Judging and Judges FAQ

What should I do to get the highest score possible at a competition?

The process of optimizing your score should start before you choreograph your routine by checking both the competition rules and the relevant scoresheets. Competition rules are important mainly to ensure safety of all competitors and the only way for judges to stimulate you to adhere to them is if they penalize those that violate the rules. Since your goal is to get the highest score possible, you need to make sure all of the elements in your routine are allowed. If you’re not sure about legality of an element, please contact the ECU Rules Committee at rules@europeancheerunion.com and they will give you an answer.
Second stop is reading the scoresheet for your particular category. Each score sheet is divided into several scoring segments, each dedicated to a different aspect of your routine. Score sheets themselves include short descriptions to what those segments actually entail.
It is important that you put emphasis on those aspects of your routine that have the potential to bring you the most points. It will not be optimal to spend most of your time and energy practicing a skill set which can be evaluated with a maximum of 5 points instead of the skill set that could bring you up to 25 points. It is important to understand that most of the scoring segments include both difficulty and execution within the same score, so only difficult skills executed to perfection will be marked with high scores. Executing difficult elements poorly is generally considered unsafe and it often violates the precept “perfection before progression”. Such execution of elements is likely to result in scores lower than if you would have perfectly executed a slightly easier skill that is scored within the same scoring segment.
Especially at competitions which include younger age groups or lower difficulty divisions, it is important to note that doing even the simplest element for a particular scoring segment is better than not doing anything and receiving a score of 0 in that segment.

What do judges do at competitions?

Judges are typically divided into several tasks. At larger competitions the teams will first encounter technical judges in the warm up area, who will help ensure their routine is compliant with the competition rules.
Most visible are the scoring judges, who sit at the judges table and score the actual performance. Also at the judges table is one and sometimes two technical judges, whose task is to evaluate the actual performance and if needed give either deductions for illegal elements or warnings where the competition rules are not broken, but bent and cause safety concerns.
After scoring and technical judges do their work, quality judges take over their scoresheets, check that the tallies are correct and the consistency of judging is according to agreed upon standards. Often they also process results which are then announced.
At some competitions there will also be shadow judges, who should be considered as judges in training as they do same work as scoring judges, but their results are not used for competition results. Depending on the national judges training system the scoresheets from shadow judges may also get reviewed and graded by their mentors as part of judges training.

Do the same judges judge cheerleading and cheer dance routines?

At many smaller competitions the same panel of judges is used to judge both cheerleading and cheer dance routines. The reasons are usually tied to sensibility of bringing in large numbers of specialised judges to judge small competitions and perhaps very small divisions.
While many judges are trained, qualified and certified to judge both cheerleading and cheer dance, the competing, coaching and judging experience of a particular judge usually make them oriented toward one or the other discipline. Both ICU and most national judges training systems qualify and certify judges for cheerleading and cheer dance separately as to ensure the highest level of quality of judging for ether discipline.

How many judges judge or should judge at competitions?

The answer to this question depends on a variety of factors ranging from financial to procedural. From the procedural aspect it depends a lot on which sort of judging system the event producer has decided to use. In the system employed by ECU and several member nations the following minimum panel sizes are recommended:
– local or smaller regional competitions: 3 scoring judges + 1 technical judge
– nationals or larger regional competitions: 5 scoring judges + 1-2 technical judges (1st at the judges table, 2nd in warm up)
– European championships or similar sized competitions: 7 scoring judges + 2-3 technical judges + 1 quality judge
World Championships are governed by ICU and is therefore beyond the scope of this answer, but they routinely use panels larger than those of ECU at European Championships.
ECU recommends that, when financially possible, the event producers use ECU registered judges from multiple countries as to insure impartiality as well as encourage intermingling of experiences from various nations, which benefit both the athletes and the judges.

How do I become a judge?

In most cases the first step is to contact your national governing body for the sport of cheer. Many have already established programs for training judges and will be able to help you.
If your country does not offer judges training and/or certification program, please feel free to contact us at judges@europeancheerunion.com and we can discuss on how best to develop your national judges training program.

How do I become a good judge?

While that is a very simple question, it is very difficult to answer. The most recognized and valued judges typically have a strong background from competing and/or coaching cheerleading and/or cheer dance on international level. It is that deep understanding of the sport of cheer that is the foundation for any good judge. On top of that, judges need to employ similar personality traits expected of top cheer athletes. Those include perseverance, focus, ambition and ability to work in a team. Following current trends by attending judges courses and other trainings, competitions, etc. are a logical extension of that and the old dogma of “practice makes perfect” as it applies to judging are the basic guidelines for good judges.

How do I become ECU certified judge?

ECU does not currently offer judges training or certification programs, opting instead to recognise the international standard program developed and run by the International Cheer Union. We work together with ICU and national organizations by promoting those ICU Judges Courses that are available in Europe.
ECU on the other hand does offer help to national bodies, who wish to develop or enhance their national judges training programs and subsequently to register national judges with ECU.

How do I become ECU registered judge?

ECU will accept registrations of judges submitted through national bodies, members of ECU. It is therefore recommended that you contact your national organization, who will inform you about their requirements and rules on who they register with ECU.

Why would I be interested in registering with ECU?

ECU registered judges enjoy several benefits, which include, but are not limited to:
– eligibility to judge or shadow judge at ECU European Championships
– receive information on availability of ICU judges courses in Europe
– receive information about judging opportunities on national, regional and local level
– reduced participation fees at such ECU events as ECU Rules Workshops

Who is allowed to shadow judge at competitions?

The availability of shadow judging is left to the event producer for each competition. For ECU European Championships we require the shadow judges be registered with ECU and must be at least ICU Level 2 certified. ECU also recommends that event producers implement same restrictions for shadow judges at their own competitions as those implemented by ECU. Shadow judges are generally required to carry their own travel, accommodation and other expenses connected to their shadow judging position.

How do judges get selected to judge ECU European championships?

ECU Judges Committee has agreed upon a 4-step judges selection procedure which is balanced so that the quality of judging and equality of nations work hand in hand. Current basic requirements include that judges are registered with ECU, have completed ICU Judges course with higher certification levels having advantage over the lower levels. Additionally we require technical judges to have completed ECU Rules Workshop or equivalent international training for their discipline.
Currently the selection procedures allow for a maximum of 2 judges from any one country per judging panel and that only if the judges are qualified at the top level. We continue to work with national organizations to help train judges in more countries, so that in the future we will be able to reduce that number down to 1 judge per country, which would be selected by random from a pool of registered judges.

We need judges for our event, can ECU help?

Yes! ECU maintains a registry of judges from across Europe with records on their training, qualification and experience, which makes us uniquely positioned to advise you on selection of judges according to your needs and wishes.