To fully understand the judging process one would probably need to attend workshops. However, here is a brief overview of the structure of the judging process. There are generally five judges for each performance: a Movement (dance) judge, an Equipment judge, an Ensemble Analysis judge and two General Effect judges. Each looks at his/her specific area and ranks performing units within the class.
The four areas listed above (movement, equipment, ensemble analysis and general effect) are called Captions. Each Caption score is further split into two parts: Repertoire (or vocabulary) and Excellence (or performance). For general effect and ensemble analysis, 50% of the score is based on how the show is written or designed and 50% is based on how the show is being performed. For equipment and movement the split is shifted with a higher percentage of the points based on performance. There are usually two General Effect Judges, making General Effect the most weighted caption. The scores of the five judges are then added together to get the final score and determine final ranking.
Penalties can be assessed for going over the time limit, crossing over a sideline boundary or leaving equipment (or props such as confetti) behind on the performance area.
Typically the judges scores early in the season range from the 30s up to the 60s while later in the season the scores will range from the 50s up to the 90s.
Following the performance, the coaches are recordings from each of the judges where they have recorded their comments during the performance. After the awards ceremony, the coaches have the chance to meet with the judges in what is called a Judges Critique to ask questions about their comments. You will often see coaches with headphones on or huddled in the hallway listening to the recordings at competitions so they will be ready to make the best use of the judges’ critique. We will listen to the tapes as a group during the week following each performance.
One of the most frequently asked question by new students is usually whether the team will get marked down if they drop their flag. The idea of getting marked down is a misconception as there is NOT a judge sitting in the stands recording tick marks when people drop or make other mistakes. In general, it holds true that if you make a mistake you simply recover from that mistake as quickly as possible (by picking up your flag or getting back into routine). Often the judge may not even see the mistake because he or she might be looking at someone else. Even when the judge sees the mistake, the performer is often praised for a quick recovery if they don’t let the mistake upset their facial expressions and they get back into routine quickly. A drop or a mistake in routine does not result in a subtraction of points. However, mistakes do detract from the overall effect of the show. Many mistakes may add to a lower performance score in the equipment caption. But one drop, unless you let it ruin the rest of your performance by allowing it to upset you or break your concentration, will typically not significantly hurt the overall score. So remember not to let a mistake get you down. Even the best guards in the world have drops and individual mistakes in their performances.