Masked Flyball – Tips & Tricks

By Jayne McQuillen

Many of us have been anxiously awaiting the return of flyball competitions! The first NAFA tournaments are just weeks away, so it’s the perfect time to look at some practical considerations for this new age of masked flyball. While the CDC is the best source for mask-wearing recommendations, below are some extra considerations, especially for flyball participants.

Practicing in the mask you plan on wearing at a tournament can help you identify potential issues. Keep in mind that, while any mask may be tolerable for a short-duration practice, it might become intolerable when worn for a whole day of racing.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Does the mask move a lot on your face when you yell?
  • Does the fabric suck into your mouth when you take a deep breath?
  • Does it move off your nose or mouth when you do regular flyball tasks like box loading, shagging balls, or holding your dog?
  • Does it muffle your voice so much no one can hear you?
  • Will the ear straps irritate you after wearing the mask all day?
  • If you wear glasses, will your glasses steam up and render you unable to see the lights for that perfect start or pass?

At first, our club entertained the idea of club logo masks, but not every mask fits every face comfortably. Make sure the mask fits your face well; even if that causes you to stare wistfully at the club logo ones and wonder why you have such a weird-shaped face!

So…you’ve found it: the BEST mask to fit your face at flyball. Now consider getting spares of your favorite mask! No one likes a damp, moist mask stuck to their face all day. Need I say more? If you are crating outside, or the tournament is not climate controlled, you might get really steamy under that mask.

Other things to consider:

  • A mask lanyard is a great way to avoid losing your favorite mask during the racing day;
  • Ear saver devices can drastically increase your comfort & mask fit when playing flyball;
  • You can be a hero by sharing clean, spare masks with your fellow flyballers: maybe pick up a box of 50 disposable masks and hand them out like candy!

The best source for info on mask-wearing is the CDC’s guidelines; however, do give some serious thought to the special considerations masks in a tournament setting will mean. I wear masks at work and out in public, but the masks I use for those do not withstand the rigors of an active sport like flyball.

Meet NAFA’s Awards/Scoring Coordinator – a Healthcare Professional on the Frontlines of the Pandemic

Get to Know NAFA People – Andrea (Annie) Taylor

NAFA is grateful to Annie for her years of dedication, keeping scoring and awards distribution running smoothly! She lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with her dogs Tattle, Siren, and Charlie. As well as the work she does for NAFA, Annie has been a full-time Respiratory Therapist for over twenty years. Annie often works long hospital hours (often 60 hours a week) and is on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you, Annie, for all you do!

The second in a series designed to let readers know some of the people behind the scenes at NAFA

By Dede Crough

If you have ever received a NAFA title certificate, pin, or plaque, you can thank Annie Taylor. As Awards and Scoring Coordinator, Annie is responsible for sending out all the recognition swag from NAFA four times a year.

A member of Hawkeye Hustlers in Iowa, Annie started playing flyball in 1999.

“I made a new friend that had a border collie,” she recalls. “She was looking for something to do with her dog, and I tagged along to a practice. I was hooked instantly, and I played with teammates’ dogs for over a year before I got a dog of my own.”

In 2005, Annie took over as Awards and Scoring Coordinator after a teammate retired from the position.

“Prior to the end of the quarter, I take an inventory of all the pins, paper, and postage supplies. When each quarter ends, there is a grace period that occurs while we wait for all the results to be submitted and scored, with a little extra time for corrections.”

Certificates are mailed to team captains; pins are mailed to Regional Directors. The certificate and pin reports are pulled from the database, sorted by team, and printed. They are then hand sorted. Certificates with names that are too long or have any errors are corrected and reprinted. Certificates and pins are then inserted in envelopes by club or region, weighed, postage is added, and any customs forms necessary applied.

Plaques go through the same beginning steps. Then every attempt is made to contact clubs to confirm plaque spelling, as you may have noticed if you read the NAFANews email group or follow the NAFA Facebook page. If there is no response to those requests, one attempt will be made to contact team captains individually. “It is not possible to email each person individually,” says Annie. “That would involve far too many emails and hours!”

Participants often want to switch from their dog’s registered to call name (or vice versa), need to make changes to last names, or want to update the handler name to another family or team member. Once confirmed and created, plaques are shipped directly from the manufacturer to the Regional Directors.

We asked Annie:

What’s your favorite part of the job?

I love connecting with competitors all over North America. Everyone is so happy to receive their awards. I greatly enjoy hearing the stories of success that everyone shares and their love for their dogs.

What’s the most challenging aspect?

Trying to balance all the time required for an awards run with my real life! I currently have three dogs that compete in flyball, two jobs besides my NAFA duties, and I am in the middle of my certification and training process to become a Sound Healing practitioner.

What do you wish people knew or understood about what you do?

I wish that everyone understood that it’s a time-consuming process. I don’t think people realize the hundreds of hours that it takes to complete a run, and the thousands of emails I receive. Occasionally something gets lost in translation or missed. Most people are very understanding, but some are not. Everyone that works for NAFA takes time away from their lives to do so. I think that sometimes people forget that this is not our only job.

Please be patient with all of us. If I don’t return an email from you on that day, I’m likely working a long stretch of overtime and sleeping! But if you don’t see your tournament results posted in a timely manner (3-5 days), please email again. Sometimes they get lost or buried in all my correspondence.

I always love seeing the creative names people have for their dogs, but I marvel at the fact that people don’t understand that what they type into the CRN form is what comes out on the certificate! If something isn’t correct with your dog’s name, it’s probably because you entered it that way. Of course, there are a few rare exceptions with database issues, but most of the errors are human.

Is there anything else you wish to say to the NAFA community?

I really enjoy getting to know so many amazing people! I love hearing your stories of loss and victory. Please keep sharing them. We all love our dogs so much!