and your committee think? Are you guys really happy with the way things are done?


            • #7
              Ok, time for a third party bystander to reply. I have never competed or judged. However I actively particatapte in 8-9 comps a year in two countries. I have had dinner with judges and teams, I'm the guy in the middle that hears both sides but never at the same time. First off let me say that there is no better source anywhere for any dollar amount to share ideas and intovations and see and use new toys and tools. Lets be honest, how many major crash'm-ups does the average rescue company see in a year ... I mean MAJOR. Sure we all run a ton of fender benders but in one weekend you will have the chance to see 30 to 40 of the most God awful crashs of your career. The smart teams do the "easy side" of the fence critiques and lay out a game plan in their mind of how they would attack the problem. Then the team on the hot spot arrive and lay out their plan. Better? worse? differant? Whatever, the learning process is happening even if you don't realize it. Why did the IC do that?, Why did he crib there? What the heck is the medic doing? I have seen 10 times more learning happen from mistakes then the aced rescues. As far as "The same teams" always repeating, let me give the new and upcoming teams a little tip here. I will pick on my good friend Walley Byers form the Brighton team. Lets say his team is competing at 2:00, that means they lay thier tools out at 1:00 and go to the rubber room at 1:30. So what time does Walley get there? 7:00am. What time does he leave? When then the last team is done. Why is he one of the best? Because he is smart enough to reconize the valuable learning experance that is offered to him. He is smart enough to watch mistakes and not to repeat them, he is smart enough to see new things that work and add them to his mental toolbox. There is nothing I hate more then the teams that spend all day on the golf course, show up at the last minute, compete, leave and then **** about the results. Sure we all want to have fun, sure we can explore new areas and see the local sites. But lets not forget the real reason why your department selected you to represent them and bring positive things back to your community.

              See ya at the comps ..... Zmag


              • #8
                Ron, You've asked us to reply and I'm sure some will.

                You wrote that the winning teams have: "Mastered the art of the show"

                Is it possible that a lot of the winning teams have: "Mastered the art of rescue"?

                At the 1999 Eastern Ontario regional a team from Kitley won 1st place overall. This regional is the 1st. or 2nd. longest running competition in the world. The calibur is high and the teams go on waiting lists to compete.
                FACT: - The Kitley team had never seen or competed in an extrication competition. They are a perfect example of a Dept. that has mastered the art of the rescue with no pre-conceived notions of what the judges were looking for.

                FACT: - Year 2000, Atlantic Canada Regional.
                Overall winner was Halifax, Nova Scotia. Another team that had never competed before but satisfied the judge's criteria without putting on a show.

                "The same old winners". - At the 1998 International, Brighton, New York Fire Co., A veteran team in every sense finishes 22nd. out of 23 teams. If any team was capable of putting on a real good show, they were.

                The same team from Brighton in 1999 places 1st. overall at the International.

                I certainly don't see a pattern there.

                As for the team that enjoyed the competition except the critique. - No comment!

                Am I happy with the way things are? - We are always looking for ways to improve but haven't heard any ideas yet.



                • #9
                  Received this comment from Elgin Browning, Secretary of the Transportation Emergency Rescue Committee.

                  "Our scenario based training is not a show.
                  And those that know me, know I certainly have never followed a script.The lesson changes with ever scenario.

                  Thanks, Elgin


                  • #10
                    Here's a point of view from a West coast fire department...a first time team in the Seattle, Washington competition.

                    "Thanks for your time this weekend at the TERC competition. My team really enjoyed themselves, and all agreed we are hooked. The learning was something we value and will take it to the streets. You and your team
                    did a great job and were very helpful, their thoughts, advice and the expertise they shared with us was very helpful and got us all in the think mode.

                    We look forward to more drilling and hope to enter another competition.


                    • #11
                      I hope Non Extrication Competition people read this. I still feel no matter what you think of them the COMPS are the biggest single driving source for advancement in the Field of Rescue! Where do you see new tools first? At the comps! Where do you get a chance to evaluate tricks and techniques with your peers there to talk about it and compare notes with? Again the Comps! This is truly an AMERICAN [OK NORTH AMERICAN] form of making it better (Yes I know we owe it all to our Brothers in Canada, Onatario actually,now the world has adopted it) When I say AMERICAN I mean in the spirit of Free Enterprize. Where Teams learn and grow from each other. That probably is a Canadian atribute too. Nothing will accelerate our field more than the Comps. I hope I am making my point clear here. With any faults they may or may not have Notning that I have seen has promoted as many advances in field of rescue as the Competitions

                      Rescue is the Art & Science of matching your tools, talents and tricks to needs of our customers!
                      Carl D. Avery


                      • #12
                        Me again, I would like to add that I figure competitions here in BC, Canada, are run a little different.
                        1. Some of the judges belonged to departments that had teams entered.
                        2. The host department thinks up most of the scenarios.

                        I am not sure how TERC operates, but it sounds like a good set-up. Some of the things our judges commented on where (now keep in mind I am sure they had there reasons):
                        - You spent to much time doing spinal on your first patient that you removed.
                        - Why didn't you un-crib the vehicle once you were done and moved it out of the way so you could have better access to the second vehicle.
                        - You should have taken the time to "sweep" up the broken glass before you continued your extrication.
                        - Your third vehicle had minor damage and no patient, you could have removed it from the action circle.

                        I will continue to stay on my department's team because of the experience we gain. For example, 2-3 months prior to the competition we start practicing every Tuesday and Sunday in addition to regular practices on Thursday. 3-4 weeks before the competition we begin to practice every second night and eventually every night leading up to the event. I will admit, it helps us all gain valuable experience.


                        • #13
                          OK. I've been reading everyone's comments and I have to throw my two cents in! As a judge I hear all these comments at every event I participate in. And, in reality, everyone is correct to some extent.

                          The meaning of the competitions can become blurred when getting into these specifics. The overriding factor is the education that these events have inspired. Because of the International Competition I became aware of a whole world of fire and rescue people. I have made many friends from all over the US and the rest of the world. They have all taught me about vehicle rescue and made me a better rescuer.

                          Don't go to these things to win, go to learn, meet other people who have the same desire to improve themselves in their profession, and have a good time.

                          As a judge I am always searching for that one new technique, that one team that stands out far beyond the rest, and the new tool. At some events we (judges) look at each other after the day and say "nothng new". And at other times the judges will look at each other with grins and say "wow, that was impressive".

                          Yes, it can be a beauty contest. There is a great deal of subjectivity to it, however, I can honestly say that I have never known at the end who would win. It is all numbers guys, they are marked, added up and that's it. If there's a Russian judge who tries to throw the event, he is usually found out and won't be back to another one. I must say, I have never worked with one of those yet.

                          If you participate, and take what you've learned back to your community and maybe, just maybe a life was saved by your efforts, then everything we have all done has been worth it.

                          Thanks Ron!


                          • #14
                            Once again, I would like to stress that there is no substitute for the training and experience many departments get from practicing prior to the competition.

                            I guess what I am really trying to say is that some times little departments like mine have to wonder... are some of the larger departments doing something extra that we don't see or have not been taught? It was nice to see a little department win in our region this year, but like always, the same combination of halls filled in the ranks and took home the secondary awards. What makes it interesting, was that a neighboring department told us about the same combination winning a prior to the compitition, we didn't think much of it, until it happened.


                            • #15
                              A Comment on Small departments, Comps are the best place for them! Like Mike Schmidt said where else are you going to see Lotsa big time Crashes with lotsa solutions? I am from a small Department, a very Small Department ( a village of 900 people, and a protection area of about 90 sq miles with more Squierls than people) Go to them and Look and see. You do not have to compete either. Spectators are welcomed. And if you do compete the training you do to prepare cannot be replaced. Lets face it human nature is human nature, While I will admit we all should pratice more, The motivation of a competition can PUSH you on toward Excellence! Also remember Brighton, Not a real small department (they are from Tonawanda- a suburb of Bufalo) but they aint a big department either. Just a group of deidicated volunteers that poour there heart and soul into Extrication and have ended up on top! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK and KEEP TRYING FOR THE TOP that is what Wally and his TEAM of FIRE-RESCUERS Did and they made it to the top, Now they are starting Work on the next generation of World beaters in Brighton! IT CAN BE DONE!

                              Rescue is the Art & Science of matching your tools, talents and tricks to needs of our customers!
                              Carl D. Avery


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