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Up North, MI • United States • 5 Years Old • Female

Thinking Outside the Net

Posted 3:18 PM ET | Comments 0
Among the hardest qualities to evaluate in competition are the intangibles of "beauty" and "creativity." This is principally because those not in the creativity business erroneously assume that anyone can make competent evaluations of creativity or artistic merit based solely upon personal opinion, with no objective criteria in place. This is the "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like," school of judging.

However, personal opinion is not "judging." Just the opposite is true. Furthermore, evaluation of similar objects or performances on a gradient is invalid unless clear objective criteria and standards for that evaluation are in place. Judging in such situations is NOT about giving an off-the-cuff subjective opinion. Rather, if one is actually "judging," one gives an informed subjective interpretation of the objective criteria.

As a result, the All-Star Breakaway Competition was extremely disappointing based on the so-called "judging" by the panel. There seemed to be little logical basis for their numerical designations. Scores got progressively higher and higher with each competitor. This means that uniform scoring criteria were either inconsistent or non-existent. Although Bill Clement just posted his evaluations of the competitors, one of the items he brought into the discussion was his personal preconceived notion of how any particular player would perform based on previous play. That is the definition of personal bias and unfairly penalizes a player without justification in the rules (minimalistic as they were). This should NEVER be done in actual judging. To properly evaluate a performance event the judging must be specifically limited to the performance ON THE DAY, with no consideration of past performance.

As someone who has professionally trained others the proper methods of subjectively interpreting objective judging criteria, the first thing I look at is the rules of the competition.

The first red flag in the Breakaway rules are the words "a panel of celebrity judges." While it is certainly fortunate that actual professional hockey players and expert analysts such as Clement were on the panel, one has to wonder about those not involved in the sport. Such wording might just have easily read,"the mayor of Atlanta and the Zamboni driver," or, "a panel of fans in attendance selected at random."

I have read very few judging rules for competitions which do not state the actual object or purpose of the event and give explicit standards for evaluation. For example, all the Breakaway rules offer is "[s]coring is based on creativity, execution and ability to score. An additional point will be awarded for a goal... ." Ability to score is easy enough to interpret. But what are the stated criteria for determining creativity and execution? Without that, you have an unfair competition because it is not relatively uniform from one competitor to another - or one judge to another.

The only clarification for the players was that they would have "two attempts to perform a highlight reel trick routine." Bring out the trained seals. I wasn't aware that highly skilled hockey players went out night after night to perform a "trick routine." Though some of the scoring we see in real games by these players is truly amazing, calling them "tricks" is a bit demeaning. Furthermore, I don't think players get on any highlight reel for performing "tricks." They make the highlight reels by scoring spectacular GOALS.

Which brings us all back to the PURPOSE of the Skills Competition. Supposedly, the skills displayed in all the events relate to what any player needs nightly to be successful. As far as I know from reading the actual NHL rulebook, the most basic object of each player (except the goalie) is to actually put the puck in the net. How many NHL coaches would buy into rewarding a player for a season of "creative" attempts to score that never actually resulted in points on the board? Only two of the participants in the Breakaway competition actually scored a goal last evening and it seemed to be a debit to both of them in the panel's evaluation of their performances.

"Thinking Outside the Box" was a term created by accountants who seem to think that creativity abounds in the endless vacuum of space (and the term "creative accounting" isn't a good one). In fact, true creativity is defined by arriving at the most innovative solution to a problem with specific "In the Box" criteria.

Thinking Outside the Net is NOT creativity when one is overly rewarded for "attempts" instead of the object of the game - getting the puck in the net. The fastest way to improve the "creativity" of this event would be to reward the players that score an additional ten points. With that much of a point incentive, the creativity would take care of itself and have actual real world Skills Competition relevance.

p.s. - I don't know much about Hockey, but I know what I like.
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