PSA 2000 Intro

Greetings from the PSA World Conference 2000, where one of my three roommates begs, "Only say positive things about me!" Okay: she looks smashing in red.

I only got in late today, halfway through an afternoon panel, just in time to hear Kurt Pulver of Switzerland note that the Swiss instituted Moves in the Field two years before the USFSA (whose MITF program is quite similar). Peter Martell of ISI followed, explaining that ISI is committed to increasing and retaining participation in the sport at every level, especially grassroots.

Christy Krall reported that the USFSA's dance and pairs partner tryouts of last year resulted in 18 new partnerships, 60% of which went on to sectionals, 7 teams to nationals, 2 to team envelopes. They are hoping down the line to bring tryouts to the sectional and even regional levels. It's no longer true that those who "can't skate" are encouraged to try pairs and dance; in keeping with the newly defined focus on winning international medals, the USFSA is committed to raising the caliber of those disciplines.

Diane Miller explained that the PACE program is for coaches who are knowledgeable and just need help presenting themselves for ratings; the biannual PEP program is for imparting new knowledge.

USFSA judge and Continuing Education chair Charlie Cyr was in the hot seat. Moderator David Lowery asked him about the sensitive issue of what to do with judges who are no longer effective, the ones who cause the sport to "lose skaters" because they, for example, mark someone 9th when the rest of the panel has them 2nd or 3rd. Cyr did pretty well, though he looked plainly unhappy at a situation about which he said he wasn't sure there was a good solution -- and he welcomed suggestions from any who had solutions. He said flatly that there is an evaluation process, but it holds no water; a "good old boy" network of inviting judges to qualifiers remains a problem still. There is an unspoken rule that judges making serious errors don't get invited back, but there needs to be more. Lowery suggested an ISU approach where errant judges write letters of explanation, and Cyr acknowledged that he had started such an approach and it seems to be accepted among newer trial judges.

Lowery then asked Cyr if 4Cs is really going to become a qualifier for Worlds (and do we think that's a good thing?), and Cyr said he didn't know the USFSA's position, but was told that the ISU intends to make it so. (Insert Lorrie's screams here. There are so many heinous things on the ISU table -- which battles to fight?)

Peter Morrissey of Great Britain talked about how the British federation has instituted minimum technical requirements (such as 3lutz or 3axel) for international competition, in order to comply with the standards for receiving funds from the national lottery. In the past two years they have relaxed the requirements slightly, but nonetheless he didn't think it was a good system -- the message obviously being that he did not recommend that any other nation should institute similar policies.

From the floor, a coach asked if the PSA could institute some grievance process when a judge gives a mark that flummoxes and demoralizes a student (okay, the coach didn't use those exact words). Cyr outlined the USFSA grievance process already in place and said it was the coaches' responsibility to use it and help their students understand. He repeated a non-confrontational method of approaching a judge that he learned from Frank Carroll: "I see you placed my skater 9th, and they placed 2nd overall. In your mind, what would it take for you to place my skater 2nd?" That calls for accountability on the judge's part as well (Cyr noted dryly that "I don't remember -- what was your skater wearing?" was not an acceptable response).

There seemed to be quite a bit of interest in better communication between coaches and judges, even more official occasions for that to occur. I hazard that the workings of judges and the USFSA are easily misunderstood by the average coach. It was pointed out that coaches can contact their clubs and local judges to set up seminars; PSA seminars are also now posted on the USFSA website, and I think I recall hearing that USFSA folks get Continuing Education credit for attending them.

Grassroots coaches were interested in getting qualified judges, rather than coaches, to judge ISI events, in part to avoid judging their own students. Peter Martell responded from the point of view that opening up the judging to coaches ensured a larger pool of committed folks and more accessibility in general, since the USFSA judging system is already under enormous strain, but I noted that the request for qualified judges met with resounding applause.

I missed Christine Brennan's opening remarks and Frank Carroll's lecture on the components of making a champion, but both got raves from the coaches with whom I spoke. Among other things, Brennan stressed that sports reportage is ruled by white male hegemony -- they do not consider figure skating important, and won't cover it, so it is up to us to call, write, e-mail the media and tell them we want to see more skating coverage. That is how things will change for the better. Carroll gave concrete advice on "the complete package" and the full responsibilities of a coach toward students, and people are still talking about how intelligently he spoke. :-) There seems to be a bit of the celebrity aura around the man. It's very different from a competition atmosphere, where folks are celebrities for more glamorous reasons; this admiration is from the common working craftsperson toward one they recognize as a master of the craft, and I like it very much.

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