Monday, August 30, 2010

PCS Series (Singles): Skating Skills

Starting out with my first "real" post, I decided to go with a series on Program Components. I'll break them down individually and tell you my honest to gosh thought patterns, scribbly codes, and thoughts that go through my head as I come up with a score for "Skating Skills." Though I judge Novice and down (and therefore my ranges tend to be 4.5 to 0.75 for PCS) these thoughts can be applied at any level. I will focus on the lower levels though, because I don't feel like Yuna Kim is browsing my blog looking for ways to raise her PCS!

Let's start at the beginning: Skating Skills.

That is the very first mark on the top of the sheet the judges use. It is almost always the very first box I write in. Quite literally - did you know I almost always mark whether your first few strokes are toe pushes (TP) or not. Nearly every program at the younger levels (and often even the higher levels!) start off with some sort of artistic display. Some use of the highlights in the music and crossovers with pretty arms. I find that the skaters are already focusing on their first element and that seem to forget that these first few crossovers are making a major first impression. Do you think about those steps or are you focusing on that first jump?

What specific things do I take into consideration (honestly!) when I watch you skate for your skating skills mark?
  • How many pushes do you use in a crosscut - 1 or 2? If you only have 1 push in a crosscut, I'm going to note that you poor basic skating skills (either -SS, -bSS, or x's1).
  • Speed - Are you fast or slow (-spd or +spd)? I also note where your power is coming from, because some skaters are naturally stronger and can go faster with "cheated" power. A small 8-year-old girl is not going to go as fast as a strong 12-year-old - simple fact. However, if that small 8-year-old's power is coming from strong crossovers, I'll make note (pwr from Xs). If the 12-year-old is fast I'd note that too (pwr from TP <toe pushes>). 
  • Flow is included in this section too - simply noted as good or bad (+flw, -flw).  I might not always note this as sometimes flow is included with the other things mentioned, but sometimes, oddly enough, a skater DOES have great speed and poor flow.
  • If something you started out strong with dies during your program (ie: I wrote down +spd and by the end you're just crawling), I'd either put a downwards arrow (which I can't figure out how to do on here) or simply just cross out the word (+spd). I don't give very much credit at all for something that you started out strong with and die by the end. It shows that you are inconsistent and poorly trained.
In the first few levels of competition, those are pretty much the only things I need to look at to develop a score for you. If you're in the beginning categories up to and including at times even PreNovice, I don't need to look further than your crossovers and powers - there is often not much other opportunity to grade your other skating skills. Turns, edges, etc. are not factors yet at this levels, except for the top competitors - in which case I make small notes (+turns, +edges, etc).  When we start to get into the top half of most PreNovice competitions and into Novice levels (and obviously above) more notes are required. I consider other things, too:
  • Edge control and quality of edges. Simply - is there edges? Sometimes it comes down to that. Is there outside/inside edges or is your skating mostly flat. Is there deep edges? Good control? Etc. I look at things like posture - if your upper body is all over the place trying to keep your control of edges, then you do not have any control whatsoever (-ctrl, +ctrl). 
  • Quality of turns. Of the turns that you're doing, are you doing them well? Are you doing fabulous three turns with control and edges? Or are you simply attempting to hard of turns and executing them poorly? Are you completing brackets on the wrong edges? (+3s, -brtks). I don't grade your choice of complexity in this section as much - I leave that for transitions. 
  • Varied speed. In the lower levels, the top skaters are the ones with good speed. However, as you go higher, good skaters aren't always fast - they have the ability to slow down and speed up at different points in the program.  To be honest, I don't have a short form for this as I haven't seen it often enough to reward it - I will have to come up one!
So - during the course of your program, I make notes on the above things. Sometimes your box is filled, sometimes there's not much. Sometimes I might just note +/- meaning good and bad at different times.  And then in the 30 seconds or so after you skate, I have to come up with a mark? What is the difference for me? 
  •  1.0-1.75 - These are your most basic skaters. So far to date I haven't dropped below the 1.0 level, though I was tempted once last weekend. I gave a 1.0 instead. What would be the difference between a 1.0 skater and a 1.75 skater? I look at the above markings I guess. I sort of come up with a gut feeling and then looking at my notes. I think - "Well, that skater seemed pretty fast and solid, let's go with 1.75." When I look down at my notes, I see +spd, -edges and I see that actually her edges weren't solid and her speed died - and I drop it down to say 1.5. 
  • 2.0-2.75 - This to me is the next level of skating. There is confidence and sureness of skating. They know what they're doing. What would bump you from a 1.75 to 2.0 - I'd say it's the confidence and EASE of skating. When I see power coming from 2 pushes in a crosscut and not breaking at the waist to do so, I'm going to bump you into the 2s. Again, I look at my notes and plus/minus accordingly for the interval. 
  • 3.0-3.75 - I'm starting to see the second group up there - you have turns in your skating and you are doing them well (at least for the upper 3s). I see control of your skating and edges at all times. I think that's what bumps it into the 3s for me - at all times. When I see glimpses of struggling (and that may be in the form of being tired by the end) I'm going to keep you in the 2s. 
  • 4.0-4.75 - I think officially the highest mark I've given if 4.5 if I recall properly. What bumps you into the 4s? I shouldn't have to contemplate your ease of skating - I should just see ease of skating skills at all times without question. I mean, like, I shouldn't have to write +/- ease down at any time because it isn't even a question - it's like "duh!". I'm going to see ALL pluses to bump me into the high 4s. I'm going to see different turns done well for the most part. I'm going to start to see a word that would bump me into the 5s if we get there - effortless. When I see effortless skating that is when you're going to get up there. 
That's all for today folks.
Check back soon for the next section on PCS - transitions (ooh, a controversial topic no less!!!!!). Perhaps if I scour YouTube enough I'll post videos of what I consider a "1-1.75" skater, a "2-2.75" skater, etc.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Who Are You?

Who am I? What gives me authority to post my thoughts and judging opinions online?

I am a mid-level skating judge somewhere in Canada. I've judged for just a year, but been involved in various aspects of figure skating for almost 20 years. I started my own skating career as a little one in a learn to skate program and quickly progressed into the STARSkate program SkateCanada offers - the alternative to competitive skating, but equally competitive. I competed in singles and synchronized skating for as long as I can remember.  I retired from any sort of competition last year fully and decided to take up judging to stay involved with the sport.  I also have my Level 1 Coaching Certificate and coached skating from learn to skate to competitive for three years - I retired to keep up my own skating, start a family, and start a career in a very different world that didn't involve skating. 

I am in love with the "new system" in skating - I believe that CPC is the best thing to happen to figure skating in many, many years. Though it had it's growing pains and will always have its blips (as skating is subjective, there is always going to be debate), I believe that the majority of those involved in the skating world are satisfied to some degree with this system.

I feel that there is a lot of misconstrued ideas out there and that judges get a lot of flack. I believe in being an honest judge at all times, but realize that mistakes will always be made. I want to share my knowledge with you as I grow as a judge. I'm not sure what direction this website will take, but feel free to guide me and grow with me.