Time blocks or natural phrases?
Some players expressed dissatisfaction with the current system for Difficulty judging that uses 15 second time blocks and would like to return to our previous process of judging Difficulty according to combinations of trick moves sequenced together (“combos” in the form of natural phrases). Since both approaches have significant advantages and disadvantages (see summary in annex below), the committee decided to issue a survey and ask membership for their preference.
In the end, almost 60 people participated and the survey results showed no clear preference for either of the systems (exact results available if needed). The committee agreed that such a result wouldn’t justify a total change of the system towards natural phrases. Instead the committee followed the idea of a hybrid approach that aims to combine the best of both phrase and time-block methods.
The idea of the hybrid approach is a modification of the currently used time-block method of judging difficulty. The basic premise is for difficulty judges to not be mandated to give a mark exactly when the speaker says ‘mark,’ but instead record a score within a certain timeframe around each ‘mark’. To provide a time-frame, a metronome beat already recorded onto the difficulty tape shall start 4 seconds before and end 4 seconds after each ‘mark’ to define an 8 second opportunity within which time the judges shall rate the difficulty of play.
With the hybrid approach, judges remain attentive toward watching the freestyle players’ moves, consecutive combos are not artificially split up and fluff is penalized. Also, it still makes a difference if a combo is long or short, since Diff is still judged according to time and not according to combos.
A new audio file was created with the help of a sound technician, with a great deal of attention aimed at creating a file that is intuitive to use for the judges and with sound cues which will not annoy the audience. Pilot tests of the new audio file have occurred unofficially at tournaments and while viewing freestyle routines on videos; these “tests” showed that the new audio file appears to work well, and accomplish the goals of both phrase and time-block judging methods. The 3 minute version of the file is available for download.
Annex – Advantages and disadvantages of both systems:
Judging combos (natural phrases):
A difficulty mark is given for each “combo”(combination of trick moves sequenced together by a player). A combo starts with a throw and ends with a catch or a drop.
- Phrase-based judging is more naturally adapted to freestyle play in that judges don’t have to score during the middle of a player’s combination of moves and consecutive trick moves (“consecutivity”) can be better considered.
- A player’s combos are therefore judged fully as freestyle tricks combined together vs. judging part of a combo prior to the 15-second “mark” and the rest of the sequence after the mark.
- All combos, regardless of the length of time, are given the same scoring weight. A player’s very short combo has the same scoring weight as a long one. For example, Xavier does two short combos, each of which last 7.5 seconds. Annabelle, his partner, does a long combo of 15 seconds. At the end of the routine, when summing up single Diff scores, Xavier’s two short combos together have twice the weight as Anabelle’s long one.
In contrast, when using the time blocks system, Xavier’s two short combos together have the same weight as Anabelle’s long one (since they both fill a 15 second time block), which takes into account the fact that a short combo tends to be easier to complete flawlessly than a long one.
- Situations where the disc is not in play (fluff) are not evaluated/scored in terms of difficulty. An extreme example would be if a player could simply lay down the disc for 10, 20 or even 60 seconds with no effect on difficulty scores (while not risking a drop during this time), because there is no ‘combo’ of freestyle moves occurring.
Judging time blocks:
The system as we currently use it: Difficulty judges hear a sound every 15 seconds and have to give a mark for the difficulty of moves that were performed within the last 15 second time section.
- The whole routine is judged and not just when the disc is in play.
- Short combos have less weight than long ones, which takes into account the fact that a short combo tends to be easier to complete flawlessly than a long one (see above).
- Judging using time blocks is not natural. Judges are obligated to score when they hear the “mark” sound, which is often in the middle of a combo. This is distracting them from the rest of the combo, and combos have to be split up in the middle, where the first half has to be judged as part of the first time block and the second half as part of the second time block. This is hardly possible in real time, and doesn’t take into account that a combo of moves are actually presented in competition often as one multi-faceted entity and not just a string of separate moves, thereby not suitably valuing consecutive play. In reality, the time blocks system has already been informally modified by many judges (as our survey showed) while in the midst of judging to not interrupt their observations and mark a score until after a player has completed their combo (with a catch or missed catch). Therefore, the time blocks system is adapted to phrase-based judging to some extent anyway.
- Judges have to calculate an average of the moves that happened within the last 15 seconds. That is quite demanding, especially since they have to decide quickly while having to keep track of the next moves already.