Tuesday, December 6, 2011

You'll never understand

You'll never understand because I don't think I even understand why I choose to be a figure skating judge.

Let me be clear, I know that I continue to be a judge because I love the sport and have become friends with people I would never have had the opportunity to meet, if not for being a judge.

What I question is my sanity for wanting to advance as a judge. There are various levels and disciplines for skating judges and to be "promoted" (quotes due to the fact that it is a volunteer position), you have to trial judge.

Trial judging means that you go to a select competition and pretend you're one of the officials judging the event. After the event, you compare your marks to that of the official panel and then talk about what you did within a small group (usually other trial judges) and explain why you did what you did. The discussion is led by a JET.

I won't leave you wondering how airplanes can talk or how we get the plane into the ice rink. JET stands for Judges Education and Training and our upper level judges volunteer to serve as a JET at these select competitions. The right JET can make or break your trial judging experience. I've been fortunate during my experiences to have a great JET 90% of the time. I choose to mentally block out the times when the JET makes you feel like you're a complete idiot or you watch as they rip another trial judge to shreds.

The optimal outcome for a trial judge is to agree with the official panel and have your marks in range with theirs. But you also have to able to defend your decisions. And when you have ADD, that isn't always easy. (short term memory can be impacted by ADD)

I traveled to Ann Arbor this past weekend to trial judge a synchronized team skating competition. Being a Synchro trial judge is a challenge because unlike Singles and Pairs (regular skating for you Muggles), you only have two or three select competitions all year to trial judge while Singles and Pairs usually have 6 or 7.

Trialing can be an emotional roller coaster as you stress about your marks and what you say in post-event discussion. Did I sound like an idiot? What will the JET think of my answer? (generally you pray that the JET doesn't call on you unless you're sure you have the right answer.) If one of your marks is out of range for the official panel, you would be asked to explain.  In other words, please explain what you were thinking during the 20 seconds of an element you saw an hour ago.

It's important to take notes. It is equally important to be able to read your notes when called upon by the JET. "I can't read my writing" or "I don't remember why I did that" are not acceptable answers. I've also learned to admit when I made a mistake.  

It's expensive to trial judge because trial judges have to pay their own travel expenses. Airfare from Minneapolis to Detroit runs between $350-$400 round trip, and a hotel room is about $100 per night. Generally the host club requires trial judges to pay a fee to cover the added expense of having trial judges. I've paid anywhere from $20 to $100 for a two-day competition.

And you don't just do one competition in a season. Oh no, you would generally do two or three competitions in a season if you want to get the promotion before you hit retirement age. So take the afore mentioned costs and multiple them times three. So you have to get creative. I was able to afford this past weekend because I found a last minute $200 roundtrip airfare, I had a friend who let me stay with her in her hotel room, and I split the cost of car rental with another trial judge - she got a killer deal of $35 for the entire weekend.

I had a couple of stressful moments this past weekend after hearing one of the official judges talk about her marks for an event and realizing that I was much lower than her. When I was finally able to see the final results, I was indeed lower than her, but there were 6 judges on the panel and not all of them were as high in their marks.

So I guess I didn't have to drown my sorrows at the bar that night, but it sure felt good.

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