The diving boards are the same. The water is the same. The dives used are the same. Why shouldn’t the judging scales be the same?
High school, college and FINA diving contests are all judged on a scale that runs from 10 to 0, and all three use words like unsatisfactory, deficient, good, very good, excellent and exceptional to describe the categories in which dives are placed.
This is where the similarities end and the confusion begins.
What Is an Excellent Dive
If you compare the three different scales used to designate an excellent dive you get three different answers. In high school an excellent dive would be scored between 7 ½ - 8 ½; in college an excellent dive is scored between 8 ½ - 10; and in FINA an excellent dive is a 10.
If someone does a dive in college that is worth a 9 and a diver does a dive in high school that is worth a 9, are they any less worthy depending on the competition? If they aren't, then why not call them the same thing whether that be very good, excellent or exceptonal!!!
Judging In a Category
The reason this discrepancy in judging scales seems to be more prominent today is that the general theme in judging is to first place a dive in category, and then to adjust the score within that category.
For instance, a judge sees a dive that they would consider to be a very good dive – thus the dive would fall into the 7-8 range for FINA and 6 ½ - 8 for college. In high school, well, since you can't find the very good category you need to rethink the entire process.
Add to this the fact that USA Diving and collegiate contests have been moving to a situation where paid officials are used to judge events and it looks like a can of worms is beginning to be opened that should stay shut.
Different Contests Different Skill Levels
There is no doubt that the same dive done in high school would not receive the same scores when done in college or in an age group contest. But it is the responsibility of, and competence of the judge to choose what score the dive receives based on the skill level of the competitors and the nature of the competition. The judging scale does not need to change.
The idea is to use the entire scale, 10 to 0, in each contest based on the level of competition in that contest, not as compared to divers in the Olympics or a summer league contest.
Eliminate the Confusion
There is more to judging than plugging a dive into a particular category – more than can be described in this diatribe. But the point is that there should not be this confusion about judging.
Judging inherently has enough problems on its own and the scoring scale should help to alleviate problems, not add to the confusion.
It’s All About Control
What it boils down to is control. One governing body doesn’t want another governing body to tell them how to administrate their sport. And who feels the brunt of this battle – the divers and the judges.
I have a colleague who told me not to insert logic into this debate. And you know what, he is right. Logic would dictate the use of a consistent scoring system and a bit of common sense, something that seems to be in short supply here.
Want to remove the debate about whether judged sports are truly sports? This might be a start!