Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Southwest Regionals: A look back

SUMMARY: It's small, for a big trial.
Updates!: Got more info from Karey and my own research later the same day, in red like this, and lots of tweaks throughout that I didn't mark. Basically the article is the same, just some dates are adjusted.

This weekend in Prunedale California, the Bay Team hosts its 8th annual USDAA Southwestern (Major) Regional dog agility trial. Before the Major Regionals existed, however, the Bay Team had been hosting Labor Day weekend trials since 1995. Their content, size, and location have varied over the years, and it's fun to sometimes look back and remember how things used to be.

Note: Prior to 2003, the Regional qualifiers for each Tournament were held in different locations on different dates, and the Bay Team hosted one each year for a couple or three years. Herein, I'm talking about the Major Regionals started in 2003, in which all three Tournament events occur.

Tournament offered

From 1995 through 2002 (before Major Regionals), the various clubs in central California rotated the local tournament classes. Each year, one club hosted a Grand Prix, one hosted a Steeplechase, and one hosted a Dog Agility Masters (DAM) Tournament. To our modern agility minds, that seems so odd; all these same clubs now offer both Grand Prix and Steeplechase at virtually every trial, and there are maybe half a dozen DAMs during the year as well.

So, in 1996, 1998, and 2001, we offered a DAM at our Labor Day trial; in 1999, it was a Steeplechase; and in 2000, because of the Nationals the next weekend (see below), we offered no tournaments at all that weekend.

Of course, qualifying for nationals has changed dramatically as well. In 1996, for example, you could still qualify for Nationals in Grand Prix with a single Q, and you could get that single Q with as many as 10 faults. Then it changed to 7 faults, then 5 faults, then to two clean-run Qs. Therefore, people need more attempts to earn those requisite scores.

That first Major Regional, in 2003, when we were required to host ALL THREE TOURNAMENTS IN ONE WEEKEND, OH MY GOSH!, raised quite a controversy. We'd never even hosted all three tournaments in a single YEAR before! It would be too much work, too  complicated, people wouldn't want that much stress on the weekend, too hard to handle all the special awards...  You get the picture.

Who knew we'd be doing this for 8 years running, with no  end in sight! Yep,  we cheerfully run that complicated, stressful, impossible  slate of classes every Labor Day without a whimper.  Well--maybe one or two whimpers here and there; this isn't an easy trial, but the processes are pretty well  understood and we have many enthusiastic and experienced members who see to all the details. Thanks Dog for that!

Location

In the heavily populated area where the majority of Bay Teamers live, vast swaths of grass or large arenas are hard to come by. In 1995 and 1996, the Labor Day trial used a small field in Daly City and shared a parking lot with the local library. The next year we moved to Cal State Hayward (CSUH, now Cal State East Bay) on the big lawn next to Meiklejohn Hall. Parking wasn't convenient and it was hard to get vehicles on and off the lawn for unloading.

In our eternal quest for a better space, we managed to get the 1998 trial onto the Stanford campus. Stanford has miles of lush, green lawns crying out for dog agility. We had a great spot until a couple of days before the trial, when someone getting married on campus insisted that their wedding not have a view of dog agility, and we were unceremoniously and abruptly dumped to a tiny lawn between a busy street and some residence units. 6:00 a.m. weekend dogs didn't mix well with the sleepers.

That was our only trial ever to be televised--what a mess! Although it was fun afterward to be on T.V. for 30 seconds (Jake and me after our DAM relay run),  the huge delays in classes while the TV crew set things up the way they wanted made the days drag on much longer than expected; we couldn't use the loudspeakers while they were running the cameras (which was during most of the classes); and we had to wait at the ends of classes for them to interview folks coming off the field.

The next two years, 1999 and 2000, we were back at Meiklejohn, but then the campus wanted to build there. We moved to the CSUH soccer practice field for 2001 and 2002. That had more space, but was inconveniently laid out and had challenging parking and access. We never held a major Retional there.

Then we were able to negotiate to use the soccer fields at the Twin Creeks Softball complex in the heart of Silicon Valley, making it delightfully convenient for a large number of Bay Team members. The space was huge, but overnight parking was always iffy; the management team changed frequently and we got different stories at different times; their rules and restrictions were a bit of a thorn in our side at times; and when listening to their rates, we always heard ka-ching! ka-ching! Still, that's where we held our first major Regional, and we easily fit there for five years of Regionals, from 2003 to 2007.

We might still have been there, except that in 2008, after confirming our trials for the year, management abruptly changed and confirmed that the long-rumored additional softball fields would be built on *our* soccer fields and that they were no longer available.

Meanwhile, SMART had found Manzanita Park in Prunedale. The facilities are vast, nowhere near anyone's residence, and not too expensive. Our Labor Day trials have been there since 2008.

Number of rings

Our first Labor Day trial, in 1995, had only two rings. The following year, because USDAA didn't allow entry limits and entries had been growing in this still-new dog sport, we bumped it up to three rings. The arguments that ensued when three whole rings were proposed--oh, my! It was already hard to find workers, people were already encountering ring conflicts, it was already too stressful, it was too hard to manage. But the club did it, and it worked out just fine, and it wasn't long until all our trials ran 3 rings.

In 2000, the USDAA Nationals moved to California, and we anticipated a huge draw to our trial because it was the weekend immediately preceding the Nationals. Rather than cancel it, we cut it back to two days (the only time we've done that for Labor Day). The next year, Nationals was later in the month, but our trial was so popular (in addition to being a Regional Steeplechase qualifier that year), that it was proposed that we bump ours up to four whole rings. The arguments that ensued--oh, my! It was already hard to find workers, people were already encountering ring conflicts, it was already too stressful, it was too hard to manage... Yeah, we know.

So we did four rings, and it worked reasonably well (rotation groups introduced several years later really helped) and we continued to do four-ring trials until we moved to Manzanita Park in 2008--where we threw in, yes, a fifth ring on one of the 3 days, which has helped enormously with rotation groups.

Number of runs & dogs

Sometimes it's hard to say why the numbers grow or fall they way they do. Of course the number of runs could vary with how many classes we offer, but we've been pretty consistent with that through our years of regionals.

Our last pre-Regional Labor Day trial, in 2001 (the 2nd year of Nationals in southern California), we had 2961 runs.

In 2002 and 2003, the Nationals moved to Texas.

In 2004 through 2009, the Nationals were in Scottsdale, which Californians generally considered to be a "local" trial, so not surprisingly the Regional numbers jumped way up. The Bay Team Regionals were the last before the Nationals each year, so we expected, and generally got, huge entries.

Amazing, looking back at the number of runs (including Round 2 of Grand Prix or Steeplechase except of course for this year):

yeardogsrunsRingsRegional?LocationNationals in--
20103312835+round2's5YPrunedaleKentucky
200942637825YPrunedaleScottsdale
200848441835YPrunedaleScottsdale
200752748964YTwin CrksScottsdale
200647548634YTwin CrksScottsdale
200546843484YTwin CrksScottsdale
200441541434YTwin CrksScottsdale
200329325834YTwin CrksTX
20023351260?4**CSUH soccerTX
200137929334-CSUH soccerDel Mar, CA
20003141503*3-CSUH Meik.Del Mar, CA
199933223993-CSUH Meik.
199821817313-Stanford
1997~10003-CSUH Meik.
1996~138~8703-Daly City
19952-Daly City
* 2000: Only 2 days, no Tournaments

** regional for one tournament only

Not sure why the drop in 2008 and again in 2009; we offered the same number of classes, but Pairs  moved to Friday evening, which might have been part of (but not nearly all) of the drop.

My own thoughts are that (a) the economy played a part in what people could afford, and (b) people were self-selecting out of going to the Nationals and so weren't as concerned about picking up Regional runs.

This year, the 2835 number is the lowest that we've had since our abbreviated trial in 2000! But it's not unexpected, now that Nationals have moved back towards the east.

This should make for a relaxed weekend--at least compared to some of our most jam-packed prior Labor Day weekends--and I can use some relaxing at a trial! See you all there.

2 comments:

  1. I can't even imagine 300+ dogs at one place! This data is all really interesting, it takes a lot of work to put one of these on, that's for sure!

    Have fun! And RELAX! LOL

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  2. Wow, so interesting to read about the history...thanks for putting this together! Went to my first regional in Indiana two years ago? Three rings first time they had ever hosted it.

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