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Learn from the Experts

Here are suggestions from trial committee folks who have "been there, done that".  It's your chance to avoid mistakes and get valuable ideas for making your trial run more smoothly.

SUBJECTS

Limited Trials

Agility Ambassadors

Acknowledging Entries

What Competitors Want

ASCA Sanctioning

Scribing for Gamblers

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Limited Trials

A Limited Trial means that you are limiting the number of entries that you will accept.  This is increasingly necessary as the sport grows by leaps and bounds.  In some areas of the country many trials are filling on the first day.

NADAC and AKC allow limited trials.  At the present time, USDAA does not.  All organizations have guidelines or limits on the number of runs a judge is allowed to handle.

If you decide to hold a limited trial, here are some suggestions:

The trial limits and opening and closing dates must be clearly noted on the premium.

If the organization allows it, it is best to limit the number of runs rather than the number of dogs.

Make the opening and closing dates dependent on the postmark, not the day received.  By using the postmark, it is fairer to all and you eliminate the need for a competitor to try to "time" the arrival of his or her entry.  You also remove the need for express delivery services that often result in the trial secretary having to sign for something or making a trip to the post office to pick it up.  If you use the postmark, you should also let people know that hand-delivered or electronic entries will not be accepted.

If you expect the trial to fill quickly, you might as well set a fairly short time between the opening and closing dates.  Be sure to check with the sanctioning organization to see what is allowed.

Again depending on the organization, you may have the option of filling entries on either a first-come, first-served basis, or using a draw.  Again, make sure the method you are using is clearly stated in the premium.
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Agility Ambassadors

Here's a way to make spectators feel welcome and to educate the public.  Ask some of your club members or even the exhibitors to be Agility Ambassadors.  Give them a badge or hat that says "Ask Me About Agility" and have them circulate among the spectators to answer questions about the sport.  They can even hand out flyers that describe agility.
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Acknowledging Entries

Include a space in the premium for the handler's Email address.  As you process each batch of entries, send a short email acknowledgement that the entry was received (I usually include kudos if the entry was complete and correct).  You can use a form letter - there's no need to write individual messages.

The little bit of extra work you do here will prevent dozens of phone calls and email messages asking "Did I get in?"  People really appreciate them, too.
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What Competitors Want

The most important things to the competitors are an accurately and efficiently run trial.  Ribbons and prizes are secondary.  Make sure registration numbers are correct and paperwork is correct.  Keep the dogs coming to the line quickly.  Incorrect results and slow long trials will seriously hurt your turnout for future trials.  Ribbons and the extra stuff are just bonuses. (From Allison Bryant)
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Scribing Gamblers

I was doing some scribing at a trial this weekend and stumbled on a trick that I thought I'd pass along.  I'm sure someone else has also discovered this, but it was new to me so perhaps others can benefit from it.

As sometimes happens in gamblers, it was difficult to hear the judge call out points. Hand signals are helpful, but it is hard to keep looking up and down between the judge and the scribe sheet (especially if you are part of the bifocal generation), and you risk missing a signal while writing down the previous one.

To solve this, we used two scribes. One was a "heads-up" person who kept his/her eyes glued on the judge and who repeated the judge's calls or signals verbally (not yelling - just loud enough for the second scribe to hear). The second was a "heads-down" person who wrote down the points. At the end of the run, the timer read the time aloud and the heads-down scribe recorded this. While this was happening, the heads-up scribe checked to ensure that we had the correct scribe sheet for the dog lining up to begin the next run. Then the timer cleared the watch, the heads-down scribe handed the completed sheet to the scribe runner, and the heads-up scribe handed the new sheet to the heads-down scribe and gave the "ready" signal to the person on line.

The result was that we were able to move people through very efficiently and I think there were fewer scribing errors due to missed points. The judge was also able to save his voice, since he could rely more and hand signals and didn't have to shout so loud. Of course, the downside is that an extra person is needed.

I know some clubs are using radios with headsets to hear the judge. However, this is not ideal for the competitor, since they often cannot hear whether they have been awarded points for an obstacle (important on a questionable contact).

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