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Re: Unfair judging
Posted by Jonathan Atkinson
2/17/2004  4:34:00 PM
The short answer is: Some people suck. If you're a victim of people who suck, there's not much else I can offer you. You can raise hell, complain to the competiton organizer, or file a complaint with the appropriate organization (NDCA, USABDA, etc). But you can dig yourself into a bigger hole than when you started, so I don't personally recommend it. As a general rule, the people who suck are far outnumbered by those who don't, which means that the overall results can only be affected so much by politics.

The longer you hang around the competitive world, the more you'll realize the extent of the politics, but you'll also learn how to play them to your advantage. That doesn't mean that you have to be a total sell-out, but there are certain simple things you can do to minimize the negative effects on you. For example, be nice to everyone, make a lot of friends, and don't speak poorly of anyone EVER (even your greatest rival, even though you KNOW he's nowhere near as good a dancer as you).

If you want to step it up a notch, it doesn't hurt to take lessons with other coaches. That's not selling out... that's being smart. And often, you'll find that the lessons are really good, too. Selling out is taking lessons purely for political purposes (especially when you know you're not going to get anything out of it). But if a lesson has educational value, take it. You will improve your dancing, and any political gains are purely coincidental.

You have to understand that judges don't always mark their own students better simply because they're corrupt. It's human nature to protect one's own. And there is a certain psychological element at work here, too: Your own teacher is more likely to envision you at your full potential, rather than seeing you as you are at any given moment. If a judge has never seen you before, he marks exactly what he sees. But if he's been working with you every week for the last year, he knows what you're capable of, and sometimes that knowledge can have influence over his decision, even if only subconsciously.

Moreover, every judge has his own priorities. Judge "A" may be fanatical about proper footwork, while judge "B" is adamant about great posture. If judge "A" is your regular teacher, then chances are good that you will have great footwork. Now let's say that your posture isn't perfect. Your competition has great posture, but his feet are sloppy. Judge "A", your teacher, is more likely to mark you, while judge "B" is more likely to mark your competition. Is this because you take lessons with "A"? Yes. But it's not a political outcome... it's a result of the variety of priorities each judge has in terms of what he or she thinks makes good dancing.

In conclusion, politics do exist. But not all marks are as politically motivated as you might imagine. Politically-based markings can have a certain amount of influence, but that amount is limited. It can't make a loser win, and it can't make a winner lose. All it does is mix things up a little bit in the middle. So be smart, be nice, network, don't make huge waves, and most of all... be the best dancer you can be. Dance so that they have no choice but to mark you.

Jonathan Atkinson
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