Archive for the ‘IJS’ Category


Rules? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Rules! (Figure Skating)

November 21, 2007

If you’re reading this blog post, the chances are you’re a member of the figure skating community.  As such, you probably take many things about this great sport for granted.

Whether you’re a spectator, a skater, a skater’s parent, or even a coach, I’ll bet you assume that the most critical aspect of our sport has very clear definitions and rules.  What is this critical aspect?  Jumping, of course.

It seems logical that everyone knows exactly what an axel is.  Or a toe loop or a lutz.  In fact, it seems logical that there would be legally binding definitions and rules regarding each of these elements.

But quite astonishingly, there aren’t!

How do I know?  Because I’ve been doing some surveys of coaches at SkatingCoachQuiz.comI’ve been asking the coaches there for precise definitions of “perfect” jumps. And the survey results are all over the place.

This really got me wondering:  Why do coaches disagree so universally regarding precise definitions of jumps?

I figured I could help clear up the confusion by digging out the formal, legal definitions and sharing them with the coaches.  But what I found, really surprised me.  And disappointed me.

There really are no formal rules.

Don’t believe me?

If you own an official US Figure Skating Rulebook, you can read it from cover to cover and you won’t find a formal written definition of any of the jump elements.  The best you’ll find is the amusing and childish “List Of Jumps” at the start of the Glossary.

You may say, “Well, all you need to define the jump is the entrance edge, the exit edge, the total rotations and whether there’s a toe assist or not.”  But I’ll immediately argue that that definition is really weak.  It says nothing about the critical moments just before, during and after lift-off.  It also says nothing about the critical moments just before, during, and after touch-down.

These critical moments remain blissfully undefined.

Not sure what I’m talking about?  Everyone agrees the entrace is a back inside edge because the rules say so.  But from there on, nobody seems to agree on anything…most likely because there are no rules!

  • There are no rules to state whether it must be a clean edge take-off or whether the skater may push off the toe pick of the skating foot at lift-off.
  • There are no rules to state whether the skater must take-off facing backwards or whether the skater can pivot forward before lifting off.
  • And if a skater is allowed to pivot forward, either doing a very short three-turn or actually spinning on the toe pick or blade, how much pre-rotation is too much.
  • If a short three-turn is allowed, can the three turn exit edge touch the ice or only the toe pick?

Due to it’s artistic nature, figure skating is a very subjective sport.  But are you starting to understand that even the technical aspects of figure skating are totally subjective?  There are no written rules!

Still don’t believe me?

  • In a step sequence, exactly how long and how deep must the edges be for the skater to get credit for a rocker or a counter?  Don’t bother looking that up…there’s no rule for it.
  • In a sit spin, the bottom of the seat must be below the top of the knee, but how exactly is the bottom of the seat defined?  Last time I checked (on video today, by the way) the seat is curved, making my estimate of “bottom of seat” totally different than someone else’s.  Again, there’s no rule for it.

The added complication of the new International Judging System was justified by claiming that it would be more fair.  But can you see how the lack of precise definitions means that even the technical aspects of skating are totally subjective.  We are now using frame-by-frame video analysis to judge our competitions.  Every aspect of take-off and landing can be reviewed.  But with no formal definitions, the results of those reviews will depend on the subjective opinion of the technical team.

It’s probably pretty clear from the tone of this post that I think this is completely unacceptable.  When I have some time, maybe I’ll submit some formal definitions to US Figure Skating and to the ISU.

My goal is to help coaches teach better.  But that’s close to impossible without formal definitions and rules for the elements we teach.  Today good technique and biomechanics for one coach are totally unacceptable to another.

If we can formalize the rules, we can also formalize the technique.  Of course, many coaches don’t want that.  Some don’t want to learn new technique.  And some successful coaches don’t want the technique they teach to be standardized…because their skaters will immediately have a lot more competition.

Whether you’re a coach, a skater, a parent, or a spectator, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this so please leave a comment by clicking the No Comment/Comments link below.



Awesome Figure Skating Seminar!

September 26, 2007

On Sunday I attended the PSA National Seminar in Faribault, MN at Shattuck-St. Mary’s.  It was pretty amazing.

The main presenter was Diane Miller who did three presentations on jumps and spins.  The first was a classroom presentation about how she teaches each element and the reasons behind her methods.

Then there was an on-ice segment where she got to more fully demonstrate and explain her drills.  This was my favorite part of the day.  Diane has a great eye and really explains things well.  I’m a big fan of her technique.  We were also treated to some insightful comments by Scott Brown regarding IJS and the elements we were watching.

Diane’s final presentation was an off-ice jump class and that was filled with great tips and tricks as well.  If you ever get a chance to hear Diane speak, take advantage of the opportunity.

The moves in the field part was presented by Kelly Morris Adair.  Kelly did a wonderful job of making her points and keeping the coaches that were on skates active and participating.  But sometimes you don’t really want a bunch of cold coaches doing moves exercises.  🙂

The off-ice presentation by Scott Brown on IJS was very interesting as we got to listen to some of the technical calls for Nationals last year.  Scott made the point that the technical team is almost always done with their part before the skater leaves the ice so the delay that we are experiencing between skaters is due to the judges recording their marks.  It was clear from the question and answer session that there are several areas of IJS that remain confusing to coaches.  I could tell Scott was getting a little irritated near the end by some of the confusion.

The presentation by Jill Hare from US Figure Skating about Growing Your Skating Program was also interesting, but it seemed a little off-topic for many of the coaches present.  There was also an ethics panel discussion and the mock oral PSA rating exam was very funny.  Diane Miller was the mock candidate and she did a great job of playing the part of a nervous, forgetful coach.  In any case, I think for those that have not taken an oral rating exam, it really helps to understand what the process is.

Overall, this was the best seminar I’ve attended in a long time.  I’ll continue to post some of the things I learned over the coming weeks.



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.