Interview with FINA A Judge- Heather Archer

It was really fun interviewing someone just as passionate about synchro, who looks at it in a sometimes similar way, but often in a different way than a coach looks at a routine.

This week I am going to highlight a conversation I had with Heather Archer at the 2014 Canadian Open.

My first question was what difference have you noticed in the new judging panels for routine? Heather said that “she really enjoys it”. She finds there is more opportunity to be focussed on what she is looking for in the routine and judging. A bonus result of the three panels has lead to “less fatigue” from judging.

I could not imagine having to pay attention in great detail to every routine in an event. Judges have a tough job.

I am sure this is always on everyone’s mind, how is difficulty judged? I know I am guilty of thinking and saying to my swimmers that our routine was harder.  Heather noted that “a judge needs to look at the entire routine. Sometimes routines rest from the start of the routine to achieve height at the end or they have a strong impression at the start with an increase at the end.”

Just because there is a hard move at the end of the routine does not necessarily mean your difficulty score will be higher. Like Heather said above, the choreography may be resting at the start.

Heather’s tip for the coaches in routine:

“go for a total package”

She finds that coaches often go for difficulty over execution. If that’s your strategy “be prepared for lower marks early in the season”.

Remember a judge can only judge what they see on that given day. They never judge a routine or figures knowing that the swimmer does it better in practice. And they also do not judge with the notion that it will look good.

Heather’s tip for the coaches in figures:

“the first layout establishes the starting mark”

A high level of execution on the first layout establishes where in the marking scale Heather will start at. Not the swim on or the stare down. Until the layout is shown the marks are up in the air. Swimmers, it is so important to execute the easy first layout well.  Literally your mark depends on it.

Heather’s Judging Pet Peeve:

In figures when the swimmers stare at them the entire time and on top of that take forever to swim out in front. For routine it is ear piercing music. (perhaps meet managers should have ear plugs sitting at each judges chair just in case they would like to block some of the sound out)

On a side note, Heather mentioned that she appreciates all types of music and is more concerned about how the music is being used versus whether or not she likes a song. That’s nice to know. Although, I would say be wise coaches and swimmers.

I did specifically ask Heather if she thought a coach should go for execution first or difficulty.  Her response was “always go for the total package”.  It was mentioned that even though execution and difficulty are judged on separate panels it is hard to separate them.

So coaches and judges out there, where do you stand on execution versus difficulty? I know I always promote reasonable risk in difficulty and high levels of execution. I would err on the side of higher execution because I feel like the judges can see the choreography better. Let’s start some discussion on my Facebook Page.

Yours in Synchro,

Vanessa Keenan

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