Op Ed – Judge Bashing

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I have wanted to talk about something for a long time and now that I am on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) due to GBC, I am seeing more and more of something that I take personally.

I notice it a lot during the NCAA gymnastics season and at National or International meets.  It also happen at JO meets as well.

Judging bashing!

Gymnastics fans, like many other sport fans, are very passionate about their sport, team, and athletes.  Fans will immediately jump to social media to voice their opinions on what they believe to be inaccuracies when it comes to scoring or judgement calls aimed at the officials, gymnastics judges.

As a gymnastics fan, I totally understand the frustration felt when you feel an athlete did not get the score you believe they deserved. But I also know how hard it can for a judge to evaluate these routines because I am a USA Gymnastics Level 10 rated judge myself.

Lets first review what an individual has to go through in order to be eligible to sit down on the floor and evaluate women’s routines as a judge.

In a nutshell, an individual needs to meet the following requirements set by USA Gymnastics and successfully pass the following tests in order to begin judging JO Women’s gymnastics.

Source – USA Gymnastics

Just for some basic clarification, a National rated judge is a former Level 10 judge that has had a minimum of 8 years of judging at Level 10.  Brevet judges (USA Brevet & FIG Brevet), can judge routines at the Elite level.

In addition, a rated judge must obtain continuing education credits every year in order to maintain their current rating.

Source – USA Gymnastics

At the women’s collegiate level, a judge must hold a Level 10 rating or higher.  Most of the collegiate judges actually hold a National or Brevet rating.

So the judges you see at NCAA meets are highly experienced and qualified to be evaluating collegiate routines.  This also holds true for judges you see at Nation, International, and JO meets.

These judges are not just randomly coming up with scores to give out.  They are not giving better scores to one athlete or team over another.  It is not based on the team name, leotard color, hair style, music selection, choreography, etc.!

Judges are given strict rules and policies to follow when evaluating routines.

So when a fan bashes a judge for their evaluation of a routine, I wonder….

  • Is this fan a judge?
  • Did they go through all the requirements to become a judge?
  • Do they know all the rules and policies to adequately evaluate a routine?
  • Do they attended workshops, clinics, and seminars to be well versed and up to date on judging topics?

The other factor that fans need to be aware of is their perspective of the event when watching a routine.

Whether in person or watching on television, the view you have (your perspective) can be very different than that of the judge evaluating a routine!

Many, many skills on all events are evaluated on degree of arm/knee bend or leg separation or angle of completion based on the skill being performed.  In addition to many other criteria!

Depending on the angle you are viewing a routine, your perspective can be VERY different than the judge down on the floor evaluating the routine.  A fan sitting 10 rows up in the stands will see things at a different angle than a judge sitting in front of the event.  A fan sitting on their couch at home watching a meet on television will see things at a different angel than a judge sitting in front of the event.

This deviation can cause either of you to see very different things ultimately causing the calculation of very different scores!

And yes, many people feel that subjectivity comes into play when judges evaluate a routine.

I can assure you that part of our training as judges is to be aware of our own personal biases and to be OBJECTIVE and PROFESSIONAL at all times!

We, judges, work way too hard to not do our jobs to the best of our abilities and to always do what is right by the athlete!

So before bashing a judge verbally or on social media because you feel the score earned by the athlete was too high or too low, think about your perspective and the credentials of the professional evaluating the routine.

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