Friday, May 7, 2010

NAFA's Board Meeting Tomorrow - What They'll Be Talking About

The NAFA board of directors is having an in-person meeting tomorrow, and they'll discuss what's in the following agenda:

I don't know where the meeting is, I couldn't find that info in the agenda or website. But it's an in-person meeting, which is good, because a lot of work usually gets done in those.

Some of the things I found interesting:

Prohibiting balls with noise makers
I'm really glad they are talking about disallowing these. My Jack Russells, who are usually little flyball machines, completely lose their brain when they hear squeakers in the ring. I actually thought squeaky things were already illegal, based on this rule on page 12 of the NAFA rulebook:

Section 8.3 - The Heat
(g) Distractions. Team members shall not distract the opposing team by any means, nor throw any object for their dogs (i.e. balls, toys, Frisbees, dummies, gloves, or treats).

Double running of dogs
Looks like NAFA won't be making any changes to this rule, and I don't blame them. It's really just too subjective to spell out in the rulebook. I've seen dogs out there who had no business running full time on ONE team, and I've seen other dogs who could run all day on 2 teams with no problem. It does make me totally crazy to see people run their dogs into the ground in the name of points, though. This topic is probably worthy of a whole separate post, you guys probably have some strong feelings about it.

The Rules Committee is recommending a change to the Code of Ethics text in the rulebook, though, to try to address this. The bold red text is what they want to add:

Section 5.1 – Code of Ethics (page 23 of the current rulebook)
(d) Misconduct shall include, but not be limited to, abusive or foul language, demonstration of dissatisfaction with a judge’s decision, inhumane treatment of a dog, racing a dog who is not in adequate physical condition for the number of heats the dog is asked to run, demonstration of poor sportsmanship, willful violation of the rules with the intent to gain an unfair advantage, or any other behavior or altercation that would leave a spectator or exhibitor with an unfavorable opinion of Flyball.

Pay attention to this fact. There is nowhere in the whole Chapter 5 - CODE OF CONDUCT (NAFA rulebook, page 23) wording that says that NAFA, the RD, or the judge is going to take action when it comes to a Code of Ethics violation (as far as I can tell from the wording in the rulebook). It looks like it's up the to clubs to do that, by filing a formal complaint:

(f) Any individual or club in good standing with NAFA® may file a protest or prefer charges against another individual or club for alleged misconduct, in or out of the ring, prejudicial to the best interest of flyball as provided for under Section 5.2. Protests filed during competition should be done in such a manner as not to bring discredit to flyball.

This costs $100, by the way, and if the board doesn't agree with your charges, you'll forfeit that money.

So I would think somebody would have to be really obviously running a dog to death before anything would truly be done about it.

Use of shields/wings on the side of the box
This one is my personal favorite, because I submitted it.  :)

Long story short, clubs have been using plastic shields on the sides of their box all over the country for a few years now, including at the NAFA CanAm tournament last year (in Regular Division 1).

My club, Carpe Pilam, used an identical shield on the side of our box at a tournament in January, and the judge told us to remove it because when one of our dogs ( dog) was bumping into it, the shield was actually extending outside the dimensions of the box. I can't remember what happened -- I think we may have lost that heat? And we were told to remove the shield for the rest of the tournament. In fact, we haven't used it ever again, because all the other judges/clubs in the region who saw that are now probably going to say "Hey, that shield was illegal last time you used it, what makes you think you can use it now?"

So I asked the board for some clarification around the wording. It didn't seem fair to me that some clubs could use it and others couldn't, just because of different judges' interpretations of the rule.

I'm glad the board chose to address the issue, but I'm not really feeling very comforted by the wording they came up with (see page 5 and 6 of the meeting agenda). It seems to me like it's still all left up to interpretation, and there are also no clear consquences spelled out -- does the judge have to see the dog bump into it each time for it to be illegal? What happens if it's bumped -- does the team lose that heat?

Hopefully the board will ask all these questions in the meeting and come up with some better wording.

Minimum runback
This one addresses an issue near and dear to many of us. My teammate Kristie Pope wrote a guest post about this very issue back in March, about a building in our region that's too small to play flyball in.

The Rules Committee is actually unanimously recommending that the rule be changed so that the minimum runback will be increased from 29 feet to 50 feet. YES!

Farther down on the agenda was also a request to better define the word "runback", so that when a club is sanctioning a tournament, they have to put down how many feet of runback is actually MATTED (in indoor buildings or outdoors on concrete). Hooray! It's ridiculous to say you have 60' of runback when you only matted 50' of runback.

Clubs electing into adjacent regions
This issue plays out in my region, and I'm sure it plays out in others, too. There is a club that hosts one or two tournaments a year in another region (where the club owner lives), but since they elected into our region, those tournaments count for our regional points. It's an 8+ hour drive for many of us (it's actually 9 1/2 for me). Personally I don't think the out-of-region-but-technically-in-region club has bad motives, they have a good building to use up there and I've heard their tournaments are great and attract a lot of clubs from both regions. But it does suck that their tournaments count for our regional points.

Somebody from my region requested that a mileage cap be added to the rule, so that any tournament held 60+ miles over the regional border would count for the geographical region it's being held in versus that club's elected region. I really like this idea, it sounds fair to me. Several members of the Rules Committee seemed to like it, too, although it sounds like they want to increase the actual mileage from 60 miles to something more. We'll see how that plays out.

There are a few other things on the agenda, but I don't really feel strongly about them one way or the other. Feel free to post a comment if you do, or if you have comments about anything mentioned in this post.


Added on May 14:
Thanks Dave Collett for sending me a drawing of a box with shields/wings on it. Here it is. The shield we used was very thin plastic so it only added centimeters to the width of the box (but that also made it floppy and easy for the dogs to bend out if they bumped it).


Andy McBride said...

Just an fyi, The DKC tournaments have 52-53 feet of matted runback. They were sanctioned at 45 but it's easy to get 50 there.

Lisa Pignetti Murnan said...

Seriously???? Blargh!

Kim said...

I thought I saw on the agenda a couple weeks ago re: Minimum Runback topic, that clubs will be able to ask for exemptions.

If exemptions are going to be allowed I think some defined rules for what qualifies should also be set.

I am also a believer that short runback tournaments, 1 day tournaments AND limited tournaments should not qualify for regional points. I think it would make life a whole lot easier if NAFA would just allow certain venues to "count" - sufficient runback, not limited, run over 2 days, etc... maybe if something like this happened the shorter runback tourneys could still happen but clubs won't feel obligated to put a scrub team together or take chances with their faster dogs who need more room.

Of course I won't send anything to NAFA because well in the long run it does not effect me. My club is not fast enough to compete for regionals.

Andy McBride said...

The simple solution is that tournaments count towards the region they are hosted in regardless of the region of the hosting club.

What difference does it make who does the work?

Linda said...

I sent in several comments for the BoD, a few were just a simple I agree with the proposal. However, for the dog aggression clarification proposal I sent them additional wording. The reason I did this was because in my opinion some of the Rules Committee (and a few others along the way) twisted everything all around, didn't adequately get clarification from the submitter (Ken) and also included a totally unrelated topic (aggression appeals) in their response proposal. No where was this topic a part of the original submission. They were way-off-base including that piece and it seems they still don't understand the original issue and suggested solution. I know Ken sent the BoD comments that he hopes will clear it up (and maybe I can convince him to post his letter here?), but here's what I sent to them in the hopes that it will make a difference...

Additional proposal submitted herewith; Aggression 8.4:

NAFA Rules, Policies & Procedures state the safety of dogs and exhibitors is above all else. Combined with the Code of Ethics, many exhibitors equate this to their personal responsibility for the safety of their dog(s). In addition, there is an expectation that a NAFA judge will conduct themselves at all times in support of safety combined with respect and acknowledgement of the exhibitor’s personal responsibility for the safety of their dog(s).

When a perceived aggression incident occurs that may relate to the safety of an exhibitor’s dog it is, therefore, prudent for a judge, if asked, to be able and willing to provide a clearly understood decision to an exhibitor. Mutual respect between a judge and exhibitor is thereby promoted regardless if the exhibitor agrees with the judge’s decision.

Aggression 8.4 should include a statement(s) that defines a specific and key function of a judge with regard to a perceived aggression incident whereby the judge must be willing and able to define their decision point(s) and to communicate them to an exhibitor(s) when asked. This applies not only when the judge decides for but also when a judge decides against taking action on an aggression incident.

Suggested wording as follows (or similar wording agreed upon by the BoD):

When a judge has decided either for or against a dog aggression warning or excusal, the judge must clearly explain the decision when asked either at the time or at the end of the tournament. The explanation must not be based on and must not refer to the term “grey area” but must be presented by using specific detail such as a description of what the judge saw and what exact decision point(s) the judge used for or against a warning or excusal.

-- OR –

When a judge has decided either for or against a dog aggression excusal, the judge must clearly explain the decision when asked either at the time or at the end of the tournament. The explanation must not be based on and must not refer to the term “grey area” but must be presented by using specific detail such as a description of what the judge saw and what exact decision point(s) the judge used for or against an excusal.

If a judge is unable to provide a verbal explanation (for example, due to the judge’s perception that an exhibitor is disgruntled), their explanation must be put in writing if asked and must be subsequently made available to the specific handlers and team captains of the dogs involved by the end of the tournament.

Linda...PS - to those reading this on the blog, I hope the main issue about a judge being able to communicate came through clearly...what do you think, was it clear?

Anonymous said...

can you post a picture of a "sheild/wing" on a box? Here in N. Cal, no one has anything like that.

Also, why would you want something like that? what are the advantaes/disadvantages?

I know that there have been many many discussions in the past as to what is a "training aide" and what is "training in the ring." how would you say this fits into that?

Oakland CA

Whipple said...

As Leslie already asked, could you please post a picture of a "wing" on a box. I don't quite understand. Thanks!

Chris said...

"So I would think somebody would have to be really obviously running a dog to death before anything would truly be done about it."

Lisa, even if the Board decides to adopt the recommendation of the Rules committee, this would not stop the practice of running out of condition dogs in flyball. Why?

It is un-enforceable. If a dog actually collapsed in the ring (I've seen it happen) there is NO WAY anybody can actually "prove" that the owner/handler was "running their dog to death". There is a bunch of reasons that a dog may collapse that have nothing to do with "condition". Un-diagnosed diseases of several kinds come to mind.

Unless NAFA REQUIRES that charges brought against an individual under the proposed changes are accompanied by at least two or more expert witnesses (Veteranarians), I think that it would be a waste of money to bring somebody up on charges involving a dog's condition.

All other charges listed under this section of the Code of Ethics actually have something to do with a person's behavior. Witnesses can testify as to what they heard someone say or what they saw someone do. But, a dog's "condition" is purely a personal "opinion" and not based on fact. Since it is "subjective" and not based on a proveable fact, that is why I would want at least two experts to testify as to what was the dogs "condition".

I am against adding "feel good" unenforceable language to a Rule for the sake of saying "Look, we're doing something about that." Especially, when the ISSUE is about "double-running" dogs. There is NOTHING in this proposal that addresses that concern.

You are right, Lisa. The topic is worthy of a separate post. In this Region, I know of a competitor who takes his BCs out between races and throws frisbees for them. They are RACING and then, instead of resting, they get to run some more! I don't like seeing that but, there is no way to stop it. Throwing frisbees for your dog has nothing to do with flyball and I can't think of a way for NAFA to stop it.

Also, point totals really do nothing to either prove or disprove that a dog is running too much. I nominated Shadow last year for the Clyde Moore HOF because Shadow is an extraordinary athlete. He is in the Stratoshere as the first and only dog to accumulate over 150,000 points. Anybody who has watched Shadow race knows that he is not being "run to death" but, some people look at his point total and become convinced that he must be running way too much. Really? How does anybody "know" that? Based on point totals?

I think the best that NAFA can do is pass a "Resolution" condemming out of condition dogs running in flyball and spend some time educating the public about what "out of condition" means.

Leave the "Code of Ethics" out of it.

Chris VanWert,
Region 1

Dave Collett said...

Just for clarification. Rules of Racing page 19 of the rulebook
Section 1.6 (d) The Regional Director shall:

(vi) have the authority to excuse any individual from a tournament for breach of Code of Ethics;

Page 20


(c) A judge is not to engage in conversation with a disgruntled exhibitor. The Head Judge may excuse any person for breach of the Code of Ethics.

Chris said...

Thank you, Dave.

Could you please clarify what comments you were referring to when quoting those sections of the NAFA Rules. I am unclear as to what point you were trying to make.


Dave Collett said...

Lisa's comment about penalties for violations of the Code of Ethics.

"Pay attention to this fact. There is nowhere in the whole Chapter 5 - CODE OF CONDUCT (NAFA rulebook, page 23) wording that says that NAFA, the RD, or the judge is going to take action when it comes to a Code of Ethics violation (as far as I can tell from the wording in the rulebook). It looks like it's up the to clubs to do that, by filing a formal complaint:"

Lisa Pignetti Murnan said...

Thanks for the clarification, Dave. :)

Kristie Pope said...

Regarding the wing... I can't find a picture of what but basically it is a sheet of clear plastic taped flat against the side of the box that is level with the top of the box and comes out about 4 inches more towards the front than the side of the box and reminds the dog to turn tighter rather than fall off the side. (I hope that makes sense). To me it is kind of like taping the white part on the bottom of the box to remind the dog to get their feet up.

Anonymous said...

Kristie Pope said...

To me it is kind of like taping the white part on the bottom of the box to remind the dog to get their feet up.

I have to disagree, dogs are smart, the white tape on the bottom really has no relevance on the box by the time the dog starts running in tourney's. By then they have figured out that the white tape is not a jump board and has no consequence whereas the shield they will be able to feel something on their butt and or face if they hit it.

Lisa Pignetti Murnan said...

I don't have a photo of it, either... I will velcro a piece of cardboard on the box later and take a shot of that so you can see the general placement and size of it.

I think the shield is a training aid like a prop is. It doesn't just remind the dog to turn properly - it is a physical barrier to make them do so. My issue all along has just been that the rule is open to interpretation - it's not fair to let some teams use it and not others. It would be like NAFA letting your competition use a prop in front of the box, but not you. I hope NAFA came up with some very clear language around the use of the shield and how judges were to interpret it in the meeting this weekend.

Anonymous said...

NAFA will not get involved with box design as this could lead to more issues down the road. The rules are very clear. There is a cubic space of 24x18x30. As long as the box is with-in that defined space during the run, it is legal. If NAFA starts to allow one design but rules against another because of shape even though both boxes are within the same cubic volume of space, that could lead to legal issues. There are many different designs of boxes, any change to restrict design will open up a can of worms IMO.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the regional tournaments. The board has decided to continue to allow teams from adjacent regions to declare the next region over and allow any of their tournaments to count for adjacent regional points regardless of the physical location of the tournament. Instead they adopted a rule change that will allow that tournament, if co-hosted, to count for BOTH regions. What a great money draw for the hosting teams. They now force teams from both regions to drive to their tournaments if they want to run for points. This negates the concept of "regional".
Please bring on more U-FLI.

Linda said...

From our pespective, we asked for 2 simple things from the BoD meeting regarding safety as it relates to aggressive dogs:

1) Consistency from NAFA judges with respect to aggression occurrences

2) Accountability and communication from NAFA judges when decisions are made either for or against an aggression occurrence

We were just advised NAFA will not support either of these things with revised clearly worded Rules.


Dirk (NRR) said...

Tammy.. If I understand the issue you are worried about traveling a long distance (and slightly outside the territory of the region) to compete in a 'in region" tournament. Remember not everyone lives in such central locations within this or any other region, that they could attend all of the other in region tournaments without having to drive more than 4 hours to get there. So this one site does give some of the people that live in the northern edges of the region (especially those in Northern Virginia) a chance to run in unlimited and somewhat local Region 9 tournament .. even if it means driving slightly across the Mason Dixon Line. Better yet we get to race against competition from not only Region 9 but also adjacent regions (R15 and beyond) And if U-fli is the answer for you, my questions is how far are you planning on driving to get to the nearest Qualifier Tournaments this year, so that you can compete for a division title? Looks like Talledaga in August .. not exactly a short drive ... is the closest.

As for NAFA (r) regional championships, the 80% rule does apply so you do not HAVE to attend every tournament to continue to compete for regional points. Since there could be a maximum of 14 tournament weekends in Region 9 this year that count, only a club's top ten results will count to the final regional standing. Unlike the top two clubs in our Region that each have a shot at getting to the maximum of 30 regional points and thereby having the final standings come down to the tie breaker rules, the third place spot in Regular is probably going to be determined by the beginning of August as there are only a couple teams that have more than 1 point and have competed in enough tournaments. You, therefore, are never forced to go to any one specific tournament as the rules make sure you have the fair chance throughout the year to accumlate points and not based on the outcome of one specific tournament. So that means you could go to that tournament to race against the other top teams, especially those you do not see every tournament for the fun of competing. Isnt that really what we are in this sport for?

The team that I am on is probably much like yours. We currently do not have the dogs to win in D1, whether in our region or in others. But we do come to compete and try to do our best at as many tournaments as we are able to field teams at, and slowly but surely we have collected some third place finishes to move up the rankings. Do we have a chance of winning or even placing second this year? No! Since we can not seem to displace the two fast teams from first or second place at any of these tournaments we have to be content with racing for the fun of competing and try to improve as we go along.

Just for full disclosure.. yes we are going to York and yes it is a 5.5 hour drive. But we are going for the fun of competing in the tournament and the festivities that is the Coconut Classic... not to try to worry about regional points.

One final comment in regards to your statement " What a great money draw for the hosting teams.". I know all the teams that host tournaments appreciate having the extra teams enter and the extra income to work with. Renting these larger facilities, buying extra mats, paying for judges and all the other things that go with hosting a tournament are not cheap, and no one wants to put forth the effort and run a tournament at a loss. In addition it is rather stressful to sit there two weeks before the tournament entry dealine wondering if you will get the minimum entry level required to break even for the weekend. And from my experience the tournaments that have the larger number of entries are also the ones that people really like going to because of all the frills that come with them... prizes, raffles, evening pot luck dinners, etc. This is because the host clubs have spent some of that extra "draw" to make something that people want to come to year after year.

Just my 2 cents worth on this issue.


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