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Scheduling and Managing Multi-Ring Trials

In the early days, agility trials were small and simple.  An event might attract 20 dogs and everything was held in a single ring.  The entire trial might last 4 hours, after which competitors could meet for lunch and a recap of the day’s adventures.  

With the tremendous growth of the sport, those kinds of trials are a thing of the past.  Two rings are the norm, and we’re seeing more and more three ring events.  With the extra rings comes increased challenges for the host club.  

In the eyes of most competitors, a well planned and managed trial is one that finishes at a reasonable hour and has a minimum number of ring conflicts.  While the host club certainly wants to achieve those goals, they must also be balanced with other needs such as equipment availability, worker scheduling, and budget.

To better understand what goes into planning and managing a multi-ring trial, lets take a look at an example using 3-rings.  This will be a NADAC event offering the typical two rounds of Regular, one round of Jumpers, and one of the non-jumping classes (i.e. Tunnelers).

The goals for managing the trial are as follows:

·        We want to eliminate or keep ring conflicts for competitors to a minimum.

·        Runs should be equally distributed among the rings and judges, and we shouldn’t have one ring sitting idle while the other two are working. 

·        We want to keep the “down time” to a minimum.  Down time is time used for course changes, walk thrus, and jump-height changes.

·        We need to be able to schedule ring help easily and avoid problems caused by conflicts.

·        Costs have to be controlled.

·        We need to be able to equip the rings.

 

Although other options exist, there are generally 4 ways of splitting the rings:  

A.     Rings are separated by event.  Regular in ring 1, Jumpers in ring, and new games in ring 3

B.     Rings are separated by level.  Novice in ring 1, Open in ring 2, and Elite in ring 3

C.     Rings are separated by jump height.  24” in ring 1, 20” in ring 2, and small dogs in ring 3

D.    Rings are separated by handler.  For example, handlers whose last names begin with A-H in ring 1, I-P in ring 2, and Q-Z in ring 3

Let’s look at each plan and how well it addresses our goals.

 

NOTE:  As referenced here, a “Major Build” is setting a course for the first time.  A “Minor Build” involves a smaller change to an existing course, such as a switch from Elite to Open (assuming the courses are fairly well nested), or a reversal between round 1 and round 2 of regular. 

 

Plan A – by Event

Advantages

Disadvantages

Only 2 sets of contact equipment needed.

Very unequal distribution.  Jumpers will finish very early and the regular ring will finish very late.

Least amount of down-time.  Requires 3 major and 9 minor builds.

High likelihood of ring conflicts for competitors

 

Very difficult to schedule workers for the rings

 

Plan B – by Level

Advantages

Disadvantages

Average problem with ring conflicts.  Only competitors running in different levels are affected.

Three sets of contact equipment are needed

Average for down-time.  Requires 9 major builds and 3 minor.

Since class size for different levels usually varies greatly, distribution will not be ideal.

Worker scheduling is best handled by having tall dog competitors help when short dogs are running, and vice-versa, so conflicts are reduced...

… however, competitors running novice dogs are often the least experienced at helping and may be reluctant to take on more demanding jobs such as scribing or scoring.

 

Plan C – by Jump Height

Advantages

Disadvantages

Fairly good for keeping ring conflicts to a minimum.  Only competitors with dogs of differing heights are affected.

Three sets of contact equipment are needed

Fairly even distribution.

Down time is significant, requiring 9 major builds, 27 minor builds, and 25 jump height changes.

 

Plan D – by Handler

Advantages

Disadvantages

Ring conflicts are non-existent.

Since you have 3 sets of every event, your budget for ribbons and awards must be tripled.

Best way to ensure equal distribution of runs.

Three sets of contact equipment are needed.

Worker scheduling is easiest. 

This plan results in the greatest amount of down-time, requiring 9 major builds, 27 minor builds, and 60 jump height changes.

 

Which plan is best?  Obviously there are plusses and minuses with each.  If your club is trying to decide, it might be helpful to create a report card and rate each item.  Here we’ve assigned a score according to how each plan meets our goals.  For this chart we’ve assigned a value of 1 to 5, with 1 = worst and 5 = best.  A higher total is better: 

 

Plan A – Event

Plan B – Level

Plan C – Jump Ht

Plan D - Handler

Equipment needed

5

1

1

1

Equal distribution

1

2

3

5

Ring conflicts

1

2

3

5

Cost of awards

5

5

5

1

Down time

3

2

1

Worker scheduling

1

3

3

5

TOTAL SCORE

18

16

17

18

There’s no clear winner here, but we’ve assigned equal importance to each goal.  Your club may wish to weight the goals differently.  Of course, circumstances such as having only 2 sets of contact equipment may make the decision for you.

If you’re planning a trial I hope this has given you a template to help in the decision making process.  If you are a competitor, I hope this helps you understand why a club might have chosen a particular format.

 

Happy Agilitizing!