Although I still compete, I also have been blessed with the opportunity to judge several shows, I believe its a job that requires integrity, honesty, knowledge and experience so I feel very honoured when im asked to judge a show and I take the role seriously. Its a massive responsibility. You have a responsibility to the show organisers and the participants to get it right, to judge fairly and without bias or politics interfering.
The first time I was asked to judge, I had mixed feelings, it was a show I absolutely loved competing in, and judging meant I couldn't compete any more, I wondered if I would feel sad, jealous, frustrated watching the show I adored being a part of? The truth is, I overwhelmingly loved watching the show from the judges table, as much as I enjoyed being on the stage, and that surprised me somewhat! The first show I was asked to judge was Miss Galaxy Universe. I have won overall supreme twice. I was and still am, the only woman to have ever won twice. It was a lot of pressure coming back to try to retain the title, the show has about 100 women, and combines 3 rounds of Fitness Tests, Bikini and evening wear, one slip up and the chance to win is gone! So when I was asked if I would retire from competing in the show, to join the judges panel, as well as feeling honoured, and a tinge of sadness, I felt some relief, as I would have gone back again to compete in the next show and put more pressure on myself :)
I have had the pleasure of judging this show twice and im back on the panel for the next show, and this year I have also been asked to judge at the Spanish National Championships with INBA and the UKs national Championships for the University MASS Society Physique & Bikini Championships and I am really excited to be a part of these 3 shows.
So what does judging involve, what is the experience like? has it helped me as a competitor?
Each federation ive been asked to judge for has different rules, regulations and requirements from their judges, but heres a taste of what judging is all about, from my personal experience and my advice on how best to catch the judges attention while you are on stage, from my experience the other side of the table!
After accepting the role, judges are sent a criteria to work to and a scoring system, so the first job is to familiarise yourself with what the federation are looking for.
Training / Briefings
Each federation works differently but most have a judges briefing or training to attend in order to ensure that all the judges have a clear understanding of the criteria and so that there is consistency across the board.
Weigh ins / visual inspection
Some federations it is one of the judges roles, to run the weight in and also to check the athletes prior to going on stage, in order to ensure athletes are in the correct class, to give each athlete the best chance of scoring as well as they can. If an athlete has gone beyond criteria, or entered a class they are not suitable for, if it is resolved before they go on stage, it leads to a much better experience for the athlete. Sometimes this is an opportunity for drug tested / polygraphed federations to choose the athletes for testing procedures if an athlete is clearly showing signs of using, or to select athletes for random testing.
The Judges Table
Once the show starts, its a long day, some shows rotate judges, some have show breaks, but either way, its always a long day. As a competitor, i now have a whole new appreciation for all judges having sat a judges table. They work long hours, under a lot of pressure in often fast paced shows! There are usually more than one round, comparisons, set poses, t walks, routines, so an athlete has to be consistent throughout to do well. In the Galaxy show,there are no comparisons line ups.. each round consists of a T walk lasting just 1-2 minutes, its not much time to assess the athlete for the whole criteria, so you really have to concentrate! Most bodybuilding shows, the class come on stage together and perform comparisons and compulsory poses and then you can call athletes forward for comparisons, so if some athletes are scoring closely you can take another look at them. This process is repeated until all the judges are happy with their scores.
The criteria for each class varies, placing a different amount of importance of different aspects. Generally you are looking at symmetry, proportion, and shape for all classes, and then to differing degrees, size and conditioning level along with stage presence, aesthetics and in some classes athletic / gymnastic ability. Some classes will place more importance on mass and conditioning where as others will be more on aesthetics and shape and how much emphasis or importance each aspect has, also depends on what look the federation favours for each class. In some competitions and classes there is an element of 'star quality' 'aesthetics', the 'full package', with hair make up skin, tanning, suit choice all be taken into consideration to some degree. The key for judges is to understand the level of importance of each aspect of the criteria for each particular class.
I know every competitor has had their battle, every journey is different, some are incredibly inspiring, some have overcome huge adversity to make it to that stage, so when an athlete walks on stage, i want to see them enjoy it, I want to score them as high as they can. Judges are not scary people just looking to mark you down, we are passionate about the sport and want you to shine, we appreciate the struggle, hard work and effort thats gone into competing, but we only see what you let us see, so try not to let nerves or poor preparation let you down on stage.
Judges feedback. I have always contacted judges after shows, in order to find out where I can improve for future shows, if you can catch a judge on the day, while its fresh in their memory that's great (but respect the fact they have had a very long and what can be somewhat stressful day) so longer discussion may be best left for a few days after the show. When I give feedback I find it really helps if the athlete can send me a couple of their on stage professional shots (close up and clear) remember, the judges were looking at maybe 100's of athletes and may need a reminder. Sometimes we take notes to refer back to, but there isn't always time. Remember, how you look posing back stage for a selfie while looking in a mirror is sometimes very different to how you appear on stage so if you come off stage disappointed, wait until you see your photos before calling conspiracy and politics as often you can see where you might have improved, or how other athletes were able to present themselves on stage. The photos & video footage themselves are fabulous feedback, and you can often learn a lot from just watching back your own and other competitors performances.
What have I learned from my experience of judging?
Well, I have learned a lot which I now use to prepare myself for the stage.
One of the things I personally enjoy about judging is seeing each athlete have the chance to show us the result of all their hard work. I love to see athletes enjoying themselves on stage as this is supposed to be a hobby, a sport, something we do for 'fun' but it highlights the fact that how you portray yourself on stage is so vital! It really has brought home to me the importance of not only training and dieting and coming in with a physique that's right for your category, but you have to be able to present that physique on stage. The judges can only judge what they see on stage on the day, and you don't have that much time to impress, so posing practice is absolutely important!!! I know every athlete has put in hours in the gym, made sacrifices, worked hard to get themselves ready, often at great expense to finances and friends and family! So when an athlete comes on stage, staring at the floor, with body language that says, I cant wait to get off this stage, then rushes through so fast you barely get to see the result of all their efforts, I am so gutted for them! Nerves can be so destructive, but one thing I can say, is when I judge, I am rooting for every single one of you, I want your eye contact, I smile at you, I want to see you smile back and look like you are enjoying it (even if inside you are terrified) fake it til you make it! So since I started judging I believe my own stage presence has improved, I spend much more time on this aspect of my preparation as I now see just how important it really is. Make sure you have nailed the poses, you might have amazing lats, but if you cant spread them, we cant see them, practice until its subconscious, not fully tensing or holding a pose well, can ruin your chances, even if you had the best body on stage. Know what suits you and how to show off your best assets, we only see what you let us see! Oh and relaxed pose... its not relaxed... you have to work hard to make it look relaxed!!! But its anything but!!! Another thing that's importance has been driven home to me is Tanning. This is so important. If you are using a tanning service, make sure you follow their skin prep and if doing your own tan, try and get some advice and maybe have a trial run to see if the tan works for you or how many layers you need. its really frustrating when you cant see an athletes body properly because they are washed out under the lights or because the tan is so patchy, too much glaze dripping off, or so thick you cant see any definition. Standing at the back of the stage. DO NOT SWITCH OFF.... just because you are not performing your t walk, or in a call out group, does not mean we are not looking at you. In a large line up where the standard is similar, we may check back to look at other athletes, especially if its another judges call out going on, I might be scoring other athletes, so don't slouch, stare at the floor and do not stop holing your 'relaxed' pose until you are off stage, completely out of our sight! You just never know and if its really close, do you want to be caught messing with your suit & fidgeting while your rival is standing perfectly composed next to you.... we are judging from the second you come on stage until you leave! Walking. (especially if you wear shoes for your class).... don't just practice your static poses, if you stomp across stage like a baby elephant its not a great look, practice walking as if you are a model on a catwalk, men as well as women, first impressions count so a confident walk as you appear on stage can really set the tone for the rest of your presentation!
So my top tips from the judges table....
Make sure your tan is great (a bad tan can hide all your definition!) so take care on this!
Practice posing A LOT
Make eye contact with the judges & be eye catching!