Scoring Well in Showmanship
This article is sort of a request from one of our loyal readers. (Thank you loyal readers. Without you I would just be talking to myself and supposedly that isn’t very healthy.) The question that was asked had to do with choreography and whether or not choreographed bits of showmanship, like everyone whipping their hair, makes an impression on the judges. Every situation is different, but here are my thoughts on the matter.
My first piece of advice for ANY judging question is that you need to know your score sheet back and forth. Also, to the extent possible, know the judging system of your cheer event provider. I can tell you that there is a huge difference from one company to the next as to how judges are instructed to judge. No, I’m not saying scores are rigged. I’ve been on a lot of panels through the years and NEVER been told to change a score that would affect team placement. I have been told to raise a score of a last place team so they didn’t get beaten quite so bad. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with that, but that is a post for another day.
One key thing for you to know is whether or not the competition uses category judging, and if so, what are the categories. For those who do not know, category judging basically is where one judge is assigned the responsibility for scoring a particular part of the score sheet, such as jumps and tumbling, stunts and pyramids, motions and dance, etc. If your event uses category judging AND choreography is one such category, it is quite possible that choreography is only considered by one judge. That has the potential to really change the significance of that category.
But here is the bigger consideration for category judging. Most event companies that use that system expect the judges to write as many helpful comments on the score sheet as possible. They are expected to focus primarily on whatever categories they are assigned. If there is only one judging panel and not much time between performances, the judges pretty much have to be writing comments DURING the performance. What that means is that if you just hit your elite stunt sequence and set them out, if you are doing a choreographed salute or hair whip, there is a very good chance that the stunt judge has their head down writing a comment about the stunt you just did. In fact, there is a very good chance the tumbling judge was writing comments about he tumbling because they knew they aren’t going to be missing much or any tumbling while you are in the elite stunt. These are just examples but I’m sure you get the picture.
If you are going to include choreographed displays of showmanship in your routine, be strategic about it. The best place to use them is either right at the beginning of segment, like right before standing tumbling or a jump, or during or after a formation change. These are the most likely times that you are going to have the full attention of every judge, especially if category judging is being used.
Personally, choreographed showmanship does not do all that much for me. It doesn’t hurt so long as it is appropriate and not done in poor sportsmanship. What makes a much bigger impression on me are the spontaneous displays of showmanship, such as a high-five, or someone yelling out encouragement to a teammate. These kinds of things tell me the performers are having fun, and that makes the routine more fun to watch. It also tells me that they are confident and strong in their routine. If they were not, they would be busy counting or watching their teammates so they don’t run into each other. Also, it tells me your team is very well conditioned because they have enough energy not only to perform your routine as it was choreographed but they have enough to give a little extra to the crowd and to their team. I love this!
That’s a little bit about the very broad category of choreography and showmanship. I will say just one more thing which is this, it’s not always what you do, but how you do it. Do something the judges won’t forget. In terms of choreography, that can be visual elements like ripples or level changes. In terms of stunts it can be interesting entrances, transitions or dismounts. In terms of showmanship, choreographed stuff is fine, but give the judges individualism and spontaneity too!