As coaches, it is hard not to talk to judges that you work with or have become familiar with over time while attending the same meets. But there are rules and policies in place when it comes to how judges are to interact with coaches. This is particularly important, and sometimes difficult, when it comes to discussing an athlete’s score with a coach.
USA Gymnastics has created and outlined a procedure on how to handle a discussion of an athlete’s score between a women’s coach and judge that is listed in the Women’s JO Code of Points, page 25.
The JO Code of Points (2013) states, “There should be no casual conversation during the competition between the coach and the judge regarding the evaluation of an exercise” (JO Code of Points, 2013, p 25).
“The real reason for not permitting causal conversation between judges and coaches is the perception this gives to the gymnasts, other coaches and members of the audience. We want to portray to everyone that we are the unbiased individuals we should be,” explains Evelyn Chandler, NAWGJ President.
Coaches are permitted to see their athlete’s scores on any event without having to submit a written request. But if a coach wants further details on the evaluation of a routine, they are required to submit an Inquiry Form.
Susan Monahan, Florida State Judging Director, states, “If a coach approaches the judge(s) and begins to discuss the routine, the coach may forfeit the right to submit an inquiry.” Susan explains that judges should inform coaches that if there is a scoring issue and they want a formal investigation, which can potentially affect their athletes score, they should fill out an inquiry form otherwise a score change may not occur.
Inquiry forms are slightly different in the types of questions that can be answered by judges for compulsory and optional routines. Inquiries, for compulsory levels, can only respond to questions regarding text, evaluation of major elements, neutral deductions, falls, and unusual occurrences.
As opposed to optional levels, where inquiries can only respond to start value, neutral deductions, falls, unusual occurrences, and specific flat compositional deductions. Inquiries, at the optional levels, cannot respond to “up to” deductions.
The inquiry procedure is as follows:
- Inquiries must be neatly filled out by the coach and given to the Meet Director or Meet Referee within 5 minutes of the completion of that event rotation.
- The Meet Director will deliver the inquiry to the Meet Referee who will then forward it to the Chief Judge at the apparatus.
- The Chief Judge and the Panel Judge/s will only respond to the requested information.
- Once the Chief Judge has responded to the inquiry, it is to be returned to the Meet Referee or Meet Director who will then return it to the coach.
- The inquiry form is not to be given to the coach by the Chief Judge or a Panel Judge of the event in question.
- The coach may not approach the Chief Judge or Panel Judge of the event in question to discuss the inquiry during the competition.
Coaches need to be made aware that one of three things can occur during an inquiry, essentially a second review of the routine:
- No change in score can occur
- The original score can be lowered
- The original score can be raised
Inquiries can also be submitted if an athlete’s All-Around score is 0.10 or less than the score needed to qualify to a State or Regional Championship. An inquiry can be submitted to an athlete’s lowest scoring event in an attempt to have that score raised to qualify to the next level of competition.
Inquiries cannot be used to change scores for mobility between levels or if qualifying to a State and/or Regional Championship is by percentage or a designated number of athletes per age division.
If, for any reason, the inquiry procedures are not properly followed, a coach may petition a Jury of Appeals. The Jury of Appeals must review the inquiry within 5 minutes of the end of the rotation or competition or within 5 minutes of receiving the inquiry back from the Meet Referee or Meet Director, whichever occurs last. The Jury of Appeals may conduct a video review, if this is available at the competition. This is the only time a video review is allowed at any JO competition.
The decision of the Jury of Appeals should be made within 15 minutes of the completion of the competition and before the awards ceremony.
Following these procedures for submitting an inquiry, as a result of a questionable score, can stifle many difficult confrontations especially when dealing with passionate coaches and judges. Just be aware that doing so can also potential lower an athlete’s score as opposed to possibly increasing their score.
On the flip side, inquiries can be a beneficial tool that can potentially help improve an athlete’s routine by identifying errors which can decrease a routine’s start value and final score.
USA Gymnastics (2013) Junior Olympic Code of Points: Women’s Artistic Gymnastics 2013-2017 USA Gymnastics Publications, First Edition – 2013.