By Jennie Laurent, WNBF Figure, Fit Body & Bodybuilding Pro – Bodybuilding is a sport unlike any other because unlike most sports, the winner is not the one who crosses the finish line first or the team that scores the most goals. It’s analogous to a beauty pageant but for muscles. The winner is selected because they met carefully crafted judging criteria and outranked their competition, according to a subjective judging panel.
With so many variables, it is a challenge to keep this consistent. Perspective plays a huge role and hopefully this article will give you some insight and shed some light on what it’s like to be a judge and how to respectfully obtain judge feedback. I will share with you my first show experience as compared to my most recent show experience and also an experience I had as a judge and as a test judge and how my perspective has changed as a result of these experiences.
My very first show was the 2012 OCB Spirit of America. I wanted to do both figure and bikini but the OCB did not allow crossovers at that time, so I chose figure because I have a more muscular physique. I came into the show very confident, but I was discouraged because I did not place in the top five. As a novice competitor, I thought that I read the judging criteria and fit what they were looking for; however I did come in over-dieted, meaning that I lost muscle size I was very lean and not full. My suit did not fit right and my color should have been darker according to the judges. Before this I never heard of that term over-dieted. I was wondering why the judging panel seemed to reward more of a softer look because I felt that I should’ve made top five and was a little confused. I wondered why I got “beat” by girls who were not as lean and had substandard posing. But after getting judges feedback and seeing pictures and reflecting back, I realized how emaciated and truly over-dieted I really was and the judges were correct in scoring me the way they did.
My point is that right after the show and with it being my first show, emotions took control and I didn’t have the experience or the knowledge to appreciate the judges eye – I could only see that I did not place where “I” thought I should have, but it was not until months later was I able to see that I didn’t look as good as I thought. I learned a very valuable lesson and could now be honest and objective with myself. As humans it is very difficult at times for us to see our own flaws until we reach a level of maturity where we can remain objective and take constructive criticism gracefully.
After my first show I unfortunately suffered some metabolic damage and decided I probably wouldn’t ever compete again. I doubted I had the potential to thrive in the sport. But after a two-year hiatus I decided I would come back and maybe just try bikini for more of a softer shapelier look. I was once again torn between doing bikini and figure because I still had a lot of muscle, but I wasn’t exactly lean so I was kind of in between categories, so I decided to do both because in the WNBF you’re allowed to cross over as an amateur.
Once again I had high hopes going to the show. Like anyone else, I put a lot of work into it and was once again discouraged when I didn’t place in the top five in either category. This time I knew that I was not really prepared ideally for either category, but I still thought I had a decent physique, but I agree with where the judges placed me. I just missed top five in both but I knew that I was nowhere near my best and I had some work to do in order to be pro worthy. The judges were kind enough to give me some feedback and it was a matter of changing my suit, working on my posing, and dropping about 10 pounds because my third show I earned pro status in figure. I was really glad I didn’t give up after the second show, because my confidence was tested yet again.
In late 2015, I was asked to judge an IPL show and it was a smaller show and a good show to learn the ropes of judging. I did some training in order to be a qualified judge, and I had two good judging mentors at the show with me to help guide me on how to be fair and to eliminate biases. At times it was difficult to judge if the classes were relatively close or if there were two competitors fighting for first place, but you really have to look at the total package. It was a good experience and I was actually eager to provide feedback to some of the competitors because they were making some mistakes that were easily fixable but that they needed to be told that in order to advance themselves in the sport. I waited until they approached me in order to offer such advice.
Furthermore, my first test judge experience was at a larger show and the judging criteria was different but more along the lines of what I would think is ideal scoring. Since the classes were much larger it was a lot harder to place people in such a short amount of time, but I eventually caught onto the hang of it. It was really insightful to be able to sit on the judges table as opposed to being up on stage because it’s a whole different view, number one, and number two, when I’m up there on stage holding my poses I realize now why it takes so long or why we have to hold the poses for what seems like eternity and why they quarter turn us so many times.
I think that when the classes are smaller it’s a lot more ideal in order to judge fairly as opposed to having a larger class. For example a class of 14 should be split into two classes of 7. I think this yields the best opportunity to afford equal and even attention to people and I felt that the bigger the class the longer they were on stage and it would’ve been better to split up the groups.
Asking For Feedback
In the few show experiences I’ve had, I’ve been fortunate enough to reach out to a couple of the judges online. If they responded, great, if not then at least I tried. Nowadays with so many competitors, it’s not wise to give out a judge’s email just because it would take forever to get back to so many people and remember who everybody was. Also the judges are not getting compensated to answer loads of emails like that. Sometimes I’ve been told to approach the judges at the end of a show, but if everyone did that, it would take forever again. Not to mention that as a competitor, at the end of the day I’m exhausted and hungry and just want to go home.
Additionally, as a judge, the same concept applies as it has been a long day and the last thing I want to do after an entire day of judging is spend hours talking to people when I just would want to go home and rest. I would actually rather people send me an email with their pictures and their info and where they placed and I could at least try to answer some.
Anyhow the best way to approach a judge is respectfully because they’re providing generous advice to you and you’re free to either take it or leave it. Realize that you may get a different answer from some judges because it’s a subjective sport and one person might’ve thought one thing about you and another judge thought differently and it doesn’t mean that it was inconsistent; just that it’s still a very subjective sport. If you are asking for a judge’s honest opinion, take it for what it is even if it’s not what you wanted to hear or it’s not all positive feedback.
Remember that we have our own opinions of how we see ourselves and our friends and family may tell us that we look great and we should’ve won, but honestly they’re not a judge and they don’t know the criteria and can’t speak for who should’ve placed. It takes experience and a trained eye to know the difference between ideal symmetry conditioning versus poor. It also requires a decent understanding of human anatomy and musculature. Like anything else and with proper effort, the more you do it the better you get.
Whatever you do, the worst thing possible is after show to go post on social media if you are unhappy with your placement or what you thought was “wrong” with the judging panel. Not only is that foolish but all you’re doing is making a public display of yourself in a negative manner and people won’t take you seriously and if anything you will only make an enemy of yourself to that federation. In my opinion social media is not the place for such debates and is woefully over- used as a means to dump emotions and complain and talk about things and gossip.
If you have a concern, take it up with a certain person or that Federation privately as it is not everybody’s business. I think every competitor should test judge a show just to see what it’s like to be a judge. Also, it helps familiarize with how competitors are scored so they have a better understanding. These experiences were very humbling to me, and again, some people never reach a level of maturity when they can look at themselves objectively and receptively accept subjective feedback from others, and I found this to be a very valuable experience.
Realize that every bit of feedback you get is meaningful and that you have the liberty to decide what you want to apply and what you think does not. No matter how great you get, it does not guarantee that you’ll do better at the next show or worse but just know that you can only bring your best package the best you know how. You cannot predict how any show is going to go or who is going to show up or who the judging panel is going to be. All of these factors play a role. The bottom line here is to be graceful as a competitor, show sportsmanship, and if you do end up getting the privilege to get some judging feedback, show some appreciation whether you like it or not and be a humble athlete in your success and in the success of others.
Photos: Jon Priest/Reg Bradford
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