Easy to Judge = Higher Scores
Every competition is different and every judge is different so you have to take this advice with a grain of salt. However, when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Also, myself and every judge I’ve ever talked to feel this way, so maybe that says something.
Judging your routine has become a lot more objective than it used to be. It wasn’t that long ago that judges had all the subjective discretion in the world to score the various categories on a score sheet. One judge might feel like team Standing Tucks were a 10 out of 10. Another judge might say that only gets 7 out of 10. In a response to coaches’ demands for greater consistency, competitions have begun using “scoring grids.” These grids spell out exactly what range you should score in for difficulty on each major category on the score sheet. Usually the range only varies a couple of points, and where you score within that range is determined by execution, creativity, etc (which is where the subjectivity still fits in). Long story short, a coach should be able to look at the grid and know almost exactly what score a routine should get.
That sounds like a great thing for judges, right? After all, now judges don’t have to worry about coming up with their own scale for scoring. Everything is spelled out for them. However, this system has had one unfortunate side-effect. Since these grids are very “numbers-driven,” judges have to spend the majority of the routine trying to just count the skills they see until a team maxes out the category that judge is responsible for.
I feel that this hurts teams that try to co-mingle several different elements in the same segment of the routine. For instance, if you open with a basket toss, some standing tumbling, some running tumbling and maybe a stunt or two, this can be a very entertaining, dramatic start to your routine. However, since you do not have 75% (or whatever % “the grid” asks for) of the team participating in any single category of the scoresheet, the judges for each category are now stuck waiting to see if will max out your category later in the routine. In other words, instead of just sitting back and enjoying all of the creative, entertaining, difficult elements of your routine, they have to just focus on keeping a running tally in their head as to whether or not your team throws 15 more Toe Touch Backs to get the maximum Jump score.
You might be thinking, “That’s tough. They are judges and that is their job.” And you would be correct. It is absolutely their job and they should get it right. However, you have to understand that in the above scenario, a good judge is forced to either commit part of their concentration to remembering whatever number or cheerleaders participated in each element of that routine segment, OR they have to look down to their notes and write down what you just did so they don’t have to keep it in their head. Either way, they are distracted from your performance. If you are performing poorly, maybe that’s a good thing. But since we all strive to perform well, you want the judges to be completely focused on your team’s every more so you can rack up as many points as possible.
So here is the solution. Make it easy on the judges! Especially in the toughest categories to keep track of, which are tumbling and stunts.
Here’s how you do that. The first time you showcase your standing tumbling, make sure you are maxing out that score right then and there. If you need 15 of your 20 girls throwing Tucks to max out, throw at least 15 on the spot. Don’t throw 12 and have the other 8 girls in 2 stunt groups. That puts your routine at 60% participation in standing tumbling and 40% participation in stunts. Neither category has been maxed out and both the tumbling judge and the stunting judge are now busy doing math in their head instead of seeing how sharp your transition are and how clean your spacing is. In other words, you are giving away points.
There is nothing a judge loves better than having their category maxed out in the first part of a routine. There is nothing a judge hates more than the opposite. Here is the worst case scenario for a tumbling judge. In the opening, you have a small group (say 25% of the team) throw their standing tumbling. That judge now has those numbers in their head. Then, you do not put any other standing tumbling in the routine until the very end. Throughout your performance, no matter how fun and enjoyable your performance is, that judge is stressed out worrying they might miss the other 75% of your standing tumbling. They aren’t enjoying your performance and it is harder for them to give you high scores in the objective categories.
I tend to judge the Stunt category quite a bit. I think it is because Stunts seem like a “guy” category to judge. Anyway, to me, there is nothing better than a team going right into their elite stunt segment early in the routine and just maxing it out right there. Once you have done that, I know that your range in stunts is between 8 and 10 and all I have to do now is watch your execution. I am more relaxed. I am noticing all of the little things you have choreographed that makes your routine special and memorable, and your scores are probably going up across the board.
I hope this makes some sense. I think choreography is a very difficult task and I have much respect for those who do it and enjoy doing it. When you choreograph your routines, try to keep the judges in mind. The easier you make it on them, then probably, the easier they will make it on you at awards!