The day of a competition is filled it excitement, anticipation, and probably some stress too. But for many coaches, the stress doesn’t end at the award ceremony. Regardless of the outcome, many of us pour over the judges feedback sheets with a mix of emotions. Sometimes you begrudgingly agree, sometimes you are shocked, sometimes you just spend the first 30 minutes deciphering handwriting. But what do you do when a judge gives you difficult feedback? Maybe they didn’t understand the theme that you thought was so clear. Maybe they didn’t like a section that’s been your favorite all year. Now what?

judge feedback

If you get a comment that is either hard to hear, shocks you, or you’re just not sure what to do about it, here’s 3 quick things you can do before you decide to rip it up and move on (although, that’s always an option too!)

1. Get Another Opinion

Remember, judges are letting you know what they saw when your routine was brand new to them. You’ve been watching it all year. If there is a section they say they can’t read, or they make a suggestion about a change that you don’t agree with, ask for another opinion. Send the video to another friend and ask them to watch with fresh eyes. Don’t give them specific instructions first, just let them have a genuine 1st time reaction like a judge would. Then you can discuss what the judge said and if that person agrees. Ask a few people! If you get a few similar comments about a certain section being difficult to read, or that they understood the theme but not until after 1 minute in the routine, take it to heart and make some changes.

2. Consider the Timing

Before you make any difficult changes, consider how much time you have before your next event and the level of your dancers. If your next event is in a week, a big change may be too much and you should wait. But maybe you have 3 weeks, so it makes sense to go for it. You should also consider the level of your dancers and their mental toughness. If a big change will cause a breakdown and there isn’t time to recover, don’t do it. Even if the judge’s feedback makes sense, you know your dancers. If they will fall apart, leave the routine the way it is. But if you think they would rise to the challenge, or you have enough time to prove to them that it will be hard but worth it, do it. If you truly believe the change will matter in the long run, present it to the team as a challenge you’re excited to tackle. Taking on this kind of challenge is also a perfect opportunity to have a growth mindset discussion with the team. Offer it as an opportunity for growth, and make sure they know you believe they can do it.

3. Take It or Leave It

Decide to take it or leave it. Ultimately, you are the coach and you get to decide if this information is something you want to hold on to or let it go. Give yourself some space from the event. Don’t make any big decisions that night. Even if the competition went really well that doesn’t mean suggestions for change should be ignored. We’re trying to get better and better every time we perform. And you know the teams you compete against are working to improve their routines!

What do you do when you get difficult feedback from a judge?

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