Some plain common sense!
Plan the day carefully, the benefits are considerable. For instance:
- Bring a pad to write on, a couple of pens, a little set-square, your reference notes, sun-glasses, a folding chair, some suntan oil and a warm coat, gloves and hat. Except on the warmest of British summer days, judging tends to be a cold business – come prepared.
- Re-read the books .... everybody forgets some of it from time to time, why should you be different? Occasionally the rules change too, just to keep you on your toes.
- Bring an assistant if possible and share the enjoyment with a friend. Their main qualification is to be able to write quickly and legibly. You never know what you might be starting!
- Get to the contest on time. A late arrival is no good to anyone.
- Sit at a good distance from other judges so that you cannot easily hear what others are saying – it only distracts and it is your own opinion of what you saw that counts.
- Put your Judge's number and your name on every Judging Sheet - this is VERY important to the computer operator, who must get your results into the computer in your slot every time.
- Ask questions about anything in doubt! Your Chief Judge will respect you for asking and will be able to offer a wealth of experience and comment. If you don't ask you may never know.
- Keep the comments flowing during the figures, and impress your assistant with the importance of writing them down. These gems are life itself to pilots - a silent Judge is no help at all.
- Be a nit-picker - it's your job! But be positive too - if you think that the figure you just saw was flown completely without error then you owe it to the pilot to GIVE IT A TEN.
- Talk to the pilots - and the less fortunate non-aerobatic ones back at your local club - about how the judging process works. Sometimes even competitors are less well informed than you might think. Exactly where and why marks are lost is your stock in trade, so spread the word.
- Enjoy yourself! We all know that judging is quite hard work, but the rewards are there for the taking. How else could you get involved in so much aerobatic flying for next to nothing?
- Judge "emotionally" - by this we mean don't let the figure happen and then just give it an overall guessed mark based on jumbled thoughts. 1 - Look for the actual errors, 2 - add up the appropriate deductions, and 3 - give an honest opinion. Anything else is passing the buck.
- Wait until you can hear the other Judges give their marks and then make up a similar one to be "in line" with the rest. It takes time to develop your own style so that you can get to the right mark on your own, but it will take you longer still if you borrow your colleagues’ material. Be assertive and believe in yourself - it's important. Why should they be right and you wrong?
- Be persuaded that your interpretation of the pilots’ execution of a figure is wrong unless it can be explained to you so you believe it. If you think you saw some errors, stick to your guns.
- Mark a figure down to less than ten simply because although you didn't see anything wrong with it the pilot hasn't been that good so far. If it was well flown and you saw nothing out of order then GIVE IT A TEN - the pilot deserves it. Conversely - if you are sure that you see a well respected pilot make some mistakes then it is your clear duty to deduct all the appropriate marks and tell him why. Beware of 'halo effect' from the heroes - they're just pilots too!
- If you're flying as well as judging, don't try to judge and then go flying (or vice-versa) without a natural break - your performance and safety will suffer, and it just isn't worth it.
- Allow pilots to sit around the judging line and listen-in to your pearls of wisdom - especially if they're from the same level you are judging. Whilst you are "doing the business" you need total concentration and solitude, so just ask them to leave. They will. You're in charge.