Oct 4, 2012

Who should know what about IJS?

Ah, more alphabet soup.

IJS, or the International Skating Union Juding System, is the mind-bogglingly complex attempt of the ISU to standardize judging, following the Salt Lake scandal.

The unassailably positive motiviation behind the system was to create transparency-- while you don't know which judge is giving which marks, you can see in numbing detail exactly what the marks are for every single second of a program. I won't get into my opinion of the system (as one friend put it "math has stolen my sport").

Here's a sample "protocol" or judging sheet:

Behind all this is nearly 300 pages of rules, supplemented by endless tweaks and changes to those rules.


What does it all mean.

Well, I'm not going to tell you. What I am going to tell you is what you should learn, on your own, depending on who you are in the skating world.

Go crazy. Learn every single nuance of the system. Know it better than the most experienced international judge. Give the top Tech Specialist a run for his money. Follow every competition on "you be the judge" (a website that allows you to judge using IJS in real time). Be sure to tweet about how wrong the judges got it.

Competitive Coach
You need a post-doc level of understanding. Unfortunately, you're going to have to relearn it every year, because they change minute details of it on a rolling basis.

Class coach
Appear to know what you are talking about. Beyond that, thank your lucky stars if you have no students in competition and don't need to load down the gray matter with this stuff.

You need to know one thing: positive GOE.

Other than that, have a basic familiarity with the jump, spin, footwork and moves requirements for a program at your level and the next level up. Forget about where you've been--by the time you're a coach it will have completely changed (heck, by next year it will have completely changed). Know the terminology, and how it applies to your own programs. Know how to read a protocol (i.e. learn all the squiggles and abbreviations). But don't try to achieve a fan-level of intimacy with it. More important that you spend your time learning not to cheat that jump, than to be worrying about whether you've repeated a feature. (For instance, you should have been able to read this paragraph and know what I was talking about).

In the meantime, repeat after me: positive GOE, positive GOE, positive GOE.

Skater, redux
Know exactly why your competitors' scores are complete bull shit if they did better than you, and how the judges totally used the system to let them win.* If your scores are better, be able to point out how you and your coach worked with the system to create a win.

Have a solid understanding of how to read a protocol. Know enough to ask the coach about any downgrades or negative GOEs. (Actually, the coach would love it if you didn 't know this stuff, or ask about it, and I agree, but I know I can't stop you, so at least know what you're talking about.) DON'T, by all that is holy, offer advice--to the coach or the skater or god forbid the judges--on how to fix things.

Parents, redux
See Skater, redux

* this is very hard in IJS


  1. I'd like to repeat POSITIVE GOE.

    Or even 0 GOE. Yes, I said 0. A 0 GOE means you did a nice, strong element. A 0 is a good thing. It's no good to eke out a Level 4 (i.e. "fancy pants") spin for higher base point, and then get it knocked down by negative GOE. I've seen kids win with lower level jumps (e.g. double salchow) that are solid and clean - possibly with some height and speed - than with a wonky higher jump (e.g. double flip with a sketchy take-off and landing or tacking on a dead-stop double in a combination instead of a floating single.)

    I have no proof of this, but a program with elements that the skater is confident in makes for less stress overall and more ability to concentrate on PCS, as well. Eventually, it has to be the whole package. But until a skater has a real shot at medaling in IJS, squeezing out points with a lot of hard but uncertain elements to win isn't useful in the long run.

    As a parent, that was a tough concept to get. But aiming for 0 and few/no negative GOE with the program you do have is sort of the go-ahead point to try adding on another spin level or jump feature. IMHO.

    1. I actually think of the "0" as being part of positive GOE, but yes, excellent points.

    2. I agree. I think we're conditioned that 0 = zilch = bad. Well...at least I was, lol. It took a while for me to accept - almost on faith at first - that getting a 0 was okay. :-)

  2. Also see here:


    Personally (as a parent) I have a lot of trouble with IJS. Many of the competitions I attend have a mix of events, some scoring IJS and some scoring 6.0. The 6.0 are much more relaxing and enjoyable to watch :-)

    -- Jeff

  3. Lower elements, done well so that you can get a positive GOE and complete your program easily and happily are way better than having a harder element and either getting a negative GOE or (worse) not getting the element called. If it's not called there's no base mark so it doesn't matter if the judges want to give you a +3 they can't. Your mark for that move is zero. Full stop. This seems to affect a lot of lower level skaters (esp in the UK) who can't get their jumps called at all even when the judges like them.

    The corollary of this of course is that if there is a "required" element that you just can't do, you might as well leave it out as do it so badly it doesn't get called. The end result (0 marks for the element) is the same, but you don't muck up your program by doing something you hate/can't do. Again, possibly more relevant to lower levels but worth knowing!!

    1. Actually you don't want to leave out a required element. Even a bad score will give you some points, whereas a missed element gets you a zero, and one fewer element scored than everyone else. Missing an element will also negatively affect your PCS across the board. Don't skip a required element!

  4. Interesting - because I have it straight from a judges mouth that if your choice is "attempt" the element but do it so badly that the tech specialist says it's not the element at all then you cannot get any marks. Maybe it only really affects low level skaters - if you attempt a triple it could get called as a double - but if you attempt a single the TS can say it wasn't a valid jump at all - null points, no GOE to add onto it. And this does keep happening to skaters I know...they do what they (and the judges) think is a good single jump, the TS says it wasn't a jump and they get no marks at all!

    I have actually asked my coach this about a combined pose (required for dance) and he said if I can't do it properly for the required 3 seconds for each pose then to not even try as it won't get called at all and will waste 5-6 seconds (nearly 10%) of my program time!

    1. From what I understand, if someone is doing a single jump, but the tech specialist says that it was under-rotated, then the skater should still get the base score, but the judges would give negative GOE. If the jump is down-graded (more than 1/4 under-rotated), then the jump would get no base value. For example, Intermediate SP requires an axel-type jump. If a skater boggles it so badly (downgraded because of > 1/4 rotation UR, waltz jump or "waxel"), then a required element has not been completed = no base value.

      If video is being used, then some downgrades that may not be seen by the naked eye would be caught. We've sometimes seen a big difference in scoring at competitions where video tech is used and when it's not. When video is used, suddenly all the UR and edge calls are caught and kids' scores can go down.

      My daughter missed an entire element score on the Intermediate SP combination spin because she didn't hold a the entry position for two revolutions before changing to the first feature position. (I think that was the explanation.) To the naked eye, it was a gorgeous spin. This happened to Nathan Chen at an international competition. Entire spin wasn't marked because (I think this was the reason; correct me if I'm wrong) he didn't hold a position for two revs after changing feet and going to the next position. It happens at high levels.

      Rachael Flatt lost an entire spin at a major competition because she recentered (stepped too far off center of first spin) for her change foot spin. I've seen kids get docked for that, as well.

      As for single jumps other than axel getting UR (under-rotated) and thus no base score, I've personally never seen this happen. Although, I could see on a required combo jump, if the second jump is a single jump and the kid just completely bobbles it to an UR, then the entire element would probably be lost. Losing the combo jump in a short program is massive. There are so few elements that losing one complete score drops kids way down.

    2. Sorry...that sentence should be

      "a required combo jump, if the second jump is a single jump and the kid just completely bobbles it to a *downgrade, then the entire element would probably be lost."

      I'm not entirely sure about this, though. It does make sense that if a combo is two jumps and it's required, if the second jump is a single downgraded to basically a non-jump, then the combo hasn't been satisfied.

    3. Nope. I'm wrong on the comob thing.

      Here's the protocols for Intermediate SP at NWP Regionals.


      For example, the skater who placed 10th, it looks like she fell on the combo jump. 2Lz+COMBO. She got the base score for the jump. However, a fall requires a -3 deduction (I believe.) So that brought the score down from 2.31 to 1.41. She also gets a 1.00 total deduction from her overall score for the fall.

      Skater who came in 12th attempted a Flying Sit Spin (FSSP) as her solo spin. It looks like she didn't get the fly, so the entire spin wasn't counted. No base score.

  5. "As for single jumps other than axel getting UR (under-rotated) and thus no base score, I've personally never seen this happen."

    You need to come and see adult low level competitions in the UK then. I have a friend who has toe loops and salchows (I think) as single jumps not combos, which judges have said deserve +GOEs where the TS has said it's a "not jump" ie no base mark so no GOE.

    It does seem to be a big flaw in trying to apply the same IJS marking to lower level skaters as to higher ones to be honest!

  6. See, this is what I'm talking about. Stop reading the rules and just do what the coach says. (Of course, we're fans, so we get to go crazy). In general, it is better to not skip a required element. But it's the coach's call.

    1. Well...I'm a fan and a parent. I want to understand what I'm watching when I watch national/international level skating as a fan. As a parent, I certainly don't get involved in what is in or not in the program. On the other hand, it helps with the "why didn't my kid place better?" moments to understand what's going into the judging.

  7. Help! I don't understand any of this. Thank goodness daughter has decided to give up competing in favor of going the test route. She's currently Juv FS level, so I'll never have to deal with this grief! Real life is stressful enough without IJS.

    At a recent competition every Juv skater did this horrible spin in their FS program (I don't know what it's called)--the one that looks like they are bending over to tie their skate while keeping their knee locked. Why?

    The only thing I've ever asked her coach to do concerning a program is never put that spin in DD's program!

  8. LOL, We call it the butt spin ;) but it's officailly called an A-frame. From what I have heard the judges in our area really hate seeing it with girls, but I have seen some nice variations done by girls. Even some boys should not be doing it. To me it looks like limb proportion has a lot to do with the aesthetics. Coach hates it even with boys, but it is a legitimate alternative for someone with few options for position variations...(read: non-flexible).