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Adjudication in a Christian League

Stoa is a Christian league. We talk about that a lot, as we should; it’s the cornerstone of how we operate. But I have heard it referenced most often in my role as an adjudicator.

It plays out like this. The violator apologizes, offers an explanation or justification and then asks the adjudication team for “grace.” After all, Stoa is a Christian league and Christianity is based on grace and forgiveness, right? Then the side with the complaint makes a case for the inequity of holding some competitors to the rules, but not others. Stoa is a Christian league and we should enforce the rules to ensure that we train to the highest standards of ethical behavior, right?

Everyone has a valid point, but the adjudication team is left in an impossible position. I would argue that, in a Christian league, the ideal looks a little different. What if the student who violated the rule takes responsibility, apologizes, and forfeits that particular round. Then everyone responds with grace, forgives the offense, and moves forward. That is how we honor both the grace and the justice that characterize our faith and how we reduce conflict, stress, tournament delays, and damaged relationships. As Christians, one of the best things we can teach our kids is self-regulation and personal responsibility.

As a coach, I taught the Stoa rules of competition at club. I told my students that there would be times when someone would make a mistake with a rule, and when that happened, I would not ask an adjudication team for grace. Rather, I would expect them to step up, apologize and forfeit the round, then get back in the game and compete in the next round. The same standard applied to novices and advanced competitors, alike. I equated it to catching a ball with a toe out-of-bounds in football. It doesn’t matter if it’s intentional or if the player is a rookie; it’s out-of-bounds, so you don’t get the yards, but you get back in the game for the next play!

Over the years, my teams walked that out multiple times at local tournaments and at NITOC’s. Those rounds often caused kids to miss out on advancing or taking home a trophy, but they gained integrity, honor and the respect of their peers. So parents and coaches, if you find yourself in adjudication, take the opportunity to train your kids to value the things that help them cultivate true Christian character because after all, Stoa is a Christian league and that’s what we’re really after right?

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