An Inspiring Weekend with the President, BRAC and the Starters/PI Handlers.
President Obama and I were both in Asheville, NC this weekend and at times were only a few hundred yards apart. He was there on vacation and I was at an agility trial across from the airport where they parked Air Force One. So although I'm sure he was completely unaware of the agility trial, we were in approximately the same location at some point during the weekend.
I can't speak for how his weekend went but mine was wonderful. I was at a USDAA trial given by a local club called Blueridge Agility Club (aka BRAC, www.blueridgeagility.com) at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center. The trial was held indoors on a packed dirt surface in the McGough Arena. This particular agility club has been in existence since about 1992 and is known for putting on a well run trial. BRAC must know and believe the quote "An Army marches on its stomach." (attributed to both Napoleon and Frederick the Great) because they are also famous for the food they provide their volunteers. That may be one reason they are more successful at attracting volunteers than some of the clubs that provide only the bare minimum of snacks for their workers.
There are a lot of elements that go into putting on a well run trial but in my opinion nothing is more important than how the club treats its exhibitors. Exhibitors have more choices than ever about where to trial these days. During the Spring and Fall especially, people in this area can trial every weekend in either AKC, USDAA, NADAC or CPE so if the clubs want to keep attracting handlers to their trials, they need to keep this in mind and use good customer service techniques. In my opinion, BRAC is especially good at this.
Maybe there should be a quote like this: "Behind every good agility trial stands a good trial secretary". BRAC's trial secretary, Peggy Franklin ("www.peggyfranklin.com)is one of the best. I love the way she sends out not only a running order with the entry confirmation but a trial timeline so you can see what time each class will be running. This is so helpful that I don't understand why it isn't standard practice. And Peggy is always quick to respond to any email you send or question you have and if she's ever grumpy I've yet to see it.
The Blueridge club members in general are friendly, hard-working and generous. The club even went so far as to issue credits for future trials when their December 2009 trial was hit with several inches of snow. Not only did they issue credits for those of us who couldn't travel to the trial, they even issued credits for those who were in town but had to miss classes because they were late getting to the arena. I've never heard of another club doing that and I've been trialing since they began holding agiltiy trials in NC. That sort of behavior doesn't go unnoticed or unappreciated by the average agility competitor.
One thing BRAC can't take credit for--or can they?--are the good results I get when I trial there. This past weekend was no exception. Devon not only qualified in 6 out of his 7 classes, he finished first in 5 of them and 2nd in the other. He also qualified in the Grand Prix which means he now has all his qualifiers to attend the USDAA Nationals in Kentucky this October. I would love to attend Nationals this year. I've never been to a USDAA Nationals and I think it would be a lot of fun and very inspiring.
Not that I didn't find plenty of inspiration at this trial. This weekend as I watched the Starters/PI Jumpers class that took place near the very end of the trial on Sunday from my ring crew chair, I focused on the handlers' faces as they flew by me intent on sending their dogs over "my" three jumps and into the tunnel. What I noticed was the intensity with which every single person brought to their run. No one was taking this run for granted, no one was just training in the ring. They each really wanted to do the best they possibly could out there even though--as far as they knew--very few people were watching. I felt truly inspired by their eagerness and ability to celebrate this one run. I intend to try to keep those faces in mind every time I run my dogs from now on.
Thanks, BRAC, for another great agility trial.