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

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?


  1. A skater who takes judges on transcendent journey with her program ... where judges can't keep their eyes off the skater to jot down notes ... where skater seems to jump,glide and spin effortlessly on ice with grace and ease ...

    A skater whose grace and lines mesmerize the audience and judges alike... audience and judges cringe alike as the skater preps for the jump ... exhales collectively as the skater lands safely ...

    A skater who exemplifies the competition with joy and happiness ... unable to execute jumps and spins with ease ...

    Skater A - gold ?
    Skater C - silver ?
    skater B - bronze ?

    As you state, not so easy. perhaps lower level needs to move to towards modified version of IJS.

  2. Hi Anon,

    I suppose I am thinking to abolish the 1st to 3rd protocol at the local competitions as it is pretty much meaningless. Sure give out medals or trophies for excellence in a category (artistic expression award, most improved award, etc). I also like giving the judges greater flexibility: allow them to award from zero to three "trophies" in each category depending on how many skaters deserve it.

    The gold to bronze business is fine for the elites at Regionals and up, but I am unsure if it's in the best interest of the sport (or the skaters and their coaches) at the lower levels.