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Bad Judging - Time to stop being nice about it


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There is a fair amount of bitching about how hard it is to become an official and or how hard it is to keep a rating. I 100% agree that the bureaucracy is silly but on the other hand I see SO MUCH bad judging. I used to not see it but as time goes on I see it more and more. Since the rankings list is now so important to the sport one inflated or deflated score can change how a skier is ranked.

 

I sat on shore last weekend and watched a MM skier clearly get wide of, past and around 5 at 39 but fall before the wakes. I look at the score book today and I see he was given 5.

 

I am totally conflicted because I am the guy to always says Class C is fine. I do not need ELR. Why would a 47 yr old level 8 need a Class L? A tiny percent of the skiers in the sport should ever need more than Class C.

 

So more clinics? No. Maybe better clinics and the balls to tell judges when they are clearly wrong. We need standardized clinics that focus on the nuts and bolts. The last clinic I went to was mostly a waste of my time because it was not about the nuts and bolts. It was about odd little rules that I do not remember anyway. I do not care if the average Regular Judge knows the odd parts of rules book inside and out. Just learn to count balls correctly and then learn the other bits.

 

Come one people it is really really easy.

 

Ideas? Comments?

 

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FYI - twice in the last 5 years it has happened twice that one of my 3 "USAWS Average" scores was clearly wrong. Once I was given a 1/2 ball that I clearly did not round and another time I went just inside 6 ball and they scored me 4 1/2*. Happened in different regions and the with the second one I think both judges are Sr.

 

 

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I attended a judges clinic back about 5 years where the theme was "benign neglect". The premise was all judges need to step it up and be accurate. One of the elements was too much soft judgments for Class C or junior skiers. If we continually say, "that W5F was good enough" at class C or local tournaments, then the skier will expect that 50% slid W5F to actually score points at Regionals or Nationals. We are neglecting the skier when we judge too "nicely".
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Also, @MattL (15 yo) is almost ready to submit for his Asst. Judge rating. We had a similar discussion. He was asking if any of the judges have actually read the whole rule book, recently, or even ever. It sparked a good discussion about whether or not reading the whole book should be expected or not.

 

My thoughts align with @Horton. Nuts and Bolts matter. Judges and clinics need ensure accuracy of nuts and bolts tasks, and learn about changes.

 

We need a "Cliffs Notes" version of the rule book with only the Nuts and Bolts. If some obscure situation arises, we have a rule book for reference.

 

My wife has an old Kindle which is her rule book. It is updated each year with new version and the change summary. She can do key word searches. That is a perfect solution.

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At one time, you could get 1/4 buoy credit by just getting wide of the buoy, even if you

fell, let go, etc. Except if you turned and didn't round the buoy. Back On The Tour, circa

1994, the Tour was pioneering boat-based video for judging. We had a situation with

Kris LaPoint, where his ski boot hit the buoy and mostly submerged it. We had frame-

by-frame review, and it was still a tough call. I don't remember if he got 1/4 or 1/2,

or even survived to keep going. It was not long after, that the Rule changed, such that

you had to get even with the level of the buoy to get 1/4.

Currently, the distinction between 1/4 and 1/2 now can be a very tough call. Maybe

within just a 3 foot range, especially at deep shortline. Regina's current World Record of

3.25 @ 10.25 may be an example, where IWWF video review reduced it from 1/2.

Later on, the definition of a full buoy was changed. It was common for Tour skiers at

39 and 41 to get back within the wakes with a pile of slack, just throw the handle, and

get a full buoy. Now, you have to hold on, or try to. In my opinion, the pile of slack

letgo should be 3/4 buoy. If you can score 1/4 and 1/2, why not 3/4? Actually, that

was tried experimentally at one time for a qualifying round of a pro event.

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More: I remember a Nationals some years ago that one top-seeded skier went inside a

buoy, and still got credit for it. Even ran the pass. Very obvious to spectators onshore,

but the tower was on the other side of the lake. I think the guy even did it again on the

next pass, which was not a full pass, and ended up on the podium, although not winning.

This would have been without boat-based video.

 

Meanwhile, I have my own jumping story, but I'll yield to Horton's request to keep this

thread about slalom.

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I'm im the camp of many of the others who genuinely feel we will never get this sport behind the technology required to make perfect calls, even if it is inexpensive. Give us a handful of judges who know how to count buoys and let the majority rule. Super simple, not perfect, but no more delays or drama, and the result is a far better competition to watch
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We're all watching the NBA finals, right? These are highly paid professional officials and they still make too many wrong calls, judgement call or not, and they're dealing with multi-million $ salary players. I don't have enough experience to to chime in about water skiing rules, but I did officiate bball. @Horton is correct, officials have to do a better job at the basics... was it 1/4, 1/2, (3/4) or full buoy... the rest is secondary (aside from rope length and the no so imaginary buoy moving exercise). We need to keep the sport moving or the general public starts to lose interest while we review the inane. We are trying to get more people interested in the sport, right? KISS.
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While I completely agree that "we just need to count buoys" I'll also add that maybe we should take a page out of USA Swimming rules - if the judge(s) weren't certain if the swimmer caused an infraction while swimming (whatever it may be) then the benefit of doubt always goes to the swimmer. USA Swim hammers this into stroke judges.

 

If what you saw was too close to call (you could flip a coin) - always give it to the skier

and let the majority rule. And - get off your darn cell phone while judging.

 

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My PB in an L class tournament at 36 mph back in the day was 2.25@39. I skied back to the dock on that pass. Super late to 3. Didn't even try to bob and weave back to the guides because it wasn't happening.

 

Looked at the scores the next day and see I was given 2.25. Spoke with the Sr./Chief Judge asking how it was that I skied back to the dock and got 2.25 at 39? They said "you didn't try to come back in to the gates so it was a quarter buoy. I spent 10 minutes explaining how it was impossible to get a quarter at 39 not falling as the instant you stand up you are inside the buoy line. As you can tell I still harbor some issues about this... :/

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One problem that I have seen, and this may apply to @Horton's erroneous scores. @Horton, do you know what the judges called on the two instances that you cited or do you just know what the scorebook said? Not to be calling out scorers per se, as this is about judging, but the end result is what we're looking at, right? Mistakes are made in communication, in fat fingering the keyboard, etc. Gone are the days when judges wrote scores down on a judges sheet. There was a time when, once the scorebook was posted and a skier knew his score was incorrect he could ask the scorer to review the sheets. Just saying while I see plenty of just horrible calls (mostly while I'm boat judging and am amazed at what some tower judges call) scorers make mistakes too and later it may look like it was a judge's bad call.
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What @LeonL said plus we must remember it takes two of three or three of five (a majority) to make the call. Judging is not easy, but it's not rocket science either. I think we should be required to have the two Class C shore judges on opposite sides of the lake. Sometimes they are both on the same side and really can't see.
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Basketball is one of, if not the toughest sports to officiate. Many hours of education and practical training are required from highschool to the pro level. Pros have a full time year round job, work very hard and within a tiny tolerance for errors. Who is in charge of developing and retaining waterski officials? Are officials paid at the regional, national and pro level tourneys?
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@lakeaustinskier See AWSA Rule 1.15

Sometimes it it's difficult to call 1/4 vs 1/2, or 1/2 vs 1, without video review, and video review isn't called into play unless someone timely protests.

Remember that even in a C tournament there are three judges and majority rules.

 

#iskiconnelly

Lpskier

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Had the first gate of my life pulled last year in 25 years of on/off tournament skiing at 35 off. If I knew I whiffed it I wouldn't have held onto slack hit after slack hit and a big whammo out the gates if I didn't think I made my gates(what a crap-o pass that was).

 

Judges pulled it both boat and tower one. Apology from tower 1 as I walked by but told him gotta call it like you see it...and his view is better than mine. This was class C, and I can tell you it must have been damned close cuz I had no inclination that I missed.

 

It's hard when many of us are friends...but I do believe in calling what you see as a judge and it's ok to say sorry man, you missed. Just be honest. If it's so close I can't tell bene to the skier if I'm judging.

 

Some of this can come to order of call, too. Tower 2 can't see start gates, tower 1 can't see down course, boat sees all. If one judge hears what the other says it influences their call b/c all on same frequency. Given majority rules things can get goofy when one judge had no view of a miss.

 

I've seen skiers miss and advance, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

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The "majority rules" can be a problem. Two examples, one that went my way, and one that didn't.

 

Last year in a tournament, I went inside of 3 ball on my opener. I had been skiing 36 for a couple of weeks to keep up with the Boys 3 skiers I ski with. Went to a tournament, skied 34 with a 36 edge change on a slow lake behind a soft boat and came up short. Decided to finish the pass to get the rhythm back, but didn't even pull out at the end, knowing I was done. The boat stopped halfway around the island and I was told both towers gave it to me, even though the boat judge called it a correct 'two'. Didn't matter much because I fell at 38 shortly thereafter and ran 2.5@39 the second round and only one score per tournament counts for ratings. The boat judge who could see clearly was overruled by two positions who had obscured views.

 

The other example happened at Regionals 10+ years ago. I was in first place, watching the top seed ski. He was an open skier skiing M2 and a much better skier than me, but hey, maybe I would get lucky. I thought I did when he missed his gates at 35. The near tower took them, but the boat and the far tower (no way the far tower could accurately see) gave them to him, so he got to keep going. He ran 38 and a few at 39 to beat me by 6 buoys. Certainly the best skier won and it would have been cheap for me to win on pulled gates on an easy pass for him, but I was still bummed.

 

Point being, that there are occasions when one of the three positions has a clear view but can be overruled by two positions who don't have nearly as good a vantage point for an accurate call.

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dbutcher,

I agree that the best judging was the old judging where you had judges on opposite sides of the lake, multiple judges, etc. I do not think that central towers (Except Cedar Ridge) and/or video judging makes for the best calls.

 

However...... With ever decreasing numbers of participants and officials it's hard not to make it as convenient as possible for those willing to volunteer. If Skidawg and I can sit and BS on a central tower for an hour and a half while judging makes it far more fun and tolerable than sitting in the heat by yourself.

 

There are good arguments on each side.

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@Horton makes a very good suggestion in my opinion, to focus more on actual situations instead of going through the rule book in clinics. I have found those type trainings most effective. Maybe the instructor provides video of some challenging calls for group discussion which I think would better stimulate engagement, participation and more importantly, better officials.
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@Horton - "fall before the wakes". Not to be picky or anything, but the rule reads "1 point when the skier has crossed the line of the gate buoys before passing

the level of the next buoy with a tight line under the power of the boat." The boat wakes are not used ;)

 

I have certainly seen my share of bad calls and agree with your thinking here. We use Splasheye at Okeeheele which greatly helps with the gate call, but missing the fact that a skier didn't go around a buoy or getting the 1/2 vs full buoy wrong is annoying.

 

A few years ago, I was the boat judge in the preliminary round of one of the Big Dawg finals we held at Okeeheelee. The skier rounded all 6 balls, but missed the exit gate by more than 6 feet. Both tower judges called 6... (due to that incident and another, those judges are no longer used in the Big Dawg events here).

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@Roger my point was - it was not close. I understand close or hard calls. What chaps my ass is when the score to totally obvious but it still gets in the scorebook wrong.
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If we focus on helping judges make the correct call on gates/quarter/half/full rather than the rules or technology, here are a few thoughts.

 

Horton is right to mention clinics. Fortunately I think the ones I have attended in Sacramento do a great job of going over the nuts and bolts and watching video of tight calls and discussing what the call should have been. It's practical and effective. If others don't perhaps they should.

 

At our Class C we have a lot of judges that judge only 2x per year to keep their ratings and they get something wrong from time to time. One time it was me who ran over 3 at 41 and skied back to the inside with the handle but dropped the line before the wake (I know the rule is not about the wake). I was given 2.25. I was fine with whatever they decided to call between 2 and 2.5 but not 2.25. In talking with the judges they did not know the rule and once they did they revised to 2.5. I am now thinking about posting the rules and the scoring images from the rule book in our towers and on the judges clipboard. It's boring in the tower and I bet they look at it!

 

Training and refreshing that training is critical and we have opportunities at clinics and at events. Most of the wrong calls I have seen are from people trying to do the right thing and just not knowing the rule. We have fewer and fewer volunteer officials so helping them is one way forward.

 

Also agree with what @brettmainer posted. Not sure what the improvement around majority would be.

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@MrJones Your "you didn't try to come back in so it was a quarter buoy" and "explaining how it was impossible to get a quarter at 39 not falling as the instant you stand up you are inside the buoy line" cracked me up! I was tower judging a C (center tower setup) with a Senior (I'm a Regular) and the same thing happened. The Senior gave the skier a 1/4 and I gave him a 1/2.

Senior said "but he didn't make a move in."

I said "that doesn't matter, it's where his front foot is, and at that line it doesn't reach the ball therefore if he's standing up he's inside the buoy line."

Senior said "well, I was taught he had to make a move in."

In my head, WTF! We went round for a bit and Senior ended a little pissed at me, after all Senior was a Senior. I was nice but wouldn't budge and Senior didn't like that.

Not sure where this "have to make a move in" comes from, certainly not in any rule book or guide, but have heard it other places since.

 

Seems a training video could be made in 720p (would show up well on almost any device nowadays) clearly, concisely showing how to call gates and buoys with clear, easy examples, slo-mo and graphic overlays for quadrants to show clearly what it is supposed to be. Follow with a few live action, short line tough call examples applying previous concepts. Probably wouldn't be more that 5 minutes long. Show at clinic's, available online and required watching for gaining/upgrading rating. I believe the vast majority of judges try to make the right call every time. Some easy, quick, nationally consistent training would get most everyone on the same standard and get the best we can out of everyone.

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Also, for those who found out later there was a score in the book that was wrong, you need to check the score before you leave. That is why they post it. Sure it should be right in the first place but people make mistakes. Both judging and scoring. It's straight forward for the officials to circle up, confirm what happened and make a change if needed. "Ah, that's correct, we know Joe started st 22 not 15 so his score is 6 bouys short, we need to fix that"
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When the competition of the day ideology went to performance ideology the judging problems really came into play. Now because advancement to championship level (State's (in Florida) Regionals and Nationals) are now based on a rankings only system the frequent bad calls are impacting this system , As do other problems but will save that for another discussion.

 

 

In WPB Nationals a few years ago I was driving G-2 Slalom, somewhere towards the top seeds a girl had deflated and destroyed a Bubble buoy 3 ball that was situated right under the judges tower on the turnpike lake. Bring in the next skier opening pass and as we got to 3 ball the judge say's to me the buoy is gone....... Girl keeps skiing and we stop at the end and tower calls in 6 ?? and 6?? (both judges on same tower) Hmmm!!!! Then it was conversation about if the pass was protected at 6 or 2 ???? Wait I said, RE-RIDE due to tournament malfunction but being I was the driver and not the judge the conversation went on and on. ACJ had to step in and declare RE-RIDE due to tournament malfunction..

 

Overall I think that most judges take pride in their officiating and for the most part are as accurate as humanly possible, but things happen, sitting on a hot tower for hour's on end take there toll and reminder we are all Volunteers!!

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@Jody_Seal I was your boat judge and the only event judge that insisted the score was not 6 when there was no 5 ball, I called in 4. Crazy. When the other event judges would not concur I asked for the CJ to get on the horn and we got the ACJ. It took longer than it should but ultimately the right call was made.

 

The lesson I learned is to keep a better eye on the buoys, especially when I saw the prior skier run over the ball that went down in the prior pass. Maybe we could have spotted that before the next skier. Maybe not but I will try to look next time.

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I think a small step that maybe could help a lot is to make a little "judging poster" that shows the 1/4, 1/2, and full zones, and maybe a small number (<= 3) of bullet points.

 

The truly key information is very short, so a 1-pager near the starting dock could remind everyone.

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Ok so here is a potentially bad idea.

 

For Class C make the skiers their own judges. At the end of your ride you go to the dock, give your score, sign the scorebook and get your handle*. There should also be a 1 or 2 judges somewhere…. If the skiers score matches the other judges it is all good. If there is some sort of discrepancy …. Video? Or something. Maybe we poll the folks on shore?

 

Point is 99.99% of the time the skier knows exactly what they got. A few skiers will be wrong or full of crap so we need a mechanism to stop that. Again 99.99% of the time the skier knows best and all we need is a way to make sure no one fudges their score.

 

*after all these years I am still bad about getting my handle so this is a good idea for me.

 

(I did not say this was a good idea)

 

@skimom Should I submit this to the rules committee ? : )

 

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@Edbrazil - boat video judging? What a concept!! Too bad the uninformed at USAWS can't realize what the rest of the world has known for years!! I'm convinced that judging from a boat video is superior to ANY shore judging if done properly. For one, it's reviewable. And, the view is the SAME for all judges. And, the distance from the judging point to the buoy is ALWAYS 37.5' give or take a few inches - not half way across a lake. We use gate video, why? Because the view is better (angle and proximity) and its reviewable.
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I was running late into 6 ball my 3rd pass at our State Championship last year. I basically flung myself around 6 (no buoy contact at all), took the hit, and skied out through the gates. Both shore judges called 5 and the boat judge got it right. I expressed disbelief, but accepted it.

 

We shortened the rope anyway for the ride back to the dock and I would have broke my PB, if the previous call had been correct. Painful, but it happens.

The worst slalom equipment I own is between my ears.

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The video in boat was one of the Tour's advances. Really needed at times for the Pro

level with all the close calls at 39 and deeper. The incident that I describe in an earlier

post may have led to changing the definition of 1/4 buoy.

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@jdarwin I agree that the boat view is the only acceptable view. Seen numerous occasions where the towers get it wrong - some for not knowing the rules, some for not being in a position to see, and others just not paying close enough attention. For class C, a single boat judge should be enough. For ELR, Boat judge plus video from the boat.
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On the majority rule, I don't like it. If there is a disagreement among the judges, there should be a conference and discussion to make sure everyone is on the same page - that's what happens in the NBA. It could be that one of the judges really couldn't see and gave their best guess or that they didn't really know the rule. Now, in some cases there may be some overconfident senior judges that would try to sway the less experienced. That's when the rulebook needs to come out.
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The hard part in this one case is they are the darn nicest people in the world. I'm not exactly sure who the event judges were but the whole group at that tournament is just freaking awesome.
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I've been a boat judge where the skier clearly went inside the buoy but the tower could not see due to sunlight. The skier new he went inside but elected to ski the next pass. This has happened twice this year. One of the times he actually let go of the handle and skied back to the dock knowing he missed. When the call came down from the tower we went back to get him so he could ski the next pass. It was a C tournament but here in Florida I like to think there is no difference in counting buoys compared to a R.
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I disagree boat judge has the best view. Most consistent view through the course perhaps, but not the best view. Too flat and for the gates sometimes spray, wakes and/or airborne ski make it a poor view. Each properly elevated and positioned tower in a two tower system (one each side/end) has the best view of it's end of the lake and gates. That's why gate camera's are positioned there.

I've been in lots of those towers at lots of lakes and the view of that end gate, 1, 2 and 3 is unparalleled. 4,5 & 6 still pretty good but getting a bit far for some people to see. But the other tower picks that end up with best view. Combine the two towers with pretty good view from boat and majority rule is damn good for C level. Everyone makes their calls and move on. No video reviews, stopping boat so BJ and towers can meet (huh?), keep it moving and in my experience bad calls are the exception.

Not a big fan of center towers without gate video though.

 

Now if you have judging that didn't really know the rule, won't pay attention, Seniors trying to influence the calls, ect then you (we?) are screwed. Doesn't matter where the judges are if that is happening.

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@BRY, I agree that the boat judge does not have the best view of the gates. The far tower really has no view of the gates. Therefore, if the near tower, who clearly has the best view of the gates, makes a definitive ruling, who are the other two to dispute it (assuming that the tower judge is paying attention and knows the rules)? The far tower shouldn't even be consulted for an entrance gate ruling, yet they have equal voting power as the near tower. Video gates solves this problem. That said, I agree with Eleeski. In the grand scheme, it doesn't matter. This is for fun, not for anything else. In my example above, the payout for second place was the same as for first place.
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@BRY - I agree about boat video/judge and gates. That's why there is gate cameras/video. Otherwise the view from the boat is preferable thru the entire course. It's the best determination if the skier got outside the buoy. And with video, it can be reviewed unlike the instantaneous / irreversible call from towers.
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There are supposed to be 5 judges, 2 in each tower & boat judge or 3 judges (2 tower & BJ) with gate video for both tower judges. The rules state: "The entrance and exit gates shall be judged by the boat judge and the two judges with the best view of each gate." So boat judge and the 2 in the tower right on top of it or (2 with video) make the call, the far two judges no vote for gate. So far judges and gates a non-issue.

In a C at the CJ's discretion it can be run with just 3 judges, rather than 5, and no video. Makes it possible for smaller LOC's with limited resources to put on a good tournament. My guess these are over 50% of tournaments. Small, unsophisticated but none the less correct and to the same tolerances as an R. No records are being set here. @brettmainer In a 3 judge C setup the far judge can see the gates usually (if elevated) but it is a crappy view. In my experience if the gate is good the 1T and BJ get it right, if it is bad they also get it right so far judge non-issue. If it is so close the BJ and 1T split (assuming competent and best effort judging) to the far judge it will be impossible to tell so goes to the skier. IMHO this is fine for C's and better than a BJ only approach. Not perfect but if everyone is paying attention it works, very well. Any skier trying to catch the outside edge every time is low percentage, kinda nuts, and will get dinged on gates a lot. I have seen Nate miss gates in perfect conditions, to the hard side even, so IMHO there are a lot of things more important that being right on the right hand gate ball.

 

I do not believe video is necessary at this time. I also believe most tournaments do not have the money or resources to have it at all, much less reliably. And I certainly do not want any tournaments going away due to video requirement.

 

I do believe education of judges with a consistent and current materials, nationally, is necessary at this time. Make sure everyone knows the "nuts and bolts" and calls are consistent. AWSA is making strides towards this with online clinics and hopefully will continue to progress.

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