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A Parental Guide to Competitive Snowboarding & Freestyle Skiing

This week, the UK's best snowsport's athletes, staff, media, along with tons of fans head out to the resort of Laax for the annual British Snowboard and Freeski Championships 2019.

We'll be posting regular updates across our website, social channels and more to give you a deeper insight into what goes on at the UK's best snowsports event.

To kick things off, we wanted to share this awesome read from Gaz Vogan about the importance of parental guidance in competitive snowsports. It's worth a read for all the parents out there, who's kids at some point might be aspiring to be stood at the top of the Brits' podiums in the future.

Full article is at http://itsajudgeslife.co.uk

Parents are a crucial part of snowboarding and skiing. Buying kit, driving kids to and from snowboard competitions or freestyle sessions, and they’re often the ones to break the news of results to their kids.

So first off – thank you parents for all your hard work, time and energy that you put into our sport.

But….

Due to the relatively young stature of competitive freestyle snowboarding & skiing, most parents haven’t got a background in the sport and can often be very much thrown in at the deep end – or try treat it like another sport. Which can sometimes make things a bit challenging.

So here is a handy guide to competitive freestyle snowboarding & skiing.

1. It’s all subjective.

Freestyle snowboarding & skiing is a subjective sport – which means that all the scores are based on someone’s opinion. And in much the same way that different people see Brexit differently – different people will see snowboarding runs in a competition differently. Even amongst the judges, who work to the same criteria, opinions will sometimes be divided on a run – which is why there’s several judges on a panel, and the score’s are averaged.

For clarity – the main criteria the judges use to form their opinions are: Difficulty, Execution (inc style), Amplitude, Landing, Variety.

2. It’s all comparative

There is no set score for each trick. There’s almost an exponential number of tricks available and it would be manic trying to remember all of them during a contest. It’s not like diving where there is a set difficulty rating for certain dives – snowboarding is fortunately not as standardised at diving. We snowboarders love the creativity of the sport – and we want to see the boundaries (of the sport and physics itself) tested and broken.

So there’s no point trying to figure out the difficulty rating for each trick and adding them together to try guess the score, and then wonder why your child’s score is a lot lower. We rank each run on a scale of 0-100, and that scale is based on the standard of riding at that competition. The judges watch the practice of the competition, see what tricks are being thrown and combine that with their knowledge of the sport to determine roughly what tricks are going to be getting the top scores. During practice we will work our way down the scale and go “[insert trick(s)] would get roughly a 60”, so when we see the runs we can rank them quicker.

Even once the scale has been ‘set’ we still can’t go “a 360 will score you 46.8” – because there is still factors to be considered such as the amplitude of a trick, whether a trick was grabbed, whether the landing was clean etc.

The judges basically play a very extensive game of higher and lower during the competition. “Was bib X better than bib Y? If so, how much better?” 

3. It’s all about fun

This should probably be first on the list – because it’s the main goal of snowboarding. Sure, winning is alright – but snowboarding is supposed to be fun. You see the pro’s on instagram and youtube riding around? Do they look like they’re having fun? Of course they do – because it’s snowboarding.

So no matter what level of competition – don’t go around yelling about scores and whatnot. If your kid is stoked – be stoked with them. If they’re not, then do that parenting thing you do so well, and highlight the good parts of the day and try get them to forget about the bad parts.

Whatever you do, don’t be the sort of parent who’s kid is so scared of, that they’re terrified to tell you that they f*cked up in a competition. If your child has fallen over during their run or pulled out of hitting a feature, they shouldn’t have to lie to you and tell you that they did their run cleanly because they’re scared of your reaction. Yes – this has happened on more than one occasion. It’s sport – sh*t happens. Even the pro’s f*ck up on the simplest of tricks – the ones they do day-in, day-out. Failure is cool.

4. Ask before – not during or after

I’ll admit it – it’s a confusing sport with a lot of weird terms. Wildcat? Roast beef? Lipslide? If you’re not from the sport then it’s tough to get your head round. Especially if you’re kid is running round going “I’m gonna try a backslide lip slide to fakie, then a cab 1 chicken salad and finish my run with a backside noseslide pretzel 270 out.”.

Competition formats and judging criteria can just add to the confusion – so wherever or whenever you get confused, just ask the organisers or judges. Avoid asking other parents unless it’s a bit last-minute and there’s no other option. You’ve heard of the game Chinese Whispers, right? Well that’s how it sometimes ends up when you ask someone who’s not 100% sure of the answer. Before long – there’s a rumour going round that a bail is an instant 0. Yes this has also happened before.

5. Try to understand – not complain

I get it – you’re pissed off that we didn’t rank the riders in the same way you expected or wanted us to. But there’s a reason for it, we haven’t got a vendetta against your child, we’ve seen something you might have missed. So before you start ranting to other parents, or slating the judges on social media, or throwing things – come talk to me and I’ll explain exactly what we saw in your kids run, and help you understand how your child can improve.

But remember, that I’m just doing my job. So if you come screaming and yelling into my workplace, then I’m probably just going to walk away.

Of course, you can still complain – it’s a free world and you’re welcome to your opinion as much as I’m welcome to mine.

But please don’t throw things. And yes – that has also happened in the past.

6. Treat judging as part of the feedback loop

Feedback is key in any situation – both positive and negative. A good score is simply positive reinforcement for the run your child has just done. Rather than seeing a bad score and just assuming that we, as judges, fucked up – you can go ‘ah, there was obviously something not quite right in the run’, and use it to help your kid improve their contest snowboarding.

If this is the case – come talk to me and I can assist with the feedback. “hey, it was a good run, but unfortunately you didn’t grab any of your spins so you weren’t rewarded as highly for it”.

7. The scores will never change

This is a fact of life, that is true 99% of the time.

Fun fact: Thanks to video replay and technology, scores can now change – but are VERY unlikely to do so.

After the competition, even if you show me a Gimbal-God style video of your child’s run, then the score is going to remain as it is. I can explain why the score is like that, but I’m not going to simply bump it up because you’ve shown me video footage. Simply because – if we take video footage of your child and change the score, we need to see everyone else’s run and re-judge the whole competition – when we were right in the first place (see point 9).

So unfortunately – the score we give your child in competition will remain until the end of time. 

8. The score is unimportant

Oh. My. God.

This sounds ridiculous, but is 100% true.

As judges, we couldn’t give Dumbo’s left ear about the score – all we care about is ranking the riders in the correct order. The score is just a vehicle to help us determine the ranking.

A 60 in one competition and a 60 in a different competition are 2 very different things. Even in the same competition a 60 in the semi-finals and a 60 in the finals can be 2 very different things. Because we’re purely comparing all the runs in that competition. Even if 2 runs are identical in terms of tricks – we will still give them different scores, because 1 run is going to be better executed, bigger or cleaner than the other. Remember – it’s a combination of criteria (not culmination of criteria – as I said on Eurosport last year) that determines the ranking, not just the trick difficulty.

9. The Judges are always right.

This is perhaps my most arrogant point.

I’m there to do a job, and that job is to use my subjective opinion – based on the criteria – to evaluate each run of the snowboard contest and rank them in order of best-to-worst, based on my opinion.

And thanks to freedom of speech – I can’t be wrong with my opinion?

And equally – you’re not wrong with your opinion either, even if it differs to mine.

So I’m always right. And you are also right. Even if our opinions differ.

But unfortunately (for you), it’s my opinion determining the results of the contest

10. Listen to your child

They probably live, breathe and eat snowboarding. They probably love this sport and want to spend every minute doing it.

BUT if they tell you that they’d rather just cruise the park than ride in the contest – LET THEM. Even if you’ve spent £40 entering your child into a comp, if they don’t want to compete then that is cool. Live with the fact you’ve just wasted 5 Swiss beers, but that your child is still in love with snowboarding. Force them to compete and they’re not riding for themselves, which isn’t fair, and they’ll start to resent snowboarding.

And if they tell you they don’t want to snowboard any longer, then that is also completely fine.

 If you have an issue with any of these points – then please email Gaz - gaz@vogancreative.com, or message the It’s A Judges Life page on Facebook. But remember point number 5. 

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