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Critiquing Skating Performances

Defining a Critique
        A critique is an objective analysis of a task or performance of an athlete resulting from a coach requesting a consultation by a judge, another coach, or choreographer. Judges usually critique a skater only when the process is instigated by a coach or as part of a club sponsored activity. A request from a parent will ask the primarily coach to initiate a request for a critique. The coach then asks an individual of his or her choice if they are available for a series of dates and times. 

        The individual(s) who performs a critique receives no compensation for their time, but may request reimbursement for transportation, meals, and lodging expenses following the USFS rules for testing.

        Ideally, the process is a coordinated to occur so the critiquer and coach are viewing the performance and exchange comments while the skater is on the ice. Immediately following their performance the skater comes over to the side of the rink and a debriefing occurs. The comments can be recorded by use of a tape recording or notes written down by the coach. It is important that the coach and skater are in agreement that the critique has been helpful for the maximum desired effect to occur.

Note:  Critiques are only valuable if they are objective and an honest assessment.
Therefore, there should be enough time for a skater to make corrections. Major
corrections may require a long term plan that involves going back to basics. The
coach should have a conversation with the judge about major technical errors i.e.
1. Under rotated jumps,
2. Major flexibility issues in camel and layback spin positions, or 
3. Choreographic issues such as attempting difficult turns of footwork sequences
    that result in execution and performance deductions.


        When a coach asks a judge or another coach for a critique, there is the expectation that a fresh pair of eyes can spot problems quickly and easier than the someone who has been observing the skater over an extended period of time. Respect is extremely important in establish a rapport in a critique. Often a fresh perspective will provide observations and comments by a judge will provide an understanding with the skater. Usually the judge repeats and paraphrases the comments the coach has been making for months, but coming from a new voice, a connection occurs. Another very desirable outcome is building respect and hopefully eliminating judges as source of performance stress commonly associated with test and competitive situations.

        The goal is to get the skater back on track through whatever processes that works to reinforce what historically has been a good line of communication. Over time most teenagers "tune out" authority figures in a process of acquiring control over their environment. The skating coach is just another individual who wields power over them joining a list of restrictions at home by parents, at school by teachers, and by a supervisor at work if they have a part-time job.

       There are different types of personalities a skater, coach, and judge may have. There may be age differences which require different approaches to communicate the concepts/ideas. Whenever possible, the level of the comments need to be suitable to the person's intellect, age, and/or critiquing a male, female, pair/dance, a synchronize skating or Theater-On-Ice team.

When Should a Critique be Performed?
       A critique generally is most beneficial when performed early in the training season and after the announcement of any rule changes for the new competitive season. The coach, choreographer, and skater(s) have less investigated if the program is a work in progress and there is plenty of time to make adjustments, especially if the choice of the music and/or costume is questioned.

       Over the years judges have been asked to critique skaters prior to competing or testing. Most judges feel it is essential to conduct a critique only when there is sufficient time for the skater(s) to implement the suggestions to improve before testing or competing.  It is impossible for a judge to provide a frank appraisal to a skater about making changes when there isn't any time for them to implement suggestions prior to competing. Judges should not be placed in a position where they feel they are required to make only positive comments to avoid damaging the skater's ego. Coaches, parents, and friends can be partisan cheerleaders; however, judges are required to be objective and impartial evaluators.

       In a MITF or compulsory dance test there is a specific standard throughout the USA. A skater can pass a test with a minimum of two judges awarding the minimum passing score for that test level. At some rinks there is an elite competitive environment where there is a very high passing percentage with only an occasional reskate of a test element. Generally such a rink has multiple elite skaters competing at various national and international contests and serve as an example that sets the bar higher for everyone. Marginal tests are rarely seen and most skaters pass by multiple tenths of a point in both their technical and presentation scores.

       It must be stressed that critiquing for a test is much different than a critique conducted to improve a skater's competitive performance. Critiques of competitive programs are much more nebulous as the number skaters and their quality of skills can vary from year to year.  Sports are divided into various geographical sections.  The talent observed can vary widely in USA regions with the level of technical skills varying widely from year to year so the winner in one region might not place in another regional competition.

Balancing Increasing Program Difficulty and Polishing a Performance
       On any given day or evening, the performance of a skater may vary widely. Some will skate better than the practice sessions and others just end up having an off or bad day. It cases where everyone skates their best, the placements will be determined by very minor differences. Some coaches and skaters deliver the complete package and others stress the technical components over emphasizing a well rounded artistic and interpretive performance.

      At some point in the competitive training schedule the skater's competitive program should be finalized and in a "polishing" phase. At this point it is too late for correcting major technical errors or  choreo- graphic problems. Coaches risk that an objective, but frank critique will upset their skaters, Close to a competition, the coach, choreographer, and skater want positive affirmation and usually react poorly to comments they deem is a personal attack on their abilities. Judges are well advised to avoid getting into such situations unless they feel comfortable in making positive compliments that are unjustified!
 
Historical Background
       Judges have informally exchanged ideas about how to conduct critiques. Figure, MITF, free skating, pairs, and dance judges have attended training sessions on how to judge these disciplines as part of the trialing process and as part of the USFS program of continuing education. However, it has proved impossible to locate any training workshops or seminars held that discussed how to judge artistic or showcase events or conduct critiques of any figure skating discipline.

      The following ideas have been discussed as methods that can be used with skaters and their coaches:

          Confidence Building Suggestions
  • Ask skater what they thought of their performance. Their response provides judges with a clue of their frame of mind and what comments might produce a positive reaction from the skater(s).

  • Urge the use of visualization as a technique to provide a positive “mental imagery” of their skating to help improve mental performance and increase self-confidence.

  • Suggest “Role-Playing” as an important total immersion technique in the character/theme of the music by imagining how a favorite elite skater would perform the program. The goal is to provide the skater with inspiration to aspire to greatness when no higher level skater train at their home rink.

         Season Long Training Suggestions
  • Inquire as to what, if any, off ice programs the skater participates in on a regular basis – such as ballet, drama/stage shows, or modern, interpretive, or ballroom dance classes etc.

  • Suggest taking videotapes of practice performances on a regular basis to observe progress occurring over a training season. In addition, most club, open and qualifying competitions have a professional videographer who can provide a DVD record of individual skaters or the entire event.

Role of Music and Choreography Choreographing Artistic Skating Programs
        Music should be selected for its value in displaying the skills of the skater not the choreographer. The musical score should not overwhelm the skater nor should it be background music with no changes in tempo or sections that build to crescendo to highlight major jumps or spins.

       The step sequences and transitions should be inspired by the music. The music selected can assist in building empathy with the audience or it can just be playing in the background with no relationship to the choreography of the skater's program and does not support the objective of enhancing the interpretation of the performance.

Retaining Skaters and Avoiding Dropping Out

       It should be the personal goal of every club, judge, and coach to reduce the number of first time test failures to avoid the loss of self confidence and potentially avoid skaters becoming discouraged to the point of dropping out of skating.

       Coaches, skaters, and judges may, at some time or other, experience not being on "top of their game". It is important for everyone concerned to attempt to leave any personal problems outside the rink and not allow them to distract or influence their demeanor and interaction with others. As in all performing arts, the show must go on.

       For some skaters it is a matter of finding the right fit for them. Not every skater has the ability to become an elite free skater – they might be better suited to exploring other forms figure skating such as - dance, showcase, Theater-On-Ice and/or synchronized team skating.

       Individualized Critiques where coaches and judges collaborate to help improve a skater’s ability to be the very best they can be. The coach informs the judge in advance of the critique if any special problem, such as processing problem (ADD) or a personality trait, family illness or death, divorce, etc., that may produce hypersensitive in the skater that results in crying or displays of anger. In this arrangement, a coach arranges for a judge to come to a rink and is present while the skater, if performing the element of a MITF test, compulsory dance or free skating, pair or free dance program. This should be a sharing of ideas, not a lecture or blame session.

       Usually the coach is looking for support that specific improvements need to occur for the test to achieve a passing standard. Coaches sometime ask for suggestions to communicate the information. They have developed an insight into the skater’s personality and their receptiveness, which helps judges try to relate to these younger skaters.

Destructive Personal Problems Outside of Skating may Emerge
       Teenagers are individuals who are sometimes struggling with issues that are not related to ice skating which complicate their ability to accept any constructive criticism from an authority figure (parent, coach or judge) – and they can interpret attempts of being positive as a negative comment.

       Attempting to perform a free skating, pair or free dance program is a totally different proposition that, unfortunately involves the egos of the skater, choreographer, and the technical skating coach. There may be some judges and coaches who have a formal background in behavior analysis and are qualified to serve as a counselor to deal with mending skaters who have emotional problems. Parents and coaches should not expect judges to have such expertise.

       A critique for a test uses applicable standards. The minimum requirement to pass is a "C" grade performance. MITF tests should be scored using the nine focus points outlined in the USFS Rulebook and the PSA MITF booklet. Skaters, coaches, and parents should expect a command of all the focus points as these will eventually need to be mastered to earn a gold medal. NOTE: a gold adult MITF test minimum passing marks are at a much lower total score than a "Standard" MITF Gold Medal.

       Judges critiquing a competitive free skating program operate with the assumption that skater and coach desire a frank and honest assessment of the skater's strengths and weakness. To be effective the critique must occur so there is sufficient time to implement the advice prior to the first competition.  Skaters must allow time to shift to a "Training" mode so the skater can "peak" to qualify in the first competition and move to the next level.  Elite skaters must peak later in the season for the national championships, worlds, and Olympic championships. They have the Grande Prix series to warm-up and test out new programs. Sometimes a skater and coach will completely scrap a program that is not well received by judges. A critique earlier in the new season should help to avoid this waste of time and energy.

       Communication problems are less likely to occur with critiques of tests since the requirements are very clearly listed in the USFS Rulebook and on every test sheet along with the number of reskated elements that are allowed. Problems that generally occur are because of confusion on the part of the coach, choreographer, and skater as to the differences between test and competition requirements. When the test is taken in close proximity to an Open or Regional competition, the content of the test may contain jumps, spins, and step sequences that the skater is attempt that are well above the minimum test requirements.

      The skater’s performance of these elements suffer as a result of falls, step outs, touch downs, and other errors that result in not meeting the requirements to pass the test. In many cases the transitions between the elements are lacking or not performed up the expectations for the event levels. In too many cases there are last minute changes that cause a skater to become confused with a total memory failure that is devastating to the skater and provides no options to the judge to provide positive comments.

      While the above comments apply to younger skaters, they also apply to adult competitive skaters who sometimes are especially sensitive to comments that do not support their perception of their abilities. It is impossible to critique anyone who only wants to hear how well they are doing when they have experienced performance anxiety (stage fright). Adults are generally more realistic about their technical limitations in free skating programs judged under IJS, but seem to have dreamlike expectations about their ability to perform artistic programs.

Zones of optimal functioning research: A review and critique

Abstract
    This manuscript reviews and critiques Hanin's (1980, 1986) Zones of Optimal Functioning (ZOF) state-anxiety performance relationship hypothesis and the research that has been conducted to test its effectiveness. The review of the ZOF research revealed that it has fairly good support, although a number of the existing studies have inherent methodological and/or conceptual limitations.

    One major weakness identified with the ZOF notion was its lack of any theoretical base. Hence, it was emphasized that future investigators design studies aimed at better understanding “why” ZOFs exist and “how” they may influence athletic performance via mechanisms such as attentional and muscle tension/coordination changes.

    Finally, a number of future research directions were forwarded. These included: the need for more adequate and complete ZOF tests; direct comparisons of the power of multidimensional and undimensional state anxiety generated ZOFs to predict performance; ZOF task type performance studies; investigations integrating state anxiety ZOFs with other arousal-related emotions; studies aimed at extending and testing ZOFs in non-athletic performance domains; and examinations of how ZOFs develop in athletes.

Diagnosis: War and Sweets  The link between diabetes and a bad temper    By Katherine Schreiber, published on March 15, 2011
People who have trouble metabolizing glucose tend to be more aggressive; they have less energy to devote to self-control, according to researchers at Ohio State University. In a study they conducted, the more severe a diabetic's symptoms, the more violent and unforgiving he was judged to be by himself and others.

Problems delivering glucose from the bloodstream into the body is a prime feature of Type 2 diabetes. Diabetics have difficulty getting enough fuel to the brain, leaving them at a constant risk of running on empty.

Tracking glucose and monitoring meds are key steps for diabetics. Here are a few more tips for maximizing health—and feeling calm:

  • Work out. Exercise reduces stress and helps facilitate glucose absorption. "Even simple walking helps tremendously," says Robert Henry, M.D., a diabetes specialist in San Diego.
  • Catch some Zs. Sleep deprivation impairs insulin sensitivity even in nondiabetics. Since many Type 2 diabetics suffer from sleep apnea, Henry suggests that anyone with a recent diagnosis undergo a sleep study to assess their snooze quality.
  • Eat a balanced diet. To help maintain steady blood glucose levels, choose complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.
Recommended Reading:
  • Personal Development for Smart People  The purpose of this website is to help you grow as a conscious human being. It includes articles guiding you to discover and accept your life purpose; inspiring you to feel more motivated, energized, and passionate ...

  • Criticism vs. Feedback_- Which One Wins - Psychology Today  June 30, 2009 ... Is criticism as ineffective as it is common? By Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D

  • Coaching strategy by Coach Dawn According to an article in April 2011 Psychology Today... titled, "A Chic Critique", People react strongly to criticism no matter how it's delivered.

  • Workplace Bullying On the Rise  Sister Girl News, May 14, 2011. Workplace bullying is on the rise today. ... psychological and verbal abuse which can start with mild criticism and escalate to bullying. Psychology Today suggests that bullying results from the feeling of inadequacy.

References:

Developing Personality and Character Traits

Resources:

The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

USFS Test Judging Topics
PDF  IJS Handbook
PDF  Judges Singles & Pairs Training Manual New  Evaluation of Jumps
PDF  Chart of Changes to MITF  9/2/2010 PDF  2011 USFS Tests Book 8/27/10
PDF  A need for Test Program Element Sheet
PDF  USFS Compulsory Figures Rules
PDF  Focus Points: Evaluate Tests
Roles of Skating Judges and Coaches
Discussion of MITF Topics
New & Revised MITF Elements
Critiquing Skating Performances
Critique Sheets
Requirements to Pass MITF
MITF Judging Criteria
Basic Skating Judging Protocols
Basic Skills Judging Competitions
Worksheets & References for Judges
Test and Elite Standards
A Positive Environment for Adult Skaters
Focus of Free Skating Test Judging
Interpreting 6.0 Score Sheets
School Figures

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credit is given for the source of the materials.


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