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Did You Know...

... that teams and judges are both getting away with murder?

posted Jan 15th, 2014 - The trip of the Sun Path Products NSL News to the 4th Dubai International Parachuting Championship 2013 brought plenty of live coverage to the SKYLEAGUE.COM audience. The stories included a judging topic that was included in the updates on 4 December 2013 and 5 December 2013.

The rules of Formation Skydiving competition, judging in general and specific judging calls have been the topic for several stories in the past, as it happens in all other sports. The actual discussion of the same topics takes place mostly between the teams, competitors and coaches, and the media only picks it up randomly.

The topic itself was presented comprehensively during the coverage of the 4th DIPC 2013. However, the story was not over, as the Sun Path Products NSL News received "unfriendly feedback" from the judging side, which eventually motivated the author to take on the topic once again, this time from an even broader viewing angle. Blue Skies Mag published the article in the latest edition, which laments the lack of intense discussion of judging calls at the right time.

Busted and discussed: Dubai Asaar's 8way Satellite

TURNING POINTS - Getting Away With Murder

It happened again; I have upset the judging community one more time, I just can't stop it - I have to speak my mind, and I still don't even really understand what's wrong with that. I don't yell at anybody, and I believe that I behave within the boundaries of reasonable communication. However, it seems to be so difficult to address critical issues directly and honestly.

It was at the Dubai Cup 2013 this time when I felt like expressing my unhappiness with way too many incorrect judging calls. It seems to me I ike there has been progression in a bad direction, which became quite obvious once again at the competition in Dubai. The trouble has doubled in a quiet way that I try to bring to the attention of the officials. It has not been going too well so far.

Teams and competitors used to cry out loud in the old days when penalty calls were painful, and they tried to make their points during more or less productive discussions. It has always been difficult to get across the view of the teams and competitors to judges, as only a few of them have been active competitors, and even fewer have been training and competing recently.

Judges Eric Heinsheimer (left) and Jim Rees (right)
There are positive exceptions (like Eric Heinsheimer and Jim Rees). This doesn't mean that a judge can only be well qualified if she/he was a top competitor at some point in time.

However, it is easier to understand the deal and make good calls with expert knowledge and common sense if you know what you are doing. It is possible for a judge to get all the necessary knowledge and understanding without doing or having done the real thing. It takes much more homework though to prepare yourself and be up-to-date if you have to learn things only in theory. It is simply more work.

It has become much more challenging, too. The 4way winning average was 11.4 in 1985, and it was 27.9 at the Mondial 2012. That is 2.5 times higher and faster. The athletes made great efforts to increase the performance level with more sophisticated coaching and training methods, and the indoor training had its own share to increase speed and skills. Removing additional point deductions for penalties from the rules had an additional impact.

Discussion of slower motion at the World Cup 2009
Have the skills progression for the judges and the preparations for meets kept up with the athletes? Not to my understanding. The IPC made an adjustment when it became obvious that the judging quality was on its way down. It still took quite an effort to introduce the slower motion viewing option to get closer to the truth. There was mostly resistance on the judging side to use the available tools, which would make it easier to detect infringements and avoid incorrect calls.

I am personally disappointed that the move has not brought the results yet that we expected. It seems like it has become even worse. There are still more than too many questionable judging calls, while the number of undetected infringements is rising. That's doubling the trouble - even if it may balance the situation for each team.

Friendly annual discussion: Open IPC meeting at the World Cup 2013
That's where the next problem has occurred. The heated discussions about the judging calls have quietly gone away. Teams and competitors seem to see more value in getting away with an undetected infringement here and there and keep their mouths shut if a judging call might be far off the truth. There is more gain than pain.

This means that productive discussions, which bring up issues to the attention of the judges and officials, have sadly been fading away. It also gives the false impression that things are fine and dandy. It gives the impression that the judges are well prepared to master the challenges of top competition.

I am seriously questioning the efforts of the judges in general to be well prepared when they come to the meets where they decide over death and life, gold and silver medals, and cash or not. How many videos are they watching at home over the course of the year? How much time do they spend to be prepared? In contrast to the teams and competitors, they can even do it from home, and it doesn't cost any money. In fact, even going to the meets doesn't cost the judges any money, because their expenses are usually covered. That's not the case for the teams and competitors ...

Friendly annual discussion: Open IPC meeting at the Mondial 2012
Something needs to happen, as the integrity of the sport is on the line. It is NOT a good compromise if a team is possibly and indirectly compensated for a questionable point deduction by an undetected infringement. It doubles the trouble and is the wrong direction.

The heated discussion needs to be carried out whenever there are issues - to get them out of the way and learn from the mistakes. Each single case needs to be brought to the attention of the judges, be evaluated and discussed. Only then there can be progression in a positive way. Keeping it quiet doesn't help at all and pretends that things are OK.

I will continue to speak my mind - whether it will get me in trouble or not. I will encourage teams to explain to the judges what they missed seeing, and I will encourage the judges to admit mistakes and learn from the direct conversations with teams and coaches. Applying common sense to the rules and communication are the first steps to increasing the judging quality.

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