With the deadline for proposed rule changes coming soon, I thought I would share a successful concept from another sport. This won't be perfect for water skiing but hopefully it will spark some discussion and generate something better than the current system. Below I will give a slightly simplified explanation and those who want all the details can get them at www.atarules.com
under Champion Programs (Section 17).
My daughter competes in American Taekwondo Association (ATA) tournaments. This is a well-managed organization and tournament participation is growing significantly. Each year they award State Champions, District Champions (9 in the US), and World Champions. There are groups based on age and rank (color belt, 1st degree black belt, 2nd degree, etc.)
Standings are an accumulation of points from tournaments of different classes throughout the year. Class B (regional) is the lowest, then Class A (regional with better historical attendance), then Class AA (two national tournaments per year), and finally Class AAA (World Championships hosted once per year.) Higher class tournaments give you more points for a first, second, or third place finish compared to lower class tournaments. Each year, you can use scores from up to five regional tournaments (Class A and
, one Class AA, and the Class AAA tournament for your point total. Only first, second, and third place finishes are awarded points and the person with the most points in each group at the end of the year is automatically the State Champion.
The tournament year ends in April and the nine District Championships are held in May. Anybody with a first, second, or third place finish in a previous tournament that year is eligible to compete. There are different events such as forms and sparring and you must qualify for each event to compete. (A first place finish in forms does not mean you can spar at Districts.)
The World Champion is decided by the Tournament of Champions. In order to participate, you must be in the Top Ten of the standings at the end of the year or win one of the nine District Tournaments. The Tournament of Champions is a separate tournament from the World Championships, where everybody is eligible to compete. Both tournaments are hosted in Little Rock, Arkansas (founding place of the ATA) on consecutive days. The World Championships actually start the tournament year and are a point earning opportunity for the Tournament of Champions in the following calendar year (end of that tournament year).
So how could this work for water skiing? Rankings could be the sum of buoy counts from multiple tournaments. Maybe the best four tournaments count to encourage more participation and there is a penalty for skiing less than four (you can use the same score twice but there is a reduction factor applied for the second usage). Scores at record tournaments, regional tournaments, and national tournaments are increased by a factor since these tournaments are more highly scrutinized and there is additional pressure. It is also an incentive to attend the "big" tournaments since 5@38-off counts for more there compared to a Class C tournament. Maybe scores at Nationals are worth about 10% more than Class C scores, Regionals are +5%, and Records are +3% over Class C. (I haven't put a ton of thought into these percentage increases so feel free to suggest different factors.)
This means you can qualify for water skiing's Tournament of Champions without attending Regionals or Nationals, however, you will be at a disadvantage to those that post good scores at Regionals or Nationals. Winning Regionals or Nationals means automatic qualification for the Tournament of Champions regardless of total score over the year. States could remain automatic qualification for Regionals and a premium could be applied to scores there, even though it's only a Class C, to encourage participation.
The water skiing Tournament of Champions is a head-to-head bracket competition with a much smaller number of competitors and the current Nationals is the best opportunity to earn points towards qualification. Seeding is based on total score so skipping Nationals means you are probably a lower seed (and less likely to get a bye if there are an odd number of competitors) than if you attended Nationals and skied the same buoy count as one of your four best tournaments.
Let me know your thoughts guys. I haven't contributed much to the discussion here over the years but I wanted to share this idea in hopes of improving tournament participation and making things more interesting.