Note To The Judges: Help Us Get Better!

The most frustrating thing about fitness is not knowing why you placed where you did in a competition. Here is my opinion...

It's over. The weekend I spent months preparing for has come and gone. The Fitness South Beach Pageant has been held on Miami Beach during the Miami Fitness Festival every year for the past 4 years and this year the crown goes to... Allison Ethier! With over ten years of cheerleading in her background, she comes on stage with a polished, diverse routine that flows easily and a body that shows her hard work, discipline, and poise. After she placed 3rd at Nationals last year, it's easy to see why she takes the top spot.

I am ecstatic to hear that second place goes to my close friend and roommate in Miami, Tiffany Ripple-Pristelski! Not only is she an awesome, driven competitor, but a down-to-earth beauty to boot! We fast became friends after she won the first regional I competed in last September. Then at Nationals she skyrocketed to the top of the food chain with an all out stacked soldier routine that was both tough and inspiring and landed her a sixth place spot out of 96 competitors in her first year of major competition! Third place went to the ever-popular Tina Rigdon (my idol)! Here's a woman who spent the five days previous to this competition competing in a separate Sport Aerobic Championship, placing third in her division nationally. Then she comes out and wins the audience, as always, with her energy packed routine and a beautifully patriotic swimsuit! Bathing suit beauty Keri Bourg placed fourth with her petit frame, beautiful smile, and a solid dance-driven routine. And fifth went to Angela Glenn, a local favorite, who placed 7th last year at Fitness South Beach and says she only competes for fun. She looked phenomenal in her swimsuit and showed off a funky hip-hop routine. There were 16 competitors entered in the competition and, of course, the rest of us were curious as to where we stood in the line-up. The difficult part about these things is waiting for results.

Lovena Tuley, Me, and Tiffany Ripple basking in the Florida sun.

They say in bodybuilding and the fitness world that you should take the opportunity to talk to the judges and get some feedback. Judging in these arenas is almost entirely subjective and rarely ends in the panel agreeing on placings even at the top. So taking those extra moments to seek some advice and critique on what you can improve can help you reevaluate your presentation, showmanship, and physique, and maybe help you gain some critical insight into your goals. That being said, the biggest disappointment of this show was the inability to speak with the judges afterwards since they were gone before we stepped off the stage.

In my opinion, and I say this with all due respect to any judges out there, part of your job is to help competitors see things from your perspective and to give fair, honest opinions of what they can do to make things better. How can we improve the sport and ourselves if no one takes the time to provide feedback? Not having notes or comments just leaves us to our own opinions of ourselves and we all know what that perspective provides. Sure, we have our friends and family who ALL believe we were awesome and unbeatable! But does that really tell us how we can get to the next level?

Anyone entering into this sport should know that they are in for hard times at some point. Frustration, aggravation, and exhaustion all come to mind when I think of the moment that results are posted at any given competition. Not that I don't think the top competitors deserve their placings, because for the most part, they certainly do! But, there are other elements at work when the results come out and people are left in the dust wondering why. In many cases, competitors know what made them a little less comparable than the top finishers whether it was sticking to their diet, picking out a more flattering suit, stage anxiety, or cleaning up the routine. What about the competitor that does come out with a polished routine, energy-driven style, and graceful, outgoing poise on stage? Why do they sometimes get left behind anyway? Some would say it's politics - a little thing called the name game. The more exposure you get, the more you get noticed and the more the judges want to take note of you.

In my super costume!

Judging these competitions has to be one of the hardest "volunteer" positions people can be asked to put themselves in. To possibly be the deciding factor in a competitor's length of stay in the fitness world is not a place I would readily take on. Unfortunately, some judges don't take the position seriously and just set out to throw some numbers on a page and collect the rewards of their presence at a show. Others actually take the time to jot down some helpful notes and thoughts on what they would like to see improved.

When you are competing at Nationals, there is not a lot the judges can say to over 100 different competitors. However, at smaller shows, judges should be able to take a moment to put themselves in our shoes or remember back to when they too were on stage. "What kind of information can we give these competitors that would help them on the right track?" Sometimes, just a thought or phrase can help us challenge ourselves to present a better, cleaner, more solid routine or portray that confident, poised grace on stage in those 4 inch heels! Not only do we work very hard to get into these competitions, but most of us foot the bill! Please extend us the courtesy of sticking around or leaving some comments that help us progress; that's all most of us really want - some kind of constructive feedback.

In all this, I'm not the drop-dead gorgeous blonde on stage with the God-given body or the competitive gymnast/cheerleader with the sharp eye-catching routine. I'm the one using all my talents and strengths in a struggle to get noticed and someday be ranked among the best. My well-lit smile, long beautifully curly hair and well-researched and put-together routine that shows promise and poise, still haven't been enough to get me into the top 50% yet, but I will get there! The hardest part is figuring out how?

I'm happy to help anyone in need of motivation and support; contact me at