SUMMARY: Who we are and how much money we're paying. (Duh!)
I can thank my Dad again (nonagility parents who've been pretty faithfully slogging through my blog) for today's topic; he responded to my Statistics post:
Okay - Interesting.
* Are there statistics on the handlers?
* How many have serious problems with their lower limbs, from the hips down?
* What are their ages?
* How much would they have to spend, just on entry fees (forget travel and motels, restaurants, etc.) just to get all of the required wins to be a lifetime champion?
* How does the organization get all of those handlers to fork over that much money?
It sounds as though you really, Really, REALLY enjoy the whole thing. Keep it up.
I do enjoy it, or I guess I wouldn't keep at it even on the discouraging days.
Our club has no stats like that on the handlers. We need the dogs' ages because they can't enter until they reach a certain minimum age, but there are no restrictions on handlers' ages. We've seen some VERY young handlers move dogs around the course better than I can. Brats.
Clean Run (the agility magazine) did a demographics survey in 2003 and published a summary of the results in their January 2004 issue: "90%...are female and between 31 and 60 years of age. 40% are between 41 and 50. 80% chance that you live by yourself or with only one other person. 48% chance that you have been competing for more than 4 years. 36% attend 12 or more trials a year." [Wait--their phrasing is unclear... last one might be 52%.]
I've often wondered about the lower limbs thing; if you just sit and watch some of the classes at a USDAA trial, particularly at the Masters level, you'll see an amazing number of knee supports. There are also--somewhere out there in the world--an estimated 50-80 people doing agility from a wheelchair or similar device. Seems like half the people I talk to have had knee surgery of some kind. But is that from agility or is that because of the age demographic or maybe just because the people who do agility have always tended to be very active in sports and maybe it's a lifetime of pounding on the knees? Interesting question.
How much would one have to spend...? Yeah, like I really want to know that answer. When that topic comes up, our universal response is "don't go there." I think we'd all just about turn inside out if we added up everything we've spent doing agility. I have a fairly good idea of how much I spend in a year, because I have a household budget in my computer, but I try not to add up all the pieces (e.g., gas costs go into my "vehicle" budget, stuff like that). Entry fees are a big chunk of it, but I don't know that it's more than 50%. There's all the equipment and/or the lessons or field rentals and traveling to class every week (or twice a week...or three times a week...) and extra seminars and training treats and, well, like that.
I've periodically threatened to add up everything I've spent on agility, but then my heart quavers and I go back to burying my head in the chute (hey, does that work as an analog to "sand"? Maybe?).
It's a lot.
It's not a low-income sport.
We fork over the money because we like doing it. We gripe about it when the sanctioning organization raises its fees, or insists on higher fees for no apparent reason. (For example, why does our club have to charge $20 to enter the Grand Prix when it's exactly the same as a Standard course which we charge only $12 to enter? Because USDAA says so, that's why. Bay Team tried to lower it once--because really, we make quite a bit of money on our regional, at least-- and they said, Uh-uh, you have to charge the higher rate.) There are occasional mostly joking comments about "Ken [the president/owner] has kids to send to college," but in the case of Tournament fees, I don't get it, because USDAA doesn't profit from the excess fees, the club does. I dunno how much Ken really makes in a year from this. I've never seen what kind of house he lives in or what kind of car he drives or where his kids go to college. It's not a public corporation, so the books aren't open.
So how do they convince us to pay it? Well, some people pay to enter bridge tournaments every Tuesday night. Some people pay to go to movies every weekend (wait--I do that, too!). Some people pay to learn how to jump with their horse and compete (like my sister and nieces). Some people pay to play golf. I dunno, it's just something that I do that costs money. Bummer on that score.
But I'm still here, having survived since my first view of agility, up at Power Paws in early Spring 1995, when I went up one evening to see what it was all about, and took in the bright lights, and the beautiful, brightly colored equipment in a rainbow of patterns across the lush green grass, and dogs doing the most amazing things--and off-leash, too! and running full out, too! and everyone having a good time, too!-- that I doubted I could ever get my dog to do but, oh!, wanted so badly to try!