Sunday, June 19, 2011

Obedience Trials

This weekend I am serving as Trial Secretary for the June trial at IPOC.

What an experience and learning curve this has been!

This started the beginning of June - I had to put together a premium for the trial. The premium is extremely important - it's what allows exhibitors to sign up for your event, indicates who your judges are, what the prizes are, and allows your club to inform guests what hotels are nearby and provide contact information.

This was a bit difficult to put together - while it was a simple text document and all I needed to do was switch out some information, it was GETTING the information that was not a cake walk. I had to converse with various people, confirming other volunteers to positions, and finding out which positions were still vacant.

That said, I did manage to get it all together - albeit a bit late. Thankfully most people were forgiving of this fact as I've never done this before.

After the premium went out - the entries came in.

Our club purchased some software to enter the trial entry data and run our reports that is supposed to make our lives easier. This wasn't exactly the case for me - and I consider myself fairly savvy around a computer.

The software required MS Access to run - it was really just a specialized database that had been packaged together. I owned only an IMac and a 10 inch netbook. This software was not Mac compatible at all - which meant running everything off my netbook.

This wouldn't been too much of an issue, except that during the installation of MS Office, my netbook completely, and utterly died.

Frantic, this meant I needed a replacement, and quick. I went to Best Buy and replaced my computer with a fairly nice laptop, set up MS Office, installed the trial database and was finally able to get the show on the road, so to speak.

I began entering the entries as they came - sending them first through another member of the club who recorded the financial aspect of it all.

Once June 1st rolled around, I still had a hefty stack of entries to be entered that had come in last minute - and this database isn't the most user friendly interface I have ever come across.

Still, I persevered.

I made it to the end of the entries. Then the fun part, scheduling the judges. Mailing final confirmations. Putting the catalog together, assembling a file of armbands, and sending it to the print shop.

Printing and assembling judges books, then printing running sheets and steward sheets.

The night before the trial, I trudged through the rain to pick up my printed catalogs and arm bands, then headed to the club. I sat here for a few hours putting folders together for exhibitors and judges... and then realized I did not include the judging schedule in the catalog - so I had to print an extra 20 copies of those.

Morning of - I'm here at 7 AM, bright and early, set up with the laptop. I have my totes at the ready to store scores, assembling the package to send to the AKC, the judges folders, and copies for the club.

I'm entering scores as they come, posting them in the hallway, answering questions and processing move ups.


It has been a stressful month. I can see the need to have several volunteers to alternate the job - it is just a lot of work. I am signed up to do this again in October - which is fine, I'll survive.

But I do have some suggestions for exhibitors, stewards, and judges that would help to make everyone's lives a little bit easier.

Exhibitors:
  • Type your entries whenever possible, please. It's very difficult at times to read hand writing.
  • Don't forget your dog's registration number - and don't assume we have it.
  • E-mail is really the best, fastest method of confirmation. It's much easier for the trial secretary to re-send confirmations and update mistakes via mail then snail mail - and saves money for the club hosting the event, too. I know there are people who don't have access to e-mail or aren't able to print, or aren't comfortable doing this - and yes, we still have to mail in entry forms. But allowing e-mail confirmations when possible really, really helps to expedite the process.
  • Remember Trial Secretaries are often volunteers - and they may work. Please understand that phone calls or e-mails may be delayed due to the secretaries work schedule, but they will always try their best to get back with you as soon as possible.
  • Mail your entry with at least a week before the close of entries. You want to ensure your entry arrives with plenty of room for mail delays - and this makes the secretaries job much easier by not having a large amount of entries to enter at the end.
  • Be patient. Many times the trial secretary is new to the job - and may not have all the answers. They may need to check with more experienced people.
  • And most importantly of all - be polite. You have no idea how stressful it is to manage all of the entries and paperwork - especially when the person is new. If exhibitors are overly rude and downright mean to the secretary, there is a strong likelihood that the secretary will not want to the job again, and if we run out of volunteers, how will shows get run?
  • Please don't use a flexi-lead. Flexi-leads honestly cause so many more problems then they are worth at a trial. Remember that trials are often indoors - and very crowded with  many other dogs, people and crates. A dog does not need 16 feet of leash in such closed quarters. In one instance, I witnessed a poodle on a flexi-lead run around a corner and meet face-first with a very surprised doberman who was not the least bit amused. The dobermans owner was very attentive and alert and no issue occurred, but the poodles owner wasn't even able to see the situation that could have occurred. Please use the six foot leash that you use in the ring, and save your flexi-lead for your regular walks.
Stewards:
  • Be on time. It is very stressful to the secretary and trial chair if we have no one to help us run the show. We simply can not be everywhere at once, and we depend on stewards to make trials run smoothly.
  • Be polite. It is imperative that stewards be polite and professional when speaking to others at a trial. Remember that stewards represent the club they are working for - being rude to competitors or snippy with a judge does not leave people with a good image of the club.
  • Dress accordingly. Many clubs request that stewards dress a certain way so they are easily identified, in our club it's black pants with a white top. And wear close toed shoes - in many places this is a requirement for safety, but it also helps keeps the dogs from sniffing toes in a figure eight!
  • Respect the judge. I can not stress this enough. A steward should not question or argue with a judge - period. If there is an issue, be sure to address the issue to your trial chair - and don't gossip amongst other stewards.
Judges:
  • All I ask of judges is that they be compassionate and understanding - and most are. In my club at least, no one draws a paycheck. Trials are run entirely on volunteers. Having an understanding judge means we will go far out of our way to make sure the judge has everything they need - but not everyone has been a steward, a secretary, or even a trial chair before. So please, before you get angry with us, try to make sure we really understand what you are asking, and we'll do our best to assist you.
After all of that, I hope everyone who competes loves the sport they are competing in - and I hope they have a blast. Good luck to all of you - and bring home the Green!

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