Here’s how you should coach your team. Keep this as you primary goal, and do everything that it takes to achieve it: Make sure that all your alums want to judge for you for a couple of years after they graduate.
I am regularly dismayed by large programs that are incapable of digging up alums to judge for them once in a while. The bigger the program, the more alums there are. Why aren’t they coming around to give back a little bit? What did you do as a coach that made them immediately sever their ties with their high school, and with the activity that probably was the most important to them for four years?
The VCA knows that I don’t have the highest opinion of former students who hang around because they have nothing better to do, or still have a high school frame of mind when they should instead have a college frame of mind. Only students seriously considering education careers should be showing up every week. But the rest of the grads? Yes, they’re busy, but you need them. The activity needs them. Where are they?
One thing to keep in mind, when you go to a tournament and prepare to pay them for judges, wouldn’t it make more sense to pay your own alums? I know some schools think that giving back literally means giving, but they’re giving you their time and their expertise, and God knows, you seem perfectly willing to pay a stranger. Pay your own kids. Makes sense to me.
My guess, though, is that it’s not the money. It’s you. You, the coach. You did not build a lasting relationship with your students, you have no personal bond, and once they graduate, you’re like every other teacher they had, quickly forgotten, despite the uniqueness of this activity, in which we work with the students, and travel with them, for four straight years. We eat meals, we pass the time, we research and kick around ideas. Or we treat them the same way their Intro to Bio teacher treats them, interested in them of course, but not particularly connected. How can you work with them for four years and not connect? Beats me.
Yes, I’ve always said that forensics is about education first, and I believe that. But part of that education is the students building new and exciting relationships among a diverse population they may never had otherwise encountered. Shouldn’t that include their coaches?
And, by the way, no, I don’t have any more judges to sell you at the XXX tournament. You’re on your own. Maybe that’s the incentive you need, the little $500 fine I've been levying lately for showing up without judge coverage. Hey. Whatever it takes.