A Response to the LYS System, by Matthew Fernandez

(Editors note:  This is a response to previous articles written by Mitch Silver introducing Live Yo-Yo Scoring in Rochester, New York on September 19th.  You can read two previous articles here: A New Day for Yo-Yo Contests,  More about the LYS Scoring System


Hey there. I’m Matthew Fernandez, one of the judges for the International Yo Yo Federation, and a judge at the World Contest, US National Contest, and many California ones.

“The way LYS works is simple, everyone in the audience is a judge.”

I think that there are a number of inherent problems to this.

Firstly, I think that idealistically, this is wonderful, but in reality, impossibly unfair to the competitors, and detrimental to improving the quality of yoyo performances and contests, in the way I want to see them progress.

I think the main divide here is that these rules want to make an “American Idol” style yoyo contest – which is a really interesting idea, and totally has its place in the community. I agree with you that yoyo contests themselves aren’t the most welcoming atmosphere for new players, or those just starting out in competition. I think these rules are a great idea for a “kid friendly” or beginner’s yoyo contest, or one put on for fun. There’s a number of yoyo contests in Southern California that are similar to this, such as BLC, DXL Throwdown, Pier contests, etc.

The problem here is that the more experienced players require additional rules in order to keep the playing ground fair.

Currently yoyo contests have a small number of highly experienced individuals serving as judges. When you switch that responsibility over to the audience, for all of the positives you list, a number of negatives also result.

By opening the judging up to anyone, you lose any expertise that judges may have. Here’s a list of criteria judging currently considers:


Music Use
Body Control
Space Use

While I think that a non-yoyoer could, more or less, judge the performance categories, I feel that judges really need expertise in order to judge technical ability. The categories of Rareness, Variation, and Execution all require an immense knowledge of the entire collection of possible yoyo tricks. Once you get to the highest levels, players will add in tricks that nobody has ever seen before, and all of the judges will instantly know it.

I’d like to talk more about fairness, and at the same time address some specific points of your post.

“Although there is no way to wow and audience better than an awesome well executed trick combination.”

Some of the biggest cheers at yoyo contests are for the biggest, easiest tricks, such as 5A aerials, or whip catches. If you don’t have an educated judging pool, then there is no reason to do difficult or risky tricks – only tricks that look difficult of risky.

“Things that might be considered under LYS, which don’t currently factor into scoring are, stage presence, creativity in all aspects of the performer and the routine; it’s not just about the tricks.”

These are heavily considered (20% of the score) and broken down into individual categories in the current judging system.

I think the biggest issue here is fairness – at a California yoyo contest, there will be around 80 entrants in 1A, with 20 or so of them making finals. While 80 is an extreme number, even halving that down to 40 works for this illustration.

Each preliminary freestyle is 1 minute long, and it’ll take anywhere from 1-2 minutes per person to switch off. At 2 minutes per competitor, that’s an 80 minute window where you need the complete attention of the audience. If you were only doing finals with 20 people (and how do you pick those 20 fairly?) at 2 minute freestyles, with 1 minute in between, that’s still 60 minutes. 140 minutes altogether.

Each competitor deserves a fair shot, and assuming that any individual audience member is fair, you’re asking anyone that signs up to be a judge to watch a minute freestyle, consider how to score them in X number of categories, input that into their phone, and then, just as diligently, watch 39 more freestyles in succession.

Judging a contest fairly is a HUGE undertaking. If you want it to be fair, then every competitor deserves the same attention. If your kid gets up on stage and does a performance, you can’t sit there with him until he gets ready to get up there, you need to sit there and judge everyone else’s kids with your undivided attention. You can’t stop and take pictures of him, or even go give him a high 5 afterward, because you only have a minute to input your score into your phone, and then you immediately need to clear your head and go into the next kid’s performance with a clean slate.

Even if you ignore the intrinsic personal bias of a parent trying to accurately judge their own kid, for all the above reasons, they’re simply not going to be fair. Additionally, most of the players are going to be busy practicing for their own divisions, only taking the time to stop and watch a select few routines. Suddenly before even starting, a huge portion of your audience simply can’t be counted on to fairly judge every competitor.

“Scoring is done on your phone. You log into the LYSS website and vote for each player during or immediately after their performance.”

If you are posting on the website during a performance, you’re not watching the performance.

“Bias in scoring will also be mitigated. While you may get people voting for their friends, they will also be scoring all other performers.”

Gentry Stein : 8/10, Everyone else: 2/10, Anthony Rojas: -10/10,

“While I think most judges do a great job, there certainly is the appearance of bias where judges and some players have relationships. The yo-yo world is not very big, and many players and judges have known each other for years. It’s hard to say that never factors into scoring.”

It’s actually very easy to say. I have friends from all over the world, with all different sponsors, and when I judge routines, I don’t see that – I’m simply measuring how they are performing over a set criteria. Accurately judging requires full focus and concentration; it’s fun being up there, but judges aren’t “enjoying” the freestyles as an audience member would.

Judges also represent a large number of demographics – with this system, having the hometown advantage would be an instant winner – Augie or Gentry would be National Champion before even getting on stage. It also supports yoyo players who go against the mainstream, which is an important concept in our community. Choosing Taylor Swift gets you +2 music score before you even throw a trick. I also think it’s ludicrous to imply that judges are somehow less biased than a competitor’s friends and family.

“Will the same kind of routine that won a contest under the old way of scoring do as well under LYSS? Certainly amazing yo-yoing is what the audience is there to see. But they also want to be wowed. Maybe players clothes makes a difference, or the speed, or moving to the music.”

The problem with this openness is that there’s nothing concrete to strive for or give a number to anything. “How do I do better next time?” – “Make the audience like you more.”

“Seeing the scores from individual judges, that the public never sees, I can tell you, judges are all over the place with scoring. I sometimes wonder if two judges were watching the same contest.”

There is currently a dearth of experienced judges in the yoyoing community because judging takes such a commitment – opening up the judging to the audience is just going to multiply this effect a hundredfold.

There are many different paths in yoyoing, and contests are just one of them. People from all over the world come to yoyo contests, and the rules have been carefully crafted, and constantly updated, in order to provide the most fair, balanced experience for everyone. It’s perfectly valid to just want to get on stage and have some fun, but currently, yoyo contests are set up more as a sporting event. One of the most amazing things about yoyo is that is doesn’t have many age / size requirements, so it’s a field where a 13 year old can be world champion, and actually be the best in the world, surpassing anyone two or three times as old as he is. I think that mentality is a bit of a double edged sword – the stage is open to anyone, but you have to play by the rules and deserve it. It’s a huge, intimidating hurdle to climb for beginners, but kids of all ages can, and have (on countless times) done it.

I think this is an interesting concept to take to yoyo contests, but it doesn’t appeal to the highest level of players, for a countless number of additional reasons which aren’t worth going into now. I see room for two separate styles of events – one appealing to the local kids doing it just for fun, and one for the most elite of play. I think there is plenty of room for crossover between the two, as players enjoy both aspects of yoyoing. However, I believe that for higher levels of play, which is what most sponsored yoyoers are interested in, having a fair, even playing ground is an absolute necessity, and isn’t realistically achievable with an audience based system.


Skill Toy Network used to be YoyoSkills. From 2008 to 2014 YoYoSkills had multiple contributors. Many are combined into this yoyoskills account.

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