Saturday, March 6, 2010

How NAFA Works

In light of all the recent discussions on the flyball list and the Flyball Blog, I thought it might be helpful to demystify NAFA for you a little bit.

I was elected to the NAFA board of directors back in 2006, and served 2 years before resigning a year early for personal issues (the stress of a newly divorced single mom, blah blah blah).

I learned a lot in those 2 years:
  1. There is no NAFA conspiracy (when it comes to elections, measuring, or anything else). That would imply that everyone on the board is in cahoots and actually trusts each other. ;) The board is actually a lot like the U.S. Congress. That's why it seems like nothing ever gets done. Board members are elected based on their opinions, reputations, and where they stand on the issues, not for how well they'll work with each other. When I was there, the board was split into two pretty predictable groups as far as how we'd vote on issues (just like Congress). And there was a LOT of debate around the wording of rules (just like Congress). Hours and hours of it. I remember one meeting in Detroit where we were stuck in that room from 8am on Saturday to 1am on Sunday, mostly discussing the wording of rules.
  2. The reason the NAFA board members rarely post to the flyball list or comment on blogs or anywhere else is because THEY ARE TOLD NOT TO. I remember the lecture I got in my very first board meeting about how individual board members were not allowed to speak on behalf of NAFA or the rest of the board (it goes back to the lack of trust thing in #1). This is an inherent flaw in the NAFA system -- board members are discouraged from speaking publicly, and NAFA has no official spokesperson, so nobody says anything. Which makes NAFA look less than forthcoming, when they really do want to be transparent. 
  3. Maybe all the hidden agendas and good-old-boys-club stuff was so deftly hidden from me that I didn't pick up on it, but I found almost everyone to be fair, forthright, and professional, at least at board meetings and Cynosports (no telling how they acted in their own regions while racing with their own teams). So the rumor that the NAFA board is a bunch of crazy power-hungry egomaniacs set on ruling the flyball world (MWAHAHA)? False.
  4. If you have a major beef with something, complaining on the flyball list, or to your regional director (RDs work for the ED, not the board), or to tournament directors, or to other competitors, or on a blog will probably not get much accomplished, at least where the NAFA board is concerned. Let me say that again: COMPLAINING DOESN'T HELP. Unless you do it in writing. To the NAFA board directly, via Some of the board members aren't even on the flyball list. The ones who are will read your complaints and make a mental note of them, and may even use your reasoning and your arguments when it comes time to vote on something, but 99% of the time they aren't going to do ANYTHING until you submit your ideas or complaints or whatever in writing and it gets onto the next board meeting agenda. That is the only way the board will officially recognize anything. 
  5. The board is not a bunch of stuck up intimidating people -- they are just flyball competitors like you and me. So quit being such a scaredy-cat and send an email to with your suggestions and ideas. Somebody suggested in a different post that you socialize your ideas on the flyball list first, before you write things up and send them to the NAFA board. I think this is a great idea. The more complete your idea is, the better shot you have at getting the NAFA board to buy into it. Offer solutions, and spell it out for them. The board is really overworked and they don't want to take on a bunch of extra work -- discouraging, but true. So you need to make it easy for them.
  6. Board meetings are open to the public. Anybody can go to them. So nothing is discussed in there that the general public can't hear (unless it's in executive session, which is usually reserved for disciplinary matters).
  7. If you think somebody on the board is cheating or taking advantage of their position, file a formal complaint (details are in the rulebook) and send an email to everybody on the board ( and let them know about it. Just because somebody is on the board doesn't mean that all the others on the board are going to tolerate behavior like that (see point #1). 
NAFA's biggest flaws continue to be a lack of communication plus a tendency to spin wheels in between meetings. Meaning, not much gets done on a day to day basis. I was guilty of it myself. I got caught up in my "real" life and put NAFA stuff on the back burner a lot, especially right before I resigned. You really need strong leadership on a board like that to make things happen -- somebody to push the others along, hold everybody accountable, and institute deadlines. Somebody to schedule regular meetings -- LOTS of them (teleconferences would be fine). Somebody to MOTIVATE people. Because so much of what the board does goes unnoticed and you get so little feedback about it, you start to wonder what you're doing it for. Getting the flyball community more engaged (as volunteers, etc.) would help with that.

NAFA board members, if you're reading this (I know you probably won't respond -- point #2 above), please fix the way you communicate with the flyball community. In this era of email, web, blogs, Yahoo groups, chats, and all that other good technological stuff, surely you can find ways to regularly update and engage people. Posting meeting minutes a few times a year really isn't enough.

Also, about all the 2009 election stuff swirling around... I can see how the board might be slow to communicate changes to people, perhaps even drop the ball on some details because they are overworked and busy and things do get away from them. (In fact, my own club, Carpe Pilam, did not receive ballots for the past 2 years -- the club owner's address was outdated but nobody from NAFA contacted them about it via email, phone, or their regional director). But I don't believe NAFA would do anything improper where elections are concerned. I had so much respect for Dale (Smith, Elections Chair) when I was on the board -- I aspired to be as fair, open-minded, and ethical as he was.

Anyway, I hope this helped. The one thing I hope people take away from this is that you can't expect the board to read your mind (or the flyball list, haha) and fix the things that are bothering you. You need to tell them, in writing.


barbara said...

I have met a LOT of NAFA Board members in 10 years... especially the ones who are judges . They are a really great bunch of people !! Most were very friendly, knowledgeable, and would openly discuss flyball generalities and sometimes even particulars depending on the subject. I have learned a LOT from them, I like most of them and respect them a lot.
I also would like to have a *spokesperson* for NAFA. Someone should be able and allowed to speak for the org even between meetings and outside official minutes.

leerie said...

Thank you Lisa for a very sensible post.

Chris said...

I agree with most of what you said, Lisa. And, I thank you for some insight into how the "board" works.

....but, as for point #5 above, I wouldn't advise going to the big flyball list to "socialize" an idea. You can have the greatest "best" idea since the invention of flyball and a few negative vocal critics can kill it in a hurry. If Board member's positions on an idea or concept is based on what they read on the "list" that can be very distorted and not a true indicator on how the flyball public "at large" would embrace a proposal.

I think the best thing we could do is encourage "free speech" and ALLOW people to introduce ideas for discussion on the list. Make it fashionable to discuss ideas. Let's clean up the truly unsportsmanlike comments some people make in public and treat differing opinions for what they are. Just opinions.

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