This blog is a collection of my thoughts and experiences from ten years as a skate dad. For those of you sitting with your jackets in the bleachers, first I salute you, but second I want to give you an honest sense of what you are in for and what to expect. Ice skating is both a trying and a glorious sport, but it doesn't happen without the special group of folks who cheer, support, and console the participants. This is dedicated to you.
Friday, May 4, 2012
Judging figure skating is confoundedly frustrating. To start with one has the abstract sense that "to judge" another's efforts is innately evil... after all, it makes you "judgmental." Heck a skater practiced incredibly hard and is doing the darn best she can out there on the ice. Alone! In front of people!
Another confounding thing about judging is that the metric itself, a "score," is too narrow to reflect upon what a skater brings to the ice. She brings spins. She brings personality. She brings beautiful stroking, incredible flexibility. She brings stamina. She jumps! She balances in impossible configurations. She displays audience presence, she entertains! And no two skaters bring forth a similar mix across all of these skills.
When you judge a local competition you get immediately struck by how unfair the whole process seems. Well maybe "unfair" is imprecise: it's more like scoring local skaters is totally inappropriate. As an exact measure of how well a gal skates, scoring misses the boat by half a mile. It's okay as a rough approximation: the top half of a given group are clearly better than the bottom half, yet individual comparisons fail.
When you watch with judge's eyes the thing that rather immediately stands out is the fragmentation of skills: one skater can have amazing blade control yet no jumps, another can have all the expressiveness in the world but no center of gravity control. It makes it seem a bit unfair that you have to give a final numeric quantity: each skater has her own strengths.
And all of this is aside from the fact of how imperfect judging can be as we allow our emotions to sway ourselves too much (or not enough).
Yeah sure a skater wants to be judged (as this gives her some goal to grow towards) and we rationalize our judging because something about "competing" is just a part of human nature. Without the judging it is no longer a competition, it is just an exhibition.
So what can it possibly mean to "judge" such a combination of disparate traits? It's totally confounding. Maybe we need a different way to rate the local competitors based upon something simple and totally subjective: grace, improvement, expressiveness?