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Is The New International Judging System Wrecking Our Sport?

September 19, 2007

Any time there is a significant change in anything, people have a natural tendency to resist.  And there’s certainly a lot of second-guessing going on right now regarding the new judging system or IJS.  Everyone agrees that the new judging system is significantly more complicated.

I know a lot of coaches that are very upset about it.  Creating programs and choosing elements has become a bookkeeping challenge.  The focus is now on how to get the most points rather than on how to show off a particular skater’s strengths.  Many coaches feel the new rules are actually hindering skater development, particularly in spirals, spins and footwork, and the emphasis on artistry is being crushed.

I also know several judges that do not like the changes.  They feel that it has become much more complicated without really changing the results over the 6.0 system.  They are now limited to judging an element as very good (+2), good (+1), adequate or average (0), poor (-1), very poor (-2) or terrible/fall (-3).  Let’s face it, there are no +3’s!  Some judges consider it an insult to have to categorize each element into these 6 categories.  And judges are sick of seeing the same elements over and over as most skaters use the same elements to get the maximum number of points.  (And what do you think will happen to the TV ratings if the public gets sick of seeing the same stuff all the time?)

And what about accountants and other officials?  I spent some time volunteering in the accounting room at the Madison Open Figure Skating Competition this weekend.  And let’s just say it’s not pretty.  To record an IJS event, a runner needs to take the judging sheets for each skater to the accounting room immediately after that skater skates.  In the accounting room, the accountant and assistant(s) need to enter the elements as skated, the score for each element, and the component scores, for each judge!  In the 6.0 system, it takes just 2 scores per judge per skater.  Now it’s about 15-20 entries.

And that process needs to be done for every skater.  After the event, when the computer compiles the final results, the referee and technical team leader need to review the results and details of the event.  If there are any errors, the changes need to be made and new results sheets printed.  So in an event of 10 skaters, with 6 judges, there’s about 900 to 1100 pieces of data to enter!!!

So of course there will be errors.  As coaches reading this blog, please understand how complex this has become and be patient when the scores take a while to post.  It’s really become an accounting nightmare.

I asked if it was easier on accounting when the judges have computer input.  The answer was a resounding yes, but to rent and operate the computer system, the accountant estimated it would add about $8000 to the cost of a competition.  I can’t see too many local competitions footing that bill!

The only group as a whole that I’ve found to be really happy about the IJS is the technical controller and the technical team.  They feel it is adding fairness and accountability to the sport.  But many coaches cynically note that this is also the group that is directly benefitting from the IJS.

Now I’m not trying to make a stand here saying the IJS is right or wrong.  I’m simply noting that the IJS it is clearly not being well received by the overall skating community.

I hope to start a discussion online in the near future on this topic.  I know it’s controversial, but I’m seeing an uncomfortable amount of resentment building within our sport.  With the recent losses of so many judges and accountants, we should really be concerned.

Trevor

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One comment

  1. I agree with you totally. Especially on the spins, spirals, and footwork. Footwork especially! Things don’t flow like they used to, because the spins take so much time because you have so many different position changes. Then you have footwork, which takes so long, not even the audience feels like clapping through the whole thing. And now there is hardly any artistry, because there is no time, you need to get to the next jump or spin, and this leads to the whole program looking like a big mess all squeezed together. Although there are some pluses with the NJS, such as any skater could win, and no longer will you see the person who won the last worlds win this year. It’s always a surprise, well unless you are very consistent. I also don’t think this really solves anything about making it fair, yes we have different people winning each year, but it is still the judges decision what he or she will give this person. There is always room for discrimination and unfairness to the skaters. So yes I do think they should changed the NJS.



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