by Erin Bold and Megan McDevitt
The International Selection Pool, or ISP, is a list of teams in the junior and senior levels that are eligible for selection at ISU competitions. Teams may be added and removed throughout the season, and teams are not guaranteed international assignments. Teams that are in the ISP must fulfill U.S. Figure Skating’s Competition Readiness requirements in order to be awarded a spot on Team USA. These requirements include training plans, a competition plan, and a monitoring session with international officials.
The current ISP system was introduced last summer; it replaced the previous system under which the top junior and senior teams from the previous season automatically received international assignments prior to the start of the new season. The new system more closely resembles the international selection process for other skating disciplines in that teams find out their international assignments closer to the start of the competition season.
The ISP has changed the way that some teams train. For example, Miami University’s teams began practicing nearly a month earlier than usual. This required members of the team to return to campus earlier than other students at the university, who arrive on campus at the end of August. According to Selena Morris, a member of Miami’s senior team, the earlier start date will allow the team to be “more prepared for not only monitoring, but also for the competition season ahead.” Other teams have also bumped up training timelines; Katie Melsky of the Lexettes says that her team has been “focusing on getting the programs choreographed and ready for competition earlier in the season,” which will allow the team to hold their monitoring session earlier than in previous seasons.
Both Morris and Melsky see many benefits to the new system. Morris believes that the ISP process “ensures that the USA is represented by the best teams our country has to offer for that season.” Teams have to work harder in order to maintain the coveted Team USA status. Melsky agreed, adding that “a team can change a lot from one year to the next, so the International Selection Pool system makes it so that whether or not a team gets any international assignments is based on how the team is performing that season, rather than on how the team has done in the past”. This is especially true in the junior division, where the upper age limit causes rosters to change drastically every season.
Despite those benefits, both skaters see some downsides to the new ISP system. According to Morris, most of the issues come with the system being new and will be resolved as U.S. Figure Skating works out the kinks. She also believes that there should be more rules in place to ensure that “all teams are held to the same standard and treated equally in the selection pool despite reputation or circumstance.” Melsky sees the primary issue as the fact that “teams don’t know until further into the season whether or not they will even get an international assignment,” which makes it difficult for skaters and their families to plan. Many of the skaters on junior and senior teams are students, and knowing about international competitions earlier would allow skaters to work with teachers or professors to plan for absences.
In spite of the flaws of the system, Morris and Melsky agree that the new ISP system has the potential to help synchronized skating to grow into a more widely recognized discipline. Melsky believes the new changes put synchronized skating more in line with the other skating disciplines in the United States. This is an important step toward boosting synchronized skating into the Olympics, but she believes other changes will have to be made before synchro will be accepted as an Olympic sport. Morris believes that the new system will make U.S. teams train harder than ever before, pushing the boundaries of the sport and helping synchro gain more international recognition.
Many teams, especially those in the ISP have their eyes set on an important upcoming event—monitoring. These sessions occur early in the season so teams have time to make recommended changes to their programs before competitions begin. Monitoring sessions are also a great opportunity for judges and technical specialist to see how teams around the country are preparing for competitions.
Setting goals is another step many teams take leading up to monitoring. Having specific goals when it comes to things the team wants to accomplish is a way to make sure everyone is on the same page. Madeline Franchock from Miami University Senior Varsity Synchronized Skating Team says, “One of our goals for monitoring is to have power and speed. We don’t want the callers to come in and say we are walking through the steps.” Focusing on specific goals ensures that the team knows exactly how to accomplish what they set out to do.
Preparing for monitoring is essential because the outcome of the session can have a great effect on the season. “Monitoring carries a huge weight for us as it will determine whether or not we are able to achieve the Team USA status and be granted the opportunity to compete internationally again. Our competition schedule will be greatly affected by the outcome either way,”said Daina Economou from Team Del Sol.
Monitoring sessions are important milestones in the season for many teams, not just those vying for spots on Team USA. Quality performances during monitoring can allow the judges and technical specialist to give the coaches feedback so that the team can develop their program and be ready when competition season comes around. Franchock explains that “monitoring is just another opportunity for us to improve even more. We are going to get feedback and with that feedback we will use it to push forward and upward. I personally am most excited about showing off our awesome short and long programs. They are both unique in their own way and I think [the judges] are really going to enjoy both of them.”
Monitoring sessions are great tools that skaters, coaches, and judges benefit from. Feedback from monitoring sets the course of the season, for some teams it’s the first step in achieving Team USA status, for others, it’s the first time they will perform their program in a formal setting. Either way, getting constructive feedback early in the season allows teams to make corrections and improve before competition. Best of luck to all teams heading into monitoring sessions and early competitions!
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