judgingevolvedOver the years, freestyle contests have become synonymous with inconsistent or confusing judging. Whilst the results themselves are reflective of performances throughout the contest, there have been cases where personality clashes have impacted on results or a lack of co-ordination amongst judges has lead to confusion and mistakes.

For this year’s World Championships a new judging system is being implemented, whereby riders are assessed on their merits across the board. The new system will introduce additional discussion of the judging criteria prior to the event and ‘speciality judges’ who will evaluate runs solely on their technical ability and style, accompanying the traditional setup of “all round” judges. In addition to these changes, riders will also be able to speak directly with the judges following the event for detailed feedback on their performance and how the judges reached their decision

With a history of organising and judging a multitude of events, UK Freestyle expert Darran Nolan is the man behind the new judging scheme. We approached Darran to ask why this change was required, what he looks to achieve with the newly applied concepts and what it could do for contests in the future.

“The judging system has been devised to address a number of problems and inconsistencies that have been evident in contest formats for the last few years” Darran advises. “It is our belief that increasing the education base of the judges so that they are aware of different forms and facets of skating can only benefit the judging system. This is going to be achieved through discussion of concepts and the analysis of video. This engagement with skating will create a more critically sound environment in which the judging can take place and allow the judges to fulfil their duties to the best of their abilities which will in turn inspire confidence in the riders.”

The implementation of speciality judges into the judging panel is a key talking point in the new system and ultimately a decisive factor in the overall success of the scheme. Speaking on the matter, Darran advises that “The specialist judging has come about due to a need to create an observational balance in judging criteria, often a judges attention is divided in to many small pieces resulting in details being missed, lost or poorly understood. The difficulty/technicality judge will have the job of judging difficulty of each run alone and his/her score will be used to normalise the 4 regular judges. The same will be true for the style specialist.“

“The difficulty judge has been implemented as it will give someone the capacity to devote their whole attention to one facet reducing the effect of any scores that end up being anomalous or judgesdiscussinginconsistent. The style judge will have a similar role in normalising the scores in that field as well, allowing the 4 general judges greater room to be interpretive and critical within a safety net of the specialist system which means there is less pressure on them and they can take in the performance as a whole with a little more ease.”

But just how can someone accurately judge style? This is an important question we must ask of the new judging system, particularly considering the highly opinionated nature of the task. “The style judging itself will be an interesting implementation as a lot of the work we are doing is centred around defining lines of style and letting opinion flourish with a firm grasp of the delicate balance that comes with such a subjective area” States Darran. “The scores will be weighted with a combination of factors which can be levied against the judges personal impression in order to give a score that represents a balance between quantitative and qualitative analysis.”

“This system will be open for feedback after the contest, as we hear the same complaints year in year out about peoples’ scoring” says Darran, speaking on historical controversies in freestyle judging and the negative impact this has on the contest’s legacy. Contacting the judges by email, “the judges can give notes to the rider regarding what they scored well on and what they didn’t – as [the freestyle judging] email address is anonymous, it will provide a means for the judges to each be honest without the fear of upsetting relationships or hurting feelings”

So what does this all mean for the freestylers themselves? Theoretically, this new judging scheme will be more supportive of the individuality expressed in freestyle skateboarding, allowing riders to be assessed truly on their merits as an individual. Darran has been working hard with the judges and on the development of the scheme with the goal of progressing the difficult art of freestyle judging. “It’s my hope that this system will restore a bit of faith in the contest judging and let the riders express themselves freely without fear of being penalised due to their skating not being understood”

If you have any questions of the new judging scheme, either now or after the event, you can reach the judging team at nassfreestylejudge@gmail.com . The account will be accessible to all members of the judging team, where you can receive anonymous feedback on contest runs or pose any questions to the new system.

So what do you think of the new system? Do you feel an improvement was required on the old system? Head over to the LateTricks facebook page now to join the discussion and make your opinion heard!

Many thanks to Darran Nolan for his words in this article and for his ongoing efforts to further freestyle skateboarding! The Freestyle World Championships start on July 11th at the NASS Festival in the UK.

Judging Evolved