By Nance Ebert,Contributing Writer
Southborough – For the past 38 years, Shirley Taylor has spent countless hours at ice rinks across the country, judging skaters of all ages.
Her adult daughter, Tara, was obsessed with figure skating since the age of 5 and spent endless hours at the ice rink five days a week. She skated competitively. The family lived in Raynham at the time and while Taylor, herself, was not a skater, she was encouraged to become a judge.
“When you live at the rink like I did, friends joked that I might as well learn the judging aspect of the sport. It was a challenging process but I have my Gold Test in skating which means that I can judge up to senior level moves in the Field and Senior Level Free Skate,” said Taylor.
It is not uncommon for Taylor to travel 20,000 miles each year. She judges throughout New England as well as New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, California, Minnesota and Florida.
Although she is not paid for judging, she cannot say enough about how close-knit this group of people is to one another.
“This is such a social thing for me and I find the task of judging to be very rewarding,” she noted. “I usually see the same people at these events and we have become friends over the years. This ‘skating family’ is an amazing, supportive group of people who mean a lot to me. All of the judges are always fed and their lodging is taken care of. I am also reimbursed for gas.”
Taylor fell in love with skating and judging, however things have changed since she first began. Figures (figure skating) were popular and skaters could not compete in levels unless they passed certain levels of figure tests. There are eight levels of testing to reach the senior level, which entitles skaters to compete for the national title in the United States and then the Olympics.
“These figure tests went out of circulation in early 2000,” Taylor explained. “It has been replaced with what is called, ‘Moves in the Field.’ The free skating is still what everyone looks forward to in each competition. The rating system has also been changed from when I started. It used to be a six-point score which has now been replaced with the International Judging System (IJS).”
Some of Taylor’s best friends are judges that reside across the United States. She is so busy judging that she has to use a color key on her day planner to keep track of where she is supposed to be on any given day of the week.
When she is judging, there are always three judges evaluating each skater. They usually come to the same conclusion and although the mark cannot be changed once it is disclosed, there have been a couple of occasions where a coach will express a discrepancy.
“I spent three years as a trial judge which was very difficult for me having never skated. It did help me to learn why my daughter might have had challenges with a certain level. It was a hard process but I did find it very rewarding,” said Taylor.
Taylor loves being with skaters, their families, near the ice and with other judges. When not judging, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and daughter.
“This is such a wonderful experience for me,” she shared. “The skating community lives in a vacuum in a sense. The whole outside world is turned off and everyone in the rink is present. I simply love it…cold and all.”