Apr 20, 2013

Using IJS

I created a twitter hashtag during the last U.S. Championships:


Well-known for creating inexplicable outcomes, the International Skating Union Judging System, or IJS (also known as Code of Points or COP) has replaced the overly subjective and equally (though differently) impenetrable 6.0 system with a nearly impenetrable table of "protocols" that parse out the art into minute judgements on technique.

For fans, it's infuriating.

But for skaters it can be an incredibly useful tool, because it allows you to see what the judges are focusing on for you.

Personal best and seasons best
Know these scores. First of all, it gives you an instant idea of how you did, and whether you should be happy or disappointed. Second, your season's best score tells you how this program is doing. If you keep not matching your personal best in a given season, you may want to rethink the program. IJS not only rewards/punishes skating skills, it also rewards good choreography. If you consistently miss your personal best, it might not be you. It might be the choreo.

Using knowledge of points to know your prospects
First of all, you can use your own point history to judge how  how well you are likely to do. If you know your personal best and season's best scores you can have a pretty good idea of what your standing is going to be throughout the season (taking a lot of the agony out of waiting for the judges sheets). You can look at your competitors scores and know when you're going to have to blow it out of the water to win (and it does happen-- look at Dennis Ten at the recent World Championships).

Component scores
As far as I'm concerned, for your own skating, the component scores are where it's at. These tell you how good the judges think your basic skating skills are. While these scores are notorious in elite skating-- there have been indications that judges are pressured to score skaters based on their "seed" or standing-- at local and qualifying competition they can be used to help you understand whether judges just think you skate well, regardless of your performance on specific skills that day.

Don't just look at your own protocols (judging sheets). Look at your competitors as well. See what kinds of scores are being achieved by skaters you admire.  Where do they excel; where do you best them?

More on personal best
Personal best is to IJS what Judge 5 was to the 6.0 system. By which I mean, skaters used to look at their rankings and say "well Judge 5 placed me 2nd!" (somebody loves me.)  Now you can look at your protocols and see an overall personal best, or most positive GOEs (see next), or increased PCS. You can even take it down to the individual skills-- you can have a goal to get the maximum point value on a specific skill, or achieve a given Level on just one skill, or a set of skills.  Because IJS is so detailed, you can really use the scoring both to help you figure out what to work on, and to say "well at least I did something right."

Evan Lysacek won the Olympics by putting together a program in which he could achieve the absolute maximum points, even if he fell short on various individual skills.  Supposedly a battle between the "technical" Plushenko and the "artistic" Lysacek, they actually had identical PCS (the "artistic" score). Lysacek won it on a brilliantly conceived choreography that maximized technical point value.  Your coach and choreographer should know how to play this game-- whether to go for the higher base value of a Level 3 or 4 or triple jump, or the better GOE of a Level 1 or 2 or double jump. Where to place jumps. How to maximize the value of the footwork sequence, etc.

In this same way, IJS helps you set goals.  Achieving positive GOE, getting the full point value on a skills, increasing PCS base values, getting a higher level on footwork or a spin.  The goal no longer has to be "beat skater X" or, worse, "win." Goals can now be really fine-tuned to an individual skater's needs.

How have you used IJS to help you understand or improve your, or your skaters', abilities?


  1. YES! For all these reasons. As a parent, I really appreciate that this scoring system makes it much more explicit that my daughter is competing with herself--trying to improve from competition to competition, trying to get rid of any e's and <'s and -'s and earn more +'s. She can skate really well in a strong field and come away feeling successful even if she doesn't place.

  2. Good stuff. My quarrel with IJS is not with the concept but mostly with what gets rewarded and what doesn't.

    The idea of having a personal best and being able to compare your performance across competitions is really helpful. Especially for boys/men who (on this side of the country, at least) wind up skating a lot of exhibitions, IJS at least gives you useful feedback.

  3. Once the media stops whining about how awful the IJS and actually take the time to learn how it works the fans will pick up the basics. Love the IJS because everything is important, it's not just all about jumps anymore. There is always an attainable goal for every skater at every level to work on.