Trial Management & Judging

Ideas for Getting Volunteers to Step Up

By Jillian Rankin

Great agility trials don’t just happen, they are made! Chances are if you have a favorite trial it is because of many little things that have come together that make the whole experience a special event that keeps you coming back year after year. I like to say that a well-oiled trial committee is like a duck—nice and calm on the surface with their feet paddling away furiously under the water. What keeps this duck afloat is a pool of great volunteers who step up to help out! So why do some clubs seemingly have a never-ending pool of volunteers while others are pulling out their hair to get to the end of the day?


Baseline Method of Course Building
There are many methods of course building that involve helpers. Some are "creative" with a placement of obstacles following the course flow; others have separate groups of people building different sections or quadrants of the course. But these styles of course building allow the course builders’ preferences and interpretation of what the judge had in mind to be incorporated into the final product. These methods also tend to create problems such as producing one area of the course that does not fit in the available ring space, or producing four quadrants that individually are exact but do not mesh into one course so that major tweaking is required. Other methods use a more systematic approach, involving placement of obstacles as noted on the course layout. The latter usually have numbers or posts at specific intervals along the perimeter of the course area. The course builders orient themselves within this grid to place the obstacles. The baseline method is a course-building method with the distances on the baseline being a reference point of the grid.

Need Volunteers? Roll Out the Red Carpet
Orchestrating an agility trial is not an easy undertaking. It would be nice if courses set themselves up and automatically timed competitors. It would be even better if times, rankings, and Qs magically posted themselves, and if ribbons flew out of their boxes into the deserving hands of competitors. Agility trials like that would be a dream come true. But real trials require real people and for most trials the majority of work is accomplished by volunteers. How do you keep those well-trained veteran volunteers coming back year after year, and how do you recruit newcomers?