A Class. What does it mean? The WGI manual would describe the class in the following terms:
- It’s the understanding and achievement of the tenets and principles in each caption
- Layering of equipment on some body and some phrases done while traveling.
- Staging choices will provide the performers with the opportunity to show growing comprehension of challenging spatial relationships, speed/method of moving and orientation
- At the highest level of A Class, those whose students have mastered basic skills will be offered the opportunity to demonstrate some intermediate Open Class skills
- Greater Depth
- Growing level
- Some more mature approaches
- Good knowledge of the fundamentals of design
- Staging fully reflects the basic musical structure
- Arrangement displays a successful blend of design
- Adherence to style is good
- Methods and techniques reflect a good degree of physical and mental development
The "A Class" is an enigma and always has been. When you listen to instructors talk in critique or over a glass of wine, they compare the words on the sheet to the practicality of its application. What does "good" mean? They look at the top guards in the class and say, "No one in A class should be doing an ensemble phrase that ends in a triple salchow." (insert post Olympic humor) The guards sitting in the potential medalist spot respond back by saying, "We just want to medal" and "We would never survive in Open," when the Open Class is just as confusing. The conversation is a virtual mathematical given every February. But what is it and why can't we define it?
So what do we do with this information? The reality is that none of us would pay to see finals at WGI if the guards on Friday night were doing drop spins and three count tosses. We can't fault the judges. They score based on the presentation of the guards of the day. If the guards are pushing the skills and achieving those skills, then the judge has no choice but to credit them. WGI is also in a difficult spot, because no one wants to create a mandatory skills list. If we do that, then we are walking the slippery slope of some Olympic sports such as ice skating and gymnastics. They can promote those guards, but what happens when they can barely survive in Open and end up back in A Class a couple of years down the road? We see THAT scenario all too often. Finally, we can't fault the units. Each year they look at the finalists and try to determine which skill set will be the most beneficial in the next season. The guards look at the finalists and know they are competing against longstanding world class designers, so they ramp up the skills. This in turn creates problems at the local level with guards who are just "doing too much" without the training to achieve.
- Start with education. Our education system for instructors is weak at best. Every sport I have researched has annual and sometimes semi-annual conferences. They have coach certification programs. They have money management, risk management, and board development classes they are a requirement to attend. Train the instructors how to read a recap. My God! Could we try to make that any more confusing for an instructor? Factor...don't factor...50/50 split...factor...don't factor. Why wouldn't they be confused? Teach them about how to work hand in hand with a judge at critique.
- Create dialog. Encourage dialog. Seek dialog. Don't shut dialog down. If the A Class beyond finals is a catch all for guards who are still trying to figure it out, then why wouldn't we want to elicit as much feedback possible? Why wouldn't we want to know what they are confused about and then...why wouldn't we do everything in our power to make them successful?
- Collect data and then share that data. If someone could really see that their dream of medaling at nationals is not and cannot be a whim that occurs randomly, then maybe they would see time as a tool that brings longterm success for their program. The evidence shows that finalists guards have years upon years of failure and success to their name. They have created organizations with a federal tax status and their instructional personnel are not fresh from the performance field. Show them that yes, there are outliers, but those outliers are rare in comparison to what really happens.