Disc Dog Opinion: Your Score is More About What You Didn’t Do on the Field than What You Did

In dog frisbee, the rule for judges is you can only judge what you see. It is almost a mantra. This is true. But there is something embedded in that rule that often gets forgotten. That which you didn’t see on the field also affects the score. Understanding this as a player can lead to more score and better performance and stronger routine development.

Because we are comparing apples to oranges in nearly every disc dog round – this person does this REALLY well while that person doesn’t do that at all but they do this other thing at a high level. So how do we compare them? How do you compare apples to oranges. 

We have to compare things that happened on the field that are entirely different and then we have to account for the gaps in the performances between these two players. So, as judges we have to be aware of things that didn’t happen on the field for both players. 

This is happening in all contests, it’s just not given voice or focus in the rules. It is a natural byproduct of comparing apples and oranges. 

What Is Happening vs What Was Missing

Everybody has gaps in their game. The best players in the world don’t do certain skills or do them at a lower proficiency level than the rest of their game. 

The idea behind creating a routine is to put something together that highlights your skills and papers over your shortcomings. That is the nature of competitive routines. In many respects this means that judging is a comparison of this routine to that routine; Again with the apples and oranges…

When we compare two routines we are not only judging what happened on the field we are responsible for accounting for the things that didn’t happen on the field – all routines are not equal. This is why simply counting misses doesn’t lead to a fair result. 

Yes, this person had AMAZING vaults and interior work, but they didn’t do anything but whip discs away from them on their out throws. While that person’s vaults and interior work wasn’t super special they really worked well with their dog at a distance, reading the dog and delivered every out throw with perfect precision with the intent to make the dog leap and look good. 

So this player who didn’t demonstrate the larger scale Team Movement, Flatwork, and Throws has to be compared to that person who didn’t do crazy town interior work and vaults? How do we do that?

Essentially, the judges have to account for, or “judge”, some stuff that didn’t happen on the field in order to compare the two teams. 

We Can Only Judge What We Can See

Huh? How does this work? You just said we have to judge things that didn’t happen on the field… I’m confused.

This normally means that the judge can’t give credit for something that they didn’t see. So you can’t give someone a good Flatwork score if they didn’t do any Flatwork. Or I can’t give the dog a great Collection score if the dog didn’t display any instances of collection. Just because a dog, handler, or team is capable of doing something doesn’t mean they should get credit for it – they have to demonstrate those skills to the judges in order to get the score.

If you don’t do it on the field, the judge can’t score it. That is obvious, and now we’re talking about things that didn’t happen on the field impacting the judging and the score. But I think it goes further than that…

Let’s take a typical situation as a hypothetical and game it out:

A team does 6 sequences in the routine all of which culminate in a long out throw with the dog leaving from the area right around the handler to chase the disc down. This is typical of the “Phone Booth” routine; the team does their interior work, the handler whips a throw out and uses the time that the dog is making the catch to pick up the 4 or 5 discs around them and get prepared for the next sequence. 

Many people would consider this good disc management, and it is, but it is one aspect of disc management. If you do that 6 times in your routine, you are showing yourself to be something of a one trick pony. The team only makes long linear throws and doesn’t demonstrate any other form of disc management.

How do we compare this to the team that has 3 or 4 interior sequences with a variety of angles of out throw, with several throws to the dog at depth on the run, and moves around the field seamlessly picking up discs? What if the handler plans the throws, cued Drops, and the Team Movement to facilitate disc management and meets the dog at different locations where discs have been dropped? 

Can the Phone Booth jam get as high a score for Disc Management as the flowing Team Movement jam? The Phone Booth jam’s disc management score should not be able to reach full credit in disc management – this is because of what the phone booth jam didn’t do… and now we are talking about what didn’t happen on the field affecting your score. 

Learn More to Leverage Your Score

You can’t do what you don’t know. Do you know what the Zig Zag is testing? How about the Multiple?

A Zig Zag is more than just the pattern and cool throws; the angle of the throw in relation to the dog, the dog’s ability to collect, the handler’s ability to place the disc, the team’s performance in seamlessly making the leaping catch – all of these core disc dog concepts are on display in the Zig Zag. If you’re not familiar with these ideas you’re not able to work and leverage them to get a better score. If you don’t accent these criteria the judges can’t judge them.

What is a Multiple or a Juggle testing? What concepts are key within the skill? It’s more than just 3 throws in a row, you know…

A Multiple is based on speed – the dog quickly catching rapid-fire catches and catching them clearly is the root skill. This often has a disc being dropped from the mouth and falling to the ground underneath a disc that is flying in, or the handler is removing the disc from the dog’s mouth around the incoming disc in the case of a juggle. Position, movement (or lack of movement) are also involved. But the key element of the skill is the rapid-fire nature of the throws and catches.

The more you know about the elements of the game and what makes them tick, the more score you can extract from the judges. All standard elements of disc dog routines have underlying concepts that they test and demonstrate. You can’t score on it if you don’t do it and you can’t do it if you don’t know about it.

In conclusion, if you want a better score, learn more and apply that to your play so you can build a routine that does more than highlight your current skillset and paper over your weaknesses. Do some thinking and some work and you can improve your skills, reduce your weaknesses, and do the types of things on the field that demand a higher score.

Peace & Happy Jamming

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