Switchback – Region 19 (Greater Front Range, CO)

Switchback will be competing in their first tournaments as a new club in Region 19, Colorado, this year (2024). We are actively looking to recruit more members and are offering lessons to folks outside of our club as well. 

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TCOTC High Spirits – Region 3 (Minneapolis, MN)

Our team believes that all of our dogs should be given opportunities to compete and that any dog owner interested in joining the team should be welcome.  Positive reinforcement as a core belief of TCOTC and of our team. We want our dogs to love flyball because it is fun for them.

Our team is sponsored by the nonprofit Twin Cities Obedience Training Club which has been improving the bond between people and their dogs since 1945. The club offers flyball classes, and many of the Minnesota flyball tournaments are held at the club’s facility. Our team hosts a fall tournament which is a fundraiser for the Club.

Our team has included several Iron Dogs and many dogs who have concluded their racing careers as top point earners for their breed.  Our current racers include two Cattle Dogs, one Border Collie, one English Cocker Spaniel, one Pug and three mixed breed dogs of various sizes. We are very proud of our cattle dog who learned flyball at age 12 and earned his first Flyball Dog title in January 2024 at age 13. You can teach an old dog new tricks!

Please join us!

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Thinking of becoming a Judge?

As we head into 2024, maybe one of your bucket list items is becoming a NAFA judge. Perhaps you have been considering it for a while and just are not sure if you should take the leap. Recently, I had the chance to sit down with several of our judges to tap their collective brains on what it is like being a judge and gather some sage advice.

Why Did You Become a Judge?

Their reasons for becoming a judge really varied. For some it was their background in another sport. Jonathan Bescher (supervising judge and head of the NAFA Judges Committee) had a background in swimming and always appreciated how the officials were essential to the sport. Bruce Boulanger saw the transition from being a Football Referee as a natural fit. For others, it was noticing a need for judges in their region and being willing to step in to help fill the gap. This was the case for Steve Schlosser (Provisional) and veteran judges Dale Smith and Randy Kenzie. Monica Johnny  (approved) was actually recruited and at the time there were hardly any women judges – she jumped at the chance. Patricia Howell (approved) came to it after dealing with an issue with one of her dogs and having to research the rule book. 

Regardless of their reasons, it all came down to the same thing – giving back to the sport that they felt had given them so much.

Training Program

There are four stages to becoming a fully approved NAFA Judge. The time it takes depends on how quickly you are able to move through the stages. All the details are on the NAFA website https://flyball.org/rules/rulebook.pdf

Novice – learning the rules and procedures and observing a supervising judge

Apprentice – actually in the ring with full support and guidance of a supervising judge – making sure you know the rules in practice.

Provisional – on your own in the ring – evaluated by the Tournament Director and Regional Director.

Approved – allowed to judge at any tournament.

For many of the judges I spoke with, supervising judges and other approved judges, both in and out of their region, were a huge support system while they were working through the training program. Jonathan was quick to point out that it is a real community of judges that are there to bounce ideas off of and support one another. 

That was important for Steve who is still working through the process. The first time in the ring was “overwhelming”. But, once he got over the initial race jitters, he started to feel more comfortable and rely on his preparation of learning the rules.

Dale noted how far our training program has come since he started in 1990. It was much less defined. Now we have a solid program that ensures new judges are prepared and supported throughout the entire process.

Best Advice for New Judges:

Use your inside voice – know when it is an appropriate time to say things (Patricia)

Be prepared that when you go from being a participant to a judge you have to realize you can’t be everyone’s friend in the ring. Be professional and courteous but you are now the judge. (Bruce)

Have an open mind and be consistent in how you make calls. If a competitor has a question – listen to them and then give them a reason as to why you made the call the way you did. (Randy)

Take measuring seriously – learn all you can and remember that you are the controller of the criteria. It is up to judges to maintain a consistent standard. (Steve)

We all make mistakes – just be open to learning from them and moving on (Monica)

Talk to your team, your partner, your family about the decision to become a judge – it does take time away from them when you are standing in the lanes judging all day. (Jonathan)

Shhhhh….

Favourite things:

Judging can mean long days of standing on your feet, dealing with challenging situations and having to make difficult decisions on the fly. You will be away from teammates and family and even maybe not be able to race your own dogs. So, why do our judges still do it?

It was amazing that when I looked back at my notes, the reasons were pretty consistent.

Firstly, it is a way to give back to the sport they love. But most said they love it because they have a front row seat to the best moments in flyball. The debuts, the retirements, the tight races where you have to look at the clock to know who won.  The milestones for teams earning new PBs or dogs earning titles along the way. How many times as a competitor do you miss those moments because you are back at your campsite? Judges get to witness it all and it is amazing to be a part of those special moments.

We Need You!

We all know that we can’t run a tournament without judges. Dale noted that the more judges we have, the more we can lighten the load for our current judges. Maybe it means they can actually have the time to handle their own dogs. In some regions there is a shortage of judges right now. If you think that you have what it takes and are curious about how the process works, just reach out to a current judge, or any supervising judge to start asking questions. For most of us that is how we started and no one that I spoke with regretted it for a minute (ok – we might have had a “moment” here and there when something didn’t go to plan).

Final Thoughts :

Let me leave you with what I think are some of the best quotes from the interviews:

“Bring at least 2 pairs of shoes and rub voltaren on your feet before you start” – Monica J

“Have a lot of fun while still getting the job done… enjoy the experience with the host team and the competitors – it is a community.” – Patricia

“I don’t see why you would want to do the job if you weren’t having fun.” – Randy

“The slow teams are amazing to watch – the diversity of the dogs I wouldn’t get to see if you  weren’t judging” – Steve

“Just enjoy it – watching the relationships between people and their dogs is the best part” – Bruce

“That opportunity to watch new dogs succeed, the excitement around a perfect start – all from the centre of the ring.” – Dale

“To me it is fun – I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t. It has opened up a world of opportunities for me including travel to Alaska, Nova Scotia, Washington State, etc…it is VERY rewarding.” – Jonathan

Thank you to all the contributors to this article. I wish I had enough room to include it all because they were so willing to share their thoughts and ideas, but it would be a 20-page blog if I did!

Jonathan Bescher (Supervising and Chair of the NAFA Judges Committee) – Region 9

Dale Smith (Supervising) – Region 21

Patricia Howell (Approved) – Region 15

Randy Kenzie (Approved) – Region 7

Monica Johnny (Approved) – Region 10

Steve Schlosser (Provisional) – Region 19

Bruce Boulanger (Approved) – Regions 5

Payson Paws Flyball – Region 6 (Payson, AZ)

We are a brand new club in the Rim Country of Payson AZ.

Payson Paws Flyball is a local community club created with the intent to enrich the lives of dogs and their human companions while training and participating in the canine sport of flyball. We are an organization that values teamwork, diversity, building relationships while having fun with our dogs. All are welcome; humans, including our dogs come in different shapes, sizes and abilities. Our training and club practices will include an environment which provides positive communication, willingness to listen to others ideas and be able to think outside the box.

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Email: Payson.Paws.Flyball@gmail.com

Candidate Q & A Responses #1 & #2

1. Why do you want to be a member of the NAFA Board of Directors?

Leerie Jenkins

I served on the NAFA board previously for 13 years.  After sitting out the required year, I find I miss it and would love to help again by donating my time and effort.  It’s a lot of work, but it can be very rewarding too.  I feel it’s super important to consider the needs of all the different types of clubs, competitors, and regions; and to consider the impact to each of these groups when making rules and policies.  I feel I have something positive to contribute in this area.

Jayne McQuillen

I truly believe if you want to make a positive impact within any volunteer organization, you need to be willing to not just talk, but to be willing to help out.  Three years ago, when someone suggested I run for the BOD, I thought this was a great opportunity to give back to the sport I love.  Working on a volunteer BOD takes compromise, listening skills and patience.  I fully understood that the majority of the work of the NAFA BOD is not glamourous.  No one will applaud your efforts, and you’ll need a tough skin.  In fact, if you do the work really well, people are unlikely to even know you did anything.  That’s exactly why I volunteered.  It was my chance to be one of the people who make NAFA hum along smoothly.  I want to make sure that the average participant can just enjoy playing this sport with their dog, teammates and the greater flyball community.  

Paula Johnson

I ran for the Board last year and was not successful, but that didn’t deter me from wanting to run once again. I was fortunate enough to be asked to fulfil the remainder of Emma Mak’s terms when family obligations necessitated that she step away. My experience with the board over the last several months has only served to make me want to continue to work for the organization at this level. 

It isn’t easy and it is very time consuming but so rewarding. I have a greater appreciation for what goes into making NAFA run smoothly and seamlessly so that we can all go play with our dogs and our teammates. We don’t always get everything right, but I can guarantee that we all come to the table with the best of intentions and a willingness to work together to make NAFA the best it can be as an organization.

I feel I have the skills and the time to put into the role. I have only scratched the surface of what is possible and would love the opportunity to continue to work on behalf of all of you on the Board.

Kayla Inman

I applied to be a member of the NAFA board of directors because I want to help inspire more new flyballers to join us and be more involved. I have been a part of the flyball community since 2018 and competing since 2019. I am a member of the Westside Woofers out of Grand Junction, CO, and always enjoy competing and traveling with my team. In my day job, I travel often and encounter more people who don’t know what flyball is than know what it is. I want to bring passion, knowledge, and excitement to the board to help expand the resources for teams, new members, and bring more small town teams to the conversation.

Russ Bob

I think some small clubs that attend a lot of tournaments, should have some representation and a voice on the BOD.

2. NAFA has these Standing Committees – Disciplinary, Election, Finance, Judges, Marketing, Rules and these Special Committees – NAFA Blog, Technology, Communications. Which board committee(s) would you make the best contributions to and why?

Jayne McQuillen

I currently am the Chairperson of the BOD, so I oversee every committee. As a member of the Disciplinary Committee, I do my best to treat everyone fairly and with understanding.  None of us want to be in this situation, so  I think it’s a particularly hard committee assignment, as you deal with very emotionally charged situations.  I have the utmost sympathy, I have been there myself, with my first dog who bit a teammate’s dog.  I think I bring the understanding that we can love our dogs, but also acknowledge that they did something wrong.  Before becoming Chair my favorite committees were Rules, Communication, and the Blog committees.  I personally like writing and sharing information.  I also find the Rules Committee enjoyable.  It’s very detail oriented.  As a former Regional Director, I already attempted to know the NAFA rulebook front to back.  It can always be improved.  It’s a large document with a lot of overlapping information.  There have been many edits and editors over the years.  We don’t always get T crossed of I dotted exactly right with each change.  As such I just approved a project to have further formatting updates done to the Rulebook formatting.  Hopefully this will make the document searchable, universally formatted and with better cross referencing.       

Kayla Inman

I would do well with the marketing, technology, and communications committees. I work professionally as a marketer and public relations specialist. I would be able to bring my expertise in sales, marketing, and networking to these committees. I also work with many software programs and would also be an asset to the technology committee. 

Russ Bobb

I believe that I could make some small contributions to Rules, Finance and maybe Communications.

Paula Johnson

Most recently, I have taken the lead on creating a Junior Participant special Committee (more on that to come so stay tuned). They are our future and the special Junior Division at CanAm was proof that we can and should do more to include and encourage our juniors.

Committees are essential to getting things done for NAFA. I have been able to be part of the Marketing and Communications committee as well a taking over the Blog committee chair role. I really enjoy using some of my background in public relations and marketing to help get the word out about NAFA to the broader community. Building a better SM presence would be on my wish list if I was to continue on the Board.

I would also be interested in being on the Judge’s committee to work towards building consistency across regions, as well as encouraging and developing new judges.

Leerie Jenkins

During my previous tenures with the NAFA board, I served on all the committees.  As a non-board member, I’m currently serving on the rules, judges, technology, and blog committees.  I can help out on any committees the Chair would assign to me, but I think these best utilize my skill set and interests.

Getting to Know Your Candidates – Kayla Inman

Kayla Inman

Kayla has been a part of the flyball scene since 2018. She now has her 3rd flyball dog training to compete in the 2024 season. Kayla is passionate about flyball because it’s a great way to get dogs and people moving together. It’s also a great way to build teamwork and communication skills. She values the sport and knows the need to bringing in new people to keep flyball going. During some medical issues, flyball was the only thing she could do with her dogs and gave her a greater appreciation for the inclusive dog sport.

Kayla serves as an advocate for Amputees in Colorado in her professional career. She’s an avid runner, dog sport enthusiast, and enjoys hiking around Colorado. She has a senior pitbull-mix, a 4 year old Mini American Shepherd, and a 1 year old Mini American Shepherd.

Getting to Know Your Candidates – Paula Johnson

Paula Johnson

I have been playing flyball for the last 12 years and a judge for the last 5. This year I had the honour of being asked to be a head judge for CanAm. The experience was beyond my expectations and being able to connect with so many of you and your amazing canine partners was so fulfilling.

I have served on the Board for just a few months now after being asked to fulfill the rest of Emma Mak’s term when a family situation required her to step back from her role. It has opened my eyes to all that goes on behind the scenes to keep this huge organization running. It is no small feat and requires people who are able to balance the needs of all with the long term health of NAFA. Most of all it demands an exorbitant amount of time from those who serve. 

Being recently retired, I feel I have the time to put into helping NAFA grow and prosper. I also bring a background in public relations and marketing as well as management and organizational skills from my previous professional role. I also bring the social skills needed to navigate challenging issues, listen to differing opinions and work with others. 

Paula Johnson

I feel I have only started to get my feet wet on the BOD and would love the opportunity to stay on for a full term. My goals are to continue the work that has been done to rebuild the sport and the organization and to ensure that we are always mindful of making our sport as safe as it can be for our dogs.

I look forward to the Q&A and Live chat to share more of my ideas and answer your questions.

Paula Johnson

Region 2

Getting to Know Your Candidates – Leerie Jenkins

Leerie Jenkins

Leerie has previously served 13 years on the NAFA Board of directors (2009 through 2022), 12 of those years were as Chair of the Board.  During those years he served on every committee, some of which he chaired.

Leerie prides himself on considering the needs and situations for all flyball clubs, with their varied priorities and goals (e.g. “just” having fun, dog title points, winning placements, setting records and personal bests, etc.,…), as well as considering the needs and circumstances of all regions in NAFA.  He feels it’s critical to consider all these varied needs when writing rules and setting policy.

He is a supervising judge, and feels strongly that judges are there to make sure the rules are followed, but also to help steward competitors to have fun, make good choices, and behave in a sportsmanlike manner.

He co-owns and runs a dog training and events facility, Quicksilver Canine, in North Carolina, with his wife, Julie, and mother-in-law, Deb.  Quicksilver Canine has been a bronze level CanAm sponsor for the last two years.

Leerie would love to serve again on the NAFA board and continue to give back to his favorite sport.

Getting to Know Your Candidates – Russ Bob

Russ Bobb

I became involved in flyball in 2003. So, I guess that I have been active for 20 years. Wow. Time passes quickly. I have been a participant, a Tournament Director, and an all-around cheerleader. My dogs have achieved some wonderful accolades, including a Hobbes, Regional MVP, and many local awards. As President of ODTC (the largest, oldest, and most active dog club in the Baltimore-Washington Region), I have championed Flyball and have lobbied that Flyball is an important part of the dog sport community, I believe that our sport should be inclusive and welcome all dogs that can safely participate, I want to grow our community and actively encourage all who are interested to join and enjoy the fun that we have.”

Russ Bobb

President

ODTC 


Getting to Know Your Candidates – Jayne McQuillen

Jayne McQuillen

My name is Jayne McQuillen and I have had the pleasure of serving the last 3 years on the NAFA Board of Directors.  The last two of which I have served as the Chairperson of the Board.  I am honored to have had the opportunity to serve the flyball community in those capacities, as well as having served 8 years as a Regional Director.  I have an excellent idea of the time, dedication, and willingness to compromise needed to be an effective BOD member.  

I worked for 18 years in Non-Profit Animal Rescue organizations, and this is what led me to the sport of flyball in the first place.  While I have participated in many other dog sports, flyball is the sport that continues to be my favorite.  I now head up Skidmarkz, a large flyball club.  While heading up a large group of people and dogs is its own challenge, I also haven’t forgotten what it’s like to have just a few teammates and work your tail off to grow your team.  I now try to share my knowledge by teaching performance foundation classes and a limited number of flyball seminars.   

My experience of leading volunteers in shared goals and workloads taught me to value contributions and ideas from people of varied backgrounds.  I look to put people with the right skills in roles where they can bring the biggest impact to the organization.  As a BOD member, I served on many committees my first year, particularly Rules and Communications.  As the Chairperson, I am now a member of all the committees.  Seeing the overall workings of NAFA, I now seek to put the right volunteers in the right place to benefit NAFA.  That includes bringing in new people to help achieve NAFA’s goals.  I also appreciate the feedback that the diverse BOD members and the flyball community bring forward to me.  I really respect the idea that we all can contribute and that NAFA needs to be open to new input.  I hope you will continue to allow me to serve the greater flyball community as a BOD member.  My goal is always to make playing flyball fun, positive and enjoyable for everyone. 

Get to Know Your 2023 CanAm Judges

A highlight of racing at CanAm is the opportunity to run under judges who may be new to you. Each judge brings a unique personality to the ring that makes the CanAm experience even more special.

Let’s meet this year’s judges!

2023 NAFA CanAm Championship Judge
Dave Collett
Region 21
Omaha Speed Racers
Years judging: 16
Years playing flyball: 16

“Everyone is here to enjoy time with their dogs and friends. Sometimes that is running as fast as possible, while sometimes that is watching the happy-go-lucky dog amble down the course.”

Dave started playing flyball after watching a show on Animal Planet that featured a tournament in Las Vegas. He decided his Aussie, Molly, would be perfect for the sport and was hooked. After searching online, he found a local club that was accepting new dogs and handlers.

Soon realizing there were no judges in Region 6 and only one in Region 16, he went through the NAFA training program and in 2007 became a judge. Dave was a relief Judge for CanAm in 2010, 2014, 2018, 2021 and a Head Judge in 2017.

Watching new dogs navigate the course or handlers release a dog for the first time is one of his favorite parts of the sport. Celebrating titles and achievements in the ring is also rewarding.

His buddy, Bullett, retired after being sidelined due to Covid. AK, height dog for X at CanAm in 2014, retired this past December. His current dog running Flyball is Bang!, a daughter of Bullett.

Three rules Dave would pass on, from a training Judge:
1. If it doesn’t matter to the result of the race, it doesn’t matter.
2. Points don’t cost him anything.
3. DON’T UPSET THE TABLE HELP!

Did you know?
Dave likes to laugh and joke with competitors. When asked what breed his current dog Bang! is, he usually replies “High Presbyterian,” to which a recent competitor replied, “She looks more Methodist to me.”

Carl Dingee
Region 10
F.A.M.E. (Flyball Agility Maritime Express)
Years judging: 25
Years playing flyball: 32

Carl started playing flyball in 1991 shortly moving to Moncton, NB to start work as a veterinarian. He joined a new club that was a group of dog enthusiasts who wanted to do dog sports with their dogs. That club was F.A.M.E. (Flyball Agility Maritime Express) number 73 in NAFA. The club hosted the first tournament in New Brunswick and continues to host today.

Seeing the need for some local judges, Carl stepped into the ring for the first time in 1998 and later became the first supervising judge in Region 10. He credits being able to judge and run his dogs over the years to help from great teammates and the other judges in the region. He appreciates our fun sport and always enjoys the folks he meets, no matter where he judges.

Did you know?
Carl is very much looking forward to his first trip to CanAm!

Steve Heine
Regions 6/16
Surf City Flyball
Years judging: 12
Years playing flyball: 17

Steve lives in Southern California and races and judges in Regions 6 and 16. Steve and his wife Erika took up flyball in 2006 and have been racing since then with three different dogs; they are currently training two new pups for flyball. 

Steve has been an Approved Judge since 2011 and a Supervising Judge since 2016. He is looking forward to the opportunity and challenge of helping everyone have an excellent experience at CanAm.

Did you know?
This will be Steve’s fourth appearance as a CanAm Head Judge. Previous CanAm assignments were in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Paula Johnson
Region 2
Zoom!
Years judging: 4
Years playing flyball: 13

Dogs and dog sports have been a part of Paula’s life since a very young age. She believes that part of being a judge is making the experience fun and exciting for everyone involved. Her favourite thing about judging is watching teams celebrate their wins. From a green dog getting that first clean race under their belt, to hitting a new personal best time, to dogs reaching milestones—it all brings a smile to her face!

Did you know?
Paula was introduced to flyball in 2010 when she was recruited to give it a try with her miniature bull terrier by her now wife.

Tim McElligott
Regions 2/13
Spring Loaded
Years judging: 7
Years playing flyball: 12

Tim and his wife Mary both decided to become NAFA judges in order to give back to a sport and organization that they love. Having a built-in relief judge comes in handy!

Tim and Mary have five dogs: Tek, 11-year-old Border Collie, retired flyball dog; Disco, 11-year-old Miniature Aussie, retired flyball dog; Tessie, 9-year-old Border Collie, current flyball dog; Bliss, 5-year-old Border Whippet, current flyball dog; and Tango, 5-year-old Border Whippet, handled for owner Audra Ahl.

Before being sidelined by an injury, Tim enjoyed playing softball for many years. These days, flyball has his full attention. He is the father of two incredible humans: a 29-year-old daughter who is an attorney and a 26-year-old son who is a school teacher.

Did you know?
Tim is a licensed professional Civil Engineer in New York State and currently serves the constituents of Ontario County, NY as Deputy Commissioner of Public Works.

Amy Brubaker Stewart
Region 9
DogGoneFast
Years judging: 18
Years playing flyball: 13

Your NAFA 2022 Judge of the Year is happy to return to judging at CanAm this year after having been the NAFA CanAm Championship judge in 2021. Amy became an Approved Judge in 2010 and Supervising Judge in 2020. She has been a CanAm head judge multiple times and loves to see her friends and fellow judges from around the country!

Amy feels the best aspect of being a judge is to see the successes of clubs and teams as they work to achieve their goals while upholding the competitive, ethical, and fun nature of sport. She wishes to acknowledge Jamen Stewart, who is a rockstar human and husband and her biggest supporter.

Did you know?
Amy owes her start in flyball to her first adopted sheltie-wannabe, Miss Sienna “My Little Pony” Brubaker, and her club DogGoneFast in central North Carolina.

Joan Weesies
Region 11
Tampa Bay Barkaneers
Years judging: 5
Years playing flyball: 9

Joan started her career in flyball in 2014, racing in North Carolina (Region 9) and then relocating to Gulfport, FL (Region 11). She currently races for the Tampa Bay Barkaneers, out of St. Petersburg, FL, with her Boston Terriers. After learning that Region 11 had no active judges, she decided in 2017 to begin the training program and was approved as a judge in 2018. This will be her fourth appearance as a judge at CanAm and her second as a Head Judge. 

Did you know?
Joan recently had the honor to judge the AKC Flyball Invitational held in Ocala, FL.

Imagine CanAm…a little differently!

We are just a few weeks away from the start of CanAm 2023!  For some of us in NAFA,  the planning started last year, during setup for CanAm 2022.  That was the first time we were able to tour the inside of the Indiana Farm Bureau Fall Creek Pavilion.  Donning spiffy safety vests and hard hats, we looked at a very, VERY  blank slate and started to imagine what 2023 would look like.   It took a lot of  creativity, and ingenuity and yes Imagination to start mapping out the future CanAm! 

Until I was on the Board of Directors, I never realized just how much time and energy goes into putting on this truly massive tournament.  In fact, it’s been done so smoothly for so many years, as a competitor, I certainly took for granted that it was an impressive feat.  Especially when you consider the how much of this is done by a volunteer workforce.  

An unsung hero, Karen Oleson is the amazing driving force behind it all.  You may only see her sitting in the Pit Boss area pushing some papers and doing data entry, but the amount of time and thought she puts into CanAm is unparalleled.  We have a blue print for how to set up and run CanAm.  We have timelines, spreadsheets, shared documents that make putting on this huge event just a little less monumental.   

All that documentation we rely on…well, we had to throw out a substantial chunk of it.  In the West Pavilion, we literally know exactly what landmark to use to lay down the very first mat.  We know exactly where to put crating, vendors, measuring locations and even where to put those sweet trophies.  We even know where we can hide stuff!  Like EJS boxes, empty pallets, all the swag bags of goodies.  Those of us involved in planning CanAm 2023 had our work cut out for us.  

That rough box we looked at in October 2022 was revisited in June of 2023.  We were finally able to get physically on the main level and start measuring out the exact ring placement & draw up new blue prints with exact measurements.  Then we had more questions, where are power drops, where will the heavy traffic flow be, where will the potty areas be, we think we have the answers.  However, I know that there is a likelihood the set up crew is going to run into some bumps once actually on the ground.  Expect to have to roll with a few hiccups, headaches and what the heck issues when we hit the ground in Indianapolis.  We will do our best to smooth everything out but even the best imaginations can’t predict everything!  

We did not predict that the NAFA flyball community would be so awesome.  You have entered, in force, with enough entries to warrant six rings of racing in the Fall Creek Pavilion with a seventh Championship ring in the Pepsi Coliseum.  Then vendors started rolling in …over 25 of them to find space for in the new venue.  Tweaks, twists, shifts, and a few shoves, we have been scrambling to make it all work in that big box of a building!    

Just orienting yourselves to the new building will be difficult.  It’s confusing, we totally get it.  We also know that flyballers like to plan ahead and be prepared.  So here are a few known unknowns.  

  • Potty areas
    • Natural grass across the parking lot to the South and East of the building and a small area to the south of the building
    • We are creating artificial turf areas close to the building but we aren’t exactly sure where..stay tuned
    • Lots of grass on the north side of building on the Mezzanine level – but be prepared to trek upstairs or take the elevator.
  • Access Points
    • Weird – there are no doors on the north or west side of the building from the main level. For that reason we shifted the primary crating areas to the South and East sides of the building where there are multiple access doors available.
  • Bleachers
    • We have access to  bleachers that we can pull out and push in when needed for captains meetings and awards
  • Power Access
    • We are working to ensure power is available in the crating area – but exactly where those drops will be is still being determined – so like usual please bring plenty of extension cords and make friends with your crating neighbours.

Here is a great video that can help you get a feel for the layout of the building.  Also you can learn things about swine, but ignore that and look at the building in the background!  Most of it shows a view from the North end of the building on the Mezzanine level. 

So will it be the same CanAm as you know it? In some ways yes, in others there will be changes. We can’t say thank you enough to the NAFA community for their support and their patience as we work to get all the kinks ironed out.  

We don’t just imagine, WE KNOW, all of you will make this a CanAm to remember.  We don’t just imagine, WE KNOW, that the NAFA leadership and a whole group of amazing volunteers will do everything possible to make this a world class event, imagined just a little differently this year! 

Cascade Comets Dog Sports Club – Region 7 (Auburn, Washington)

Community is very important to us. We try to make the world a better place by example!

We are in it for the fun for the dogs, speed and winning is great but we enjoy having fun first and foremost. We are still building our club back up from recent years and enjoy running demonstrations at dog events throughout the summer!

We currently have 4 Iron Dogs on the team!

Email cascadecomets@gmail.com

Surf City Flyball – Region 16 (Huntington Beach, California)

Surf City Flyball was formed in December 2008 by a group of veteran flyball enthusiasts from Orange and Los Angeles county beach city areas. We compete in tournaments in California, Arizona and Nevada. We welcome all shapes, sizes and breeds of dogs and have classes on Saturday mornings in Huntington Beach throughout the year.

Website: www.surfcityflyball.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/surfcityflyball

Email: hbhaney@hotmail.com

Some Ruff Competition – Region 2 (Hamilton, Ontario)

Some Ruff Competition (SRC) is a community of like-minded individuals who also enjoy spending time together outside of the sport. The club prides itself on its positive training methods, tailored to each dog, breed, and handler to ensure safety, success, and most importantly, fun.

SRC has a track record of excellence, having been invited three times (2011, 2017, 2019) to the prestigious NAFA CanAm Championships, and most recently, to the AKC Dog Challenge in 2022.  The club finished third in the 2022 Region 2 Championship and had the most Regional Points and were the top-ranked club in the standings for Regional Overall Club Championship in Region 2 for 2020.

SRC is currently ranked as the 18th Fastest Regular Club and 14th Fastest Multibreed Club (NAFA, All-Time). Several breeds, including Airedale Terriers, Bearded Collies, and Bernese Mountain Dogs, have earned top point earnings rankings, highlighting the club’s commitment to developing individual dogs’ skills and strengths.

Led by Emily Venator, Some Ruff Competition offers weekly Flyball classes year-round at all levels. Classes are hosted at the Doggielicious Training & Event Centre and Team Practices are hosted at the Raw4Dogs Athletic Centre, among other private facilities.

We are excited to welcome new members to our community of Flyball enthusiasts. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for announcements on our weekly classes and upcoming Flyball events, such as the Flyball Fundamentals Workshop. Join us, and experience the thrill of Flyball Some Ruff Competition.

Please follow us on Facebook or Instagram for class announcements as well as special events such as our Flyball Fundamentals Workshop!

Website: http://LinkTr.ee/SRCFlyball

Facebook: SRCFlyball

Instagram: @SRCflyball

Email: SRCFlyball@gmail.com

A 2023 Update From The NAFA Chair

As the Chairperson of the Board of Directors, I wanted to provide some updates on what is happening in NAFA.  We certainly hear your concerns and calls for transparency, so I am happy to provide everyone with more details. I can also assure you that those of us on the BOD, past and present, are working hard to promote the sport all of us love.  

At a grassroots level, we know that clubs and individuals involved in flyball play a huge role in promoting the sport of flyball.  Getting people into the sport is much easier if they are already familiar with flyball and excited to try out the sport.  To that end, NAFA is working to promote the sport on an international scale.  We have developed a strong relationship with two of the most well known dog and sport media outlets.  The AKC is the leader in promoting dog ownership and dog sports while ESPN is the global leader in sports programming. Both these companies are investing real money to promote the sport of flyball.  This partnership puts NAFA Flyball out into the world at a scale that NAFA could never afford to do on our own.  

This burgeoning partnership has provided extensive coverage of CanAm, through AKC’s Livestream and the ESPN Coverage of the CanAm finals with no cost to NAFA.  Prior to this NAFA PAID to have a livestream service at CanAm, at a cost of around $8,000 per CanAm event.  Additionally, NAFA receives money for broadcast rights.  In 2021, this money was the difference between having CanAm or canceling the entire event.  Coming out of COVID, CanAm 2021 almost didn’t happen.  The BOD had to weigh the feasibility of hosting such a large event, knowing participation would be down from past years. The financial help from AKC/ESPN made hosting CanAm a far less risky proposition.  

Hours and hours were spent in pre-production meetings helping AKC/ESPN understand a sport they had rarely covered before.  The production was top notch and we were able to have the sport promoted in the US and on TSN in Canada.  When AKC/ESPN offered to do a second Invitational Flyball Event, the NAFA BOD was 100% in favor.  It enables us to promote the sport internationally, not just once, but twice a year.   Again, this is at no cost to NAFA; AKC pays for venue rental, constructing those amazing sets, and everything else required to broadcast a professional looking event worthy of being carried on ESPN. As previously mentioned, NAFA receives funds for broadcast rights which are used in part to provide a stipend to the teams attending the Invitational event. Teams that are sent invites are told upfront that the stipend will more than likely not cover all their expenses.  These teams participate in these events to support NAFA, while enjoying being on national TV showcasing their dogs and clubs.  Invitationals are positive events that promote the sport and help NAFA’s finances, which took a hard hit during COVID.  

We have had additional discussions about AKC.TV live streaming at various tournaments across the US.  As AKC/ESPN see that investing in flyball is a positive thing, we hope that more opportunities present themselves.  They have also been working to help NAFA connect with more sponsors and vendors.  Flyball has a value to them, it’s something they can help build a following with the public.  Many of us have watched Crufts Flyball coverage grow and improve over the years.  We hope to follow in a similar vein so that we can promote more and more aspects of flyball to the general public. For those that didn’t see last year’s Invitational broadcast, they had two extensive features, one on a fantastic junior handler and another on a Boston Terrier!  This is only our second invitational and both sides are learning what works and where we can improve.  There is so much speculation, so many “I think” comments that just aren’t founded in any facts.     

The BOD has our concerns too about how to have an invitational event in a fair manner when tough decisions have to be made.  Invitational style events have a level of prestige, they seek to elevate the sport.  They are showcasing some level of the best in the sport.  The board took this approach for this Invitational event as well.  To that end, we created an Invitational Selection Committee (composed of board and non-board members) and established criteria for those invitations.  That list of criteria was posted in the September 5th, 2022 Meeting Minutes.  The committee used that criteria to give a list of 25 possible clubs for the Invitational.  As we knew from the first Invitational, this kind of event has feasibility issues.  How many clubs can make that kind of trip?  How many clubs can make the trip on fairly short notice?  Many on that list will decline the invite for a variety of reasons.  It’s a big commitment for a club to travel to an event like this, with no points, no prize money at stake, for a minimal amount of racing and just a small travel stipend to help offset the expense.

We have pushed AKC/ESPN to move the Invitational event to different parts of the country so that more teams will have an opportunity to be invited and for the travel to be feasible for them.  An event like this isn’t just a tournament, there are many production considerations.  Not only do they need to move in the set, production equipment and crew, they need facilities that are set up for filming events.  Just like for the CanAm finals, a facility like the Pepsi Coliseum used in CanAm 2021 is preferred over having to build an entire set from scratch like they did for CanAm 2022. This year, Ocala, FL made the most sense.  

For those that want a Multibreed part of this, we hear you, we like seeing different breeds too.  The BOD has questioned this as a way to showcase more types of dogs.  However, when we bring those concerns up to AKC/ESPN we are continually told that their primary desire is to have exciting, fast racing.  Historically the top Multibreed teams are featured in the CanAm production.  We are getting the opportunity to show lots of breeds of dogs at that event.  CanAm brings together the most flyball people in one place, at one time.  The most Multibreed entries you will see at any tournament.  If you look at those entries, there is a large range of seed times for those teams.  Considering that we have to get clubs to the Invitational location, and that many will have to say no, the disparity between Multibreed entry seed times becomes a big concern.  In regards to Junior Handlers, NAFA, as well as AKC/ESPN loves to promote them, but they need to be able to be there.  This is during school, this is on short notice and not every club has Junior Handlers.  We will gladly feature the amazing Junior Handlers we can as was done with the Junior Handler who was able to attend last year’s Invitational.  

So what is NAFA doing with the revenue from these events? 

As we recover from the financial hit that COVID caused, there have been many projects that were on the back burner until NAFA’s finances improved.  First of all, an antiquated website. This has been a priority for the BOD. That website development is in progress right now.  We anticipate the new websites to roll out in the next 12 months.  An updated CanAm website will be the first to roll out this year.   

The other is technology improvements.  This completely stalled out during COVID, and we couldn’t even consider restarting that until revenue improved.  At the last BOD Meeting, the BOD directed the technology committee to get cost adjustments from pre-COVID prices for equipment so that we can start the process of replacing equipment.  

CanAm’s broadcasting fees help offset the considerable cost of putting on the largest flyball event in the world. CanAm is an event open to all NAFA Clubs.  We know not everyone can make it each year, but the opportunity is there for all.  The website, the technology improvements, those are going to help all NAFA participants.  A huge benefit for everyone.

What can YOU do to help?

All of you are also NAFA.  Are you willing to teach classes? To bring people into the sport?  To show them the fun they can have with their dog?  Can you help connect them with our flyball community?  With every AKC/ESPN event that’s broadcast, NAFA’s contacts tick upward.  We set up a volunteer to help people find clubs in their area, sometimes they contact clubs and hear nothing.  Is that your club?  Is your contact info out of date?  Do you just not want new people?  Make that known too.  NAFA does not know each club’s preferred contact method.  Be sure to check your club’s contact info and send updates to webmaster@flyball.org.  Do you have ideas about how NAFA should be doing things?  Email your ideas to the BOD.  Nominate yourself for the BOD.  We elect new people every year, nominations open up in the late fall.  The BOD is always looking for volunteer talent that can help NAFA run better. Send an email to flyball@flyball.org and let us know how you can help.  

Finally, I encourage all of you to be an active participant!  Several of the questions posed in the comments could be found in previous meeting minutes posted on the website.  Our financial statements for 2022 will be posted to the website this week.  However, ONLY 5 people attended the live candidate chat; 19 people attended the AGM.  It’s disappointing to see such great opportunities to interact with the BOD and future candidates not utilized.  We are planning to have some regional zoom chats with Steve Corona, myself and BOD members.  Will anyone attend?  Will you interact with us live versus just from behind a keyboard?  The BOD is made up of very passionate volunteers from a cross section of regions with varying levels of experience in the sport.  You, the NAFA community, voted for these individuals to represent you and our organization.  We are doing the best we can, but we do have to make tough decisions.  It is not possible to please everyone all the time.  If you have answers to flyball problems, please bring them to the BOD, email flyball@flyball.org.  We give full consideration to every contact we get.  Every BOD member is willing to talk with you and if they don’t know the answer, they will try to find out for you.  

I hope this message has provided additional insight into the Invitational process and answered the questions many of you had about the event. For the NAFA BOD this Invitational is an easy Yes.  NAFA benefits, the flyball world benefits.  The more exposure flyball receives, the more it will grow the sport and that helps us all. I also want you all to know that we hear you, we are working hard to move NAFA forward for everyone’s enjoyment.  If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact me directly at mcjayne@yahoo.com 

Jayne McQuillen

NAFA Chairperson of the Board

Q&A with Candidates 2023 — 2 of 2

Question 1: How would you deal with a situation where you have a strong opinion on a topic/issue brought before the BOD for a vote and the majority of the board disagrees with you?

Dana Nichols: This is a regular part of working as a board or committee.  I have often had opinions that were different than the rest of the NAFA board, or of other committees I have served.  I think it is important to effectively voice your opinion and point out all issues and consequences for topics.  Part of that role is also to make sure the language of any rule change or other issue adequately addresses consequences.  But at the end of the vote, you may be personally against the Board’s decision.   That’s why there is a vote and what makes our organization strong.  Not everyone is going to agree on every issue, but ultimately there is a process for a decision, whether that be a vote of the Board of Directors or even a vote of the membership.  Then it is our responsibility to abide by that decision. 

Actually, I find it to be a harder situation when everyone agrees on an issue.  We still need to take the time to consider all possibilities, think about how the language of the change might affect other issues, and be mindful of other opinions even when they aren’t being brought to the table.

Differing points of views is what truly makes a board strong.  It means having respect for your fellow board members to be able to have a civil discussion even when you don’t all agree.  We are responsible for all of NAFA, not just our own region, team, or personal views.

Emily Neal: I would (professionally) argue my case and hope that the others listened, but at the end of the day majority rules so I know I will not be in the majority of every decision and that is ok.

Paula Johnson: This is all part of participating in a board environment. Supporting what has been decided by the majority is essential. Continuing to work with the board members to find common ground is part of the role. Also, often it is not an all or nothing scenario. There can be pieces of a decision that you might agree with and can perhaps work to see if there is opportunity down the road to make minor adjustments. In the end however, it is critical that everyone is willing to support the decisions of the board regardless of their personal preferences.

Cindy Henderson: This has actually happened in my tenure on the board.  What I have done is state my opinions as logically, rationally, and calmly as possible with the reasons for my opinion.  I would listen to the alternating views.  Assuming my opinion is unchanged I would vote based on my opinion even if I am the only differing vote.  Once the vote is completed even if I “lost” the vote I would accept the decision of the board professionally and move forward.  NAFA is not about what one person wants or only one person’s opinion.  It is about what the community at large wants and I would do my best to try and represent the people in my home Region as well as around the entirely of NAFA – sometimes that may mean doing what the majority wants not what just I want.

Jonathan Bescher: First, you need to make sure to voice your opinion on the call.  Everything that the board decides you may not agree on, but if you don’t voice your opinion, or those that you have heard from, then what is the point on being on the board.  The board doesn’t need a group of followers, it needs those with new and fresh ideas.  If the vote happens and my opinion is not on the popular side, then you take the decision and you support it.  It is not giving in, but the board needs to have the backing of every member.

Jackie Alcott: Not everyone is always going to agree on a topic/issue. However, I am willing to listen to facts, data, and information that might be different from what I believe on any topic/issue. I will then take all of my collective knowledge and base my vote on what I feel is the best for the sport, dogs, handlers, and organization.

Question 2: NAFA has these Standing Committees – Disciplinary, Election, Finance, Judges, Marketing, Rules and these Special Committees – NAFA Blog, Technology, Communications. Which Committees do you think you would be most interested in serving on?

Paula Johnson: Given my background in marketing and communications those are both obvious committees where I see myself being able to make a positive contribution to NAFA. I do however have a real interest in Rules and Judges. I like working on wording and details with regard to rules that helps to create clarity and feel I would be able to assist in this area. Being a relatively new NAFA Judge, this area is also one where I think I could provide assistance. The recent work that has been done in education and training of judges is one I would love to continue to grow and develop.

Emily Neal: I would be interested in the disciplinary, judges, rules and technology committees. I feel my background and strengths would be best served on these committees.

Dana Nichols: The Rules Committee will always be my favorite and, if elected, I hope I get the opportunity to serve there again.  I love the challenge of drafting just the right language.  During my past terms on the NAFA Board, I was chair of the Rules Committee most of those years.  I also love the aspect of making sure that the rules are readily available to all competitors, judges, and regional directors.  Education on rule changes is an important part of implementation.

I also enjoy Election and Judges Committees.  I helped transition NAFA to it’s currently online voting process.  And, although I am now retired as a NAFA Judge, I also really enjoyed my work on the Judges Committee and would be honored to work with them again.

I am also happy to serve on any other committees where I am needed.  I think work on committees is an important part of making sure the NAFA organization functions well.

Jackie Alcott: I would be interested in working on various committees for NAFA. Rules, Marketing, Elections, Communications, and Technology.

Jonathan Bescher: I currently am the head of the Judges, and because of that I am on the Disciplinary and Rules committee.  I would also be on the Technology committee, since I have helped in this area of testing the new light tree(What we call the Thomas Tree), and with the APES and Heat Trackers that you see at CanAm and other tournaments.

Cindy Henderson: I have served on the Finance and Judges committee and enjoy both and would love to continue to serve on these committees.  While not a formal committee I also have enjoyed being part of the AKC/ESPN Invitational Event planning and CanAm planning.

Question 3: Open – Anything you would like to add as a closing statement for your BOD Candidacy?

Jackie Alcott: NAFA is an organization that I have enjoyed playing in for ten years. I would like to give back my time and abilities to continue making the organization a fun, safe, and exciting place to come play Flyball with your dog.

Jonathan Bescher: I have enjoyed my three years on the board, although a majority of that has been dealing with COVID and how do we come back from a pandemic.  However, I think the past three years has been very productive, and I would like to help NAFA keep growing the next three years.  Thank you for your time and support of NAFA.  I look forward to trying to meet as many people in the lanes as possible.

Cindy Henderson: I have been playing flyball for 23 years all as part of NAFA.  This is a sport that I love because I believe it is for everyone – all breeds of dogs, all speeds of dogs, and a wide variety of competitors including families and juniors.  The community spirt among flyball is like no other dog sport in my opinion.  I am dedicated to growing this sport and would like to continue to serve on the board for another term to help in this regard.  I am proud of the progress we have made – new measuring system and training program for judges to help ensure consistency and transparency, new box size limits, new jump width size, AKC/ESPN broadcast of CanAm and the Invitational event, our handling of the sport during COVID, and so much more.  There is still more work to be done and I hope to be able to continue the work as a member of the board however commit that even if not elected I would like to be involved helping on committees and in other ways to help grown and give back to the sport that has given me so much over these 23 years.

Paula Johnson: I think that at the heart of any organization such as NAFA communication is the key to success. That means communication at all levels including within the Board itself, Regional Directors, and of course our members. I have heard over and over again that this is an area that needs improvement. There is no such thing as too much information being shared.  I also think that finding ways to hear from our members more often is needed. If elected to the board this would be a priority of mine.

There are so many exciting things happening for NAFA, but we need to keep momentum going in order to insure the health of our sport and our organization. I would love to be a part of this and feel I have the skills and time to make a difference.

Thank you for your consideration of my nomination.

Emily Neal: My view of flyball is simple: the competition and close racing is fun, but that isn’t the point of flyball. The point of flyball is to play a game with your dog (and with your friends). At the end of the day, this is a game, a reminder that I think every single one of us has needed at some point in our careers.

Dana Nichols: I have served on the NAFA Board in the past and know how much work is involved.  I enjoy contributing to our organization to make flyball better for everyone.  It takes a lot of folks to run such a big organization.  I currently serve as a regional director and club owner, but I’m willing to step up and serve on the Board of Directors again.  It’s a big responsibility, but one I am willing to shoulder.  If I’m not elected, I’ll continue to work diligently for NAFA and would be happy to contribute in any way that I can.

Q&A with Candidates 2023 – 1 of 2

Question 1: Do you have any expertise in finance, technology or any other field(s) that might help your service on the Board?

Cindy Henderson: I am the Chief Commercial Officer running the sales and marketing teams for a clinical research organization.  In this role I have create pricing strategies, budgets for customer contracts and manage the internal budgets for the P&L having to report to executives and our board of directors on a regular basis.  I have extensive experience using excel .  Serving as the current Treasurer of NAFA has also provided me great insight to the finances of the organization.

Dana Nichols:I don’t have any expertise in finance or technology, but I did gain some experience regarding NAFA’s specific finances and technology issues by serving on the NAFA Board for two prior terms.  We would review the financial documents (balance sheets, quarterly & yearly profit and loss statements) at each meeting and compare to previous years.  During my terms we updated the current EJS systems, redesigned the database, and transitioned to the current online election system.  I found our current election provider and worked with them to adapt their system to our unique voting system.

My legal background includes drafting rules, analyzing statutes, and working on committees.  One of the things I love most is working on rules.  I love coming up with just the right language to try to solve an issue without creating lots of other unintended consequences.  That kind of puzzle is right up my alley.  I was chair of the rules committee during my previous terms on the board.  We also worked to train judges and regional directors on rule changes.  I truly believe things should be as fair as possible.  Communication and training go a long way towards fairness for everyone.

Emily Neal: I have worked in non-profit IT and accounts payable/receivable for the last 8 years. I have a master’s degree in public administration with focus on non-profit budgeting and governance.

Jonathan Bescher: I have been involved with the EJS, along with helping out Dave Thomas on the new version of the EJS.  I have been the EJS coordinator for CanAm for many years, and have to reprogram multiple parts every year.  Along with helping out Dave with EJS, I have also been a guinea pig for his heat trackers and APES system.

Being involved in swimming, I have brought in other ideas from another organization on different things that they do.

Paula Johnson: My background is in pubic relations and marketing as well as public speaking. I also have over 20 years experience in managing large teams of people as well as project management. I believe that my skill set in this area would be of great benefit to both the board and NAFA as an organization. Growth of our sport is a priority for me and I feel there are opportunities to market our sport to a large general population through various mediums, including social media.

Jackie Alcott: I have graphic design and photoshop skills, not as an occupation but at the amateur/personal small-business level. I have made logos for bands, t-shirts for friends, and other decals for dog sport equipment.

My previous teaching career was in the special education realm, which was team based. As the head of that team, I developed the leadership skills to coordinate, delegate, etc. and am more than comfortable heading a group or committee. 

Lastly, I am currently retired from teaching and am a stay at home dog mom, leaving me ample time to work on tasks to help NAFA work on maintaining a great organization.

What is your opinion about NAFA events that are partnered with the AKC and ESPN (e.g. the “made for TV” Invitational and the CanAm classes)?

Jonathan Bescher: I think they are great.  I would not offer so much time to help them out.  When the first Invitational was offered this past May, I jumped at the opportunity to help, along with judging the event.  I showed up early to make sure things were setup.  When asked to be on the selection committee for the 2023 Invitational, I immediately said ‘Yes’.  I think what AKC/ESPN have done for the sport may not be seen in the immediate future, but as these events keep being shown, more and more dog pet people will get interested.

As for the CanAm classes, I think it is great.  It allows the best teams in NAFA to showcase their stuff in front of everyone.  I realize that not all the fastest teams are able to make it every year, but they have the opportunity to go.

When you look at how many different sponsors they have gotten since the first CanAm shown, then they wanted the invitational to happen with not a lot of time, shows how many people are watching the events.

Paula Johnson: It is fantastic to see our sport highlighted on a national stage. I do however think that there are ways to build on this opportunity. For example, we need to make sure that we are showcasing not only the fastest teams, but teams that are comprised of dogs that might not be the fastest but are seen more in the general populous. People need to be able to see themselves in the lanes with the type and/or breed of dog they have at home. There are lots of these types of dogs out there in our clubs. Finding ways to ensure that these are also part of what is shown during these broadcasts is important in my opinion. Also, we need to look at how we can advertise how people can get involved in the sport at a grassroots level during these broadcasts. Small interviews with individuals about how they got into the sport for example is one possibility. Highlighting junior handlers, making them a special part of the event is another idea.

Jackie Alcott: I feel NAFA partnering with AKC and ESPN gives our sport more positive exposure and more possibilities for growth. After watching the first invitational that took place in Concord, NC I really enjoyed how they segmented the different parts to really teach people in more detail how the game of flyball is played. I also noticed quite a bit of improvement in ESPN’s production quality with each successive event. I think this shows that they are buying into the sport. Fostering that relationship further should benefit all parties.

Cindy Henderson: I love the partnership with the AKC and ESPN.  This is bringing tremendous exposure to our sport.  I think that this is giving NAFA sponsorship opportunities which provide funds allowing the organization to provide premier events to the competitors while managing expenses as well as being able to invest in future technologies.  I hope to continue working with NAFA, AKC and ESPN on ways to expand the events across North America, showing exciting high quality racing while also highlighting the many breeds that participate in this sport.  I am hopeful we can find a way to showcase more multibreed teams.

Emily Neal: I think partnered events are a wonderful way to spread the word about the sport! I know that I have had several new flyball students who wanted to try it out because they saw it on TV.

I would like to have a more equitable way to choose the “made for TV” invitational. Every year there are Regular and Multibreed regional winners, and I think hosting an AKC/ESPN tournament with those teams could be a great way to get participation from across North America and also eliminate any hints of favoritism. It would also allow people to see all different breeds and speeds of dogs playing, not just the fastest and the dogs bred for flyball. People are more likely to want to start flyball with their pets if they see dog that look like theirs on TV.

Dana Nichols: I believe these types of events are wonderful for promoting our sport.  AKC and ESPN have handled production very professionally.  I was present for the 2022 CanAm production.  I took photographs during finals, so I got an up-close look.  The video and lighting equipment involved was incredible.  There is no way we could replicate such a professional set up.  And their production turnaround time was incredibly quick.  The program aired just a few weeks after the event.  ESPN knows sports and AKC knows dogs.  I think it is a perfect match for us.

The best thing about the partnership is that we can get flyball out into the public.  Hopefully this will generate even more interest in the sport.  I had non-dog friends (I do have a few) contact me and excitedly say they had just seen flyball on TV.  This type of exposure is a great way to get new people involved.

What are the greatest challenges in your Region for playing NAFA Flyball?

Emily Neal: Region 15’s biggest challenge in my eyes is venue space, cost, and equipment. Many Region 15 tournaments are hosted on turf, which is not preferred by many clubs and some don’t even run on it. This limits the clubs who will play on any given tournament weekend, which limits entries and financial viability of tournaments.

Even when we can find venues to have a matted flyball tournament, costs of the rental and/or costs of matting can cause a team to decide not to host. In my 9 years in Region 15, I can think of over a half dozen venues and/or clubs that don’t host anymore.

I believe these factors limit participation. We don’t see clubs from other regions coming to our tournaments, which is very different than our neighbor to the south Region 9. Most R9 tournaments have clubs from other regions, like R15 coming. Very rarely do we see outside of region teams come to R15. While this may not be a “challenge”, per se, it is something I would like to see change. Flyball is a communal sport, that is why we play and love it. Seeing new faces at tournaments is always exciting. I would love to learn what works for other regions to try to apply it to my home region, as well as work with other regions who may be having the same problems to find solutions.

Cindy Henderson: I am from Region 13 (NY and New England states).  I believe one of the greatest challenges we face in our region is how to grow the sport to allow for more club and teams to be playing flyball in the region therefore making hosting tournaments an affordable venture for clubs.  The scarcity of affordable venues for tournaments is a real issue and if we are not able to get enough entries for a tournament then the host clubs risk losing money which puts these tournaments at risk of happening at all.  The region is doing our best to support each to make the tournaments viable however growing the sport with more clubs and teams will be vital to the success going forward.  Getting new people into the sport and helping them come together to form new clubs by providing mentorship and assistance in training and during tournaments are things that several clubs are trying to do in the region. 

Jonathan Bescher: The biggest challenge has been coming out of COVID and limited tournaments.  I am lucky to live in a region where multiple regions can come to, and there are tournaments about every month.  We rarely had limited tournaments, until coming out of COVID.  There were teams/clubs that were left out because of numbers.  Now that those tournaments are starting to become unlimited again, and 2 ring tournaments, those problems are starting to go away.  We also have teams that are entering multibreed teams.

I guess the next challenge is needing some smaller clubs to fill out the schedule.  We have some pretty large clubs, and sometimes having to wait for them because of close races between their teams makes the racing day go slower.  Another thing would be the racing format.  You have the point people, and the I want to race people.  Trying to find a schedule that will get enough heats in to make the point people happy, and not so many races to make the I just want to race people happy is sometimes a challenge.  Luckily, everyone seems to understand and the tournament hosts do their best to accommodate both.

Jackie Alcott: One challenge I notice in the past few years with starting a new club and trying to grow is limited tournaments. Our region is fairly large and can have one or sometimes two tournaments in a month. However, I would say that recently over 75 percent of them are limited draws. These limited draws  resulted in times when my club was unable to play. I understand that larger clubs are affected as well but in different ways. I would love to maybe see clubs pair up and co-host in order to help make more tournaments unlimited.

Dana Nichols: In our region, Region 19 (Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming), the biggest challenge is finding affordable and available venues to host tournaments.  Unlike many regions, we are spread out over a big geographic area.  Tournaments in other regions are 8-16 hours from most of the teams in metro Denver.   This makes our region a bit more isolated than most.  We have several teams willing to host local tournaments.  Colorado’s unpredictable weather makes outdoor tournaments challenging.  Most of our teams prefer to compete indoors on mats.  For many years, we had a local indoor training facility that was big enough to host tournaments.  It was fully matted, centrally located, included all equipment (including full time matting), and was reasonably priced.  The owner lost the facility during COVID and the new facility she was able to rent was not large enough for tournaments.  After COVID, as we started trying to host tournaments again, we ran into facility fees that were much higher than we were used to.  Additionally, clubs now needed mats and equipment to be able to host.  I was able to buy equipment, including mats & an equipment trailer, from a team that dissolved several years ago.  I was able to get the equipment updated and make it available to rent for NAFA tournaments at a nominal cost.  I’ve even offered to haul the trailer.  I wish that had solved everything, but we are still on the hunt for more facility options. 

Paula Johnson: Our region (2) has seen a significant decline in both tournament entries as well as clubs hosting NAFA tournaments. Several clubs have either folded entirely following the pandemic, or now have much smaller numbers and instead of entering 2 or 3 teams are barely able to put together one. There are various reasons that have lead to the current state and no easy solutions. I think it is important to have town halls within our regions on a regular basis, so that people can come together and hear one another’s concerns and, more importantly, ideas for solutions. Open conversation is always better, and often leads to positive change. It is hard to direct inquiries about Flyball when there is limited places for them to learn the sport and to find a team willing to take them on and mentor them. I know our club gets multiple inquiries a month. Having a “try flyball” day is one possibility to bring people out. However, there needs to be a willingness to take on new “green to the sport” people.

Getting to Know the Candidates 2023 – Dana Nichols

My background is relatively broad, both in general and with dogs. I was born in Memphis, Tennessee, but my father was Air Force, so we grew up everywhere – Greece, Kansas City, Georgia, Hawaii, the Philippines, and finally Colorado. My undergraduate degree is in biology from Colorado State University and I have a law degree from the University of Colorado. I worked as a Colorado public defender doing indigent criminal defense for about 10 years. I took a three-year break during my public defender years to do civil litigation – primarily construction defect litigation and medical malpractice defense. I was appointed as a county court judge in 2007 and am still on the bench.

I rode horses growing up, competing in Pony Club, 4-H, Arabian shows, and intercollegiate competitions. When I got to law school, I no longer had access to horses and got my first dog in 1991. We started obedience out of necessity, but quickly started competitions. My first dogs were Labrador Retrievers. Over the years I did retriever hunting tests (1 Master Hunter, 2 Senior Hunters, and a bunch of JH titles), obedience, agility, rally, and tracking. I was also an AKC retriever hunt test judge.

In 2002, I found flyball. I joined the first club in Colorado, RUFF, and was secretary for our first Colorado flyball tournament in 2003. I became a flyball judge in 2005 and retired from judging in 2015. I took up photography and started shooting as Altitude Dog Photos, LLC in 2016. I primarily shoot flyball and was an official photographer for CanAm in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2022. I currently own Altitude Flyball Club in Colorado. We actively compete in our region, host, and travel out of state for tournaments. Since 2020, I have been the Regional Director for Region 19 (Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming). I also compete in dock diving and am training in herding & obedience. My current dogs are Border Collies, an Australian Shepherd, and several height dog mixes.

Finally, I have some direct experience on the NAFA board. I served two terms 2007 – 2012. I was secretary all but one year. I also served as chair of the Judges Committee and Rules Committee. During my terms I helped produce the first measuring training video, produced the rulebook most of those years, transitioned NAFA to the current online election format, and was a part of the first CanAm Classic.

Sandia EnchantMutts – Region 19 (Tijeras, New Mexico)

NEW webpage: https://sandiaenchantmutts.wixsite.com/sandia-enchantmutts

Contact email: EnchantMutts@outlook.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/enchant.mutts.7

Sandia EnchantMutts is a flyball club that has been around for a while but inactive over the last few years.  We’re re-forming from almost the ground up. We are currently recruiting new members, so please contact us and see if this is the club for you and your dog! We’ll likely do other things together, as we grow, but right now our focus is flyball.

Our club really believes in positive training, inclusivity, teamwork and doing everything we can to help our dogs succeed in the ring.

Current brag: Our Kelpie, Cayenne, recently received her FMX. That’s not easy to do in the SW part of the US.

No one is required to compete–though we would love to have you join us. Coming out and spending a couple of hours with us, training your dog and helping us train ours is lots of fun, too.

Getting to Know the Candidates 2023: Cindy Henderson

Cindy Henderson has been playing flyball since 1999 as the captain of the Weston Whirlwinds who then merged with the Patriot Flyball team. Cindy is a Supervising Judge and has been judging for almost 20 years and was honored to be selected as a CanAm Head Judge four times and the CanAm Championship Judge twice and was named Judge of the Year in 2018.

Cindy served as the Regional Director for Region 13 for over 10 years, became a member of the NAFA Board of Directors in 2020 and has served on the Communication Committee, Judges Committee, Finance Committee and is currently the Treasurer. She is dedicated to helping grow the sport of flyball through initiatives such as the partnership with AKC/ESPN, local demonstrations and education of individuals on the sport, and increased marketing efforts.

Flyball is a sport for everyone, and every dog and Cindy is passionate about making it available to all breeds and a sport for teams at all levels to have fun with their dogs and friends. As flyball moves into the future Cindy would like to see NAFA continue to look for ways to improve and advance the sport forward for everyone. Critical to moving the sport forward will be advances in technology, being fiscally responsible, and finding ways to bring new teams and individuals to the sport of flyball.

Cindy currently has 3 dogs, an 8 year old and a 3 year old Border Collie both of whom are currently playing flyball and retired from the sport a 14 year old North American Shephard.