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.

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.

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.

Getting to Know the Candidates 2023: Emily Neal

Hello everyone! My name is Emily Neal and I’m running for the Board of Directors. I got started in flyball with my mix breed Blanche in 2011. You may remember me as “the one with the greyhound”, as I ran my greyhound Mordecai for several years as well. I have played all over the East Coast and Midwest and made invaluable friends who are now more like family. My husband Bryan Roper is also involved in flyball and you may know him as a judge. 

Personally, I have an undergraduate degree in legal studies and master’s degrees in urban planning and public administration. I have extensive work experience in non-profits and deep knowledge of non-profit leadership and administration. I’ve worked in communal services, animal rescue, and currently in historic preservation. 

I started playing flyball in Region 9, but Region 15 has been my home region since 2013. I feel fortunate that I am able to straddle 2 regions, as it allows me to get to know a wide variety of clubs and hear many different thoughts and feelings about flyball and its future. I teach flyball classes in Richmond, VA and am a passionate advocate for the sport — everyone who has ever met me now knows about flyball! My mix Blanche recently retired, and I am working hard to get my rescue beagle Tannis up and running. 

I look forward to serving the flyball community on the Board and am excited to answer your questions for you to get to know me better! 

Getting to Know the Candidates 2023: Jackie Alcott

My name is Jackie Alcott, and I currently live with my husband and our pack of pups just outside of Charlotte, NC. Originally from “The First State,” Delaware, I’ve found a home in Region 9 where I first discovered and fell in love with Flyball.

My first real attempt at getting into Flyball was just over a decade ago. We had adopted a shelter dog who was sweet but fearful. VERY fearful. I was searching for ways to gain her trust and to build her confidence in the world around her. We decided to give Flyball a shot. We attended a few introductory classes with Turbo Paws and something clicked. I saw that sweet but fearful shelter dog turn into a confident competitor. Flash forward ten years and Nan is now an Iron Dog. Needless to say, we were hooked on Flyball.

What I learned over those first few years, and what I feel is the true “spirit” of Flyball, is that this sport is for everyone. Human and Canine, all are welcome, and all can benefit in so many ways.

Eventually, my competitive nature led me to co-found my own Club, Bitches Be Crazy. For the past several years we have been growing and improving as a club. My experiences with owning a club and captaining multiple teams has helped me to further learn the ins and outs of the Flyball world, and to appreciate the importance of organizations like NAFA.

Outside of Flyball, my background is in Special Education. I hold a Masters Degree in Special Education and Exceptional Children, with a strong focus on Applied Behavioral Analysis. I spent several years teaching students on the Autism Spectrum at the Delaware Autism Program. I led a multidisciplinary team of professionals, creating and implementing individualized education plans for our students and executing those throughout the school year. While my experience with applied behavioral analysis and teaching has translated very well to the world of dog-training and dog-sports, I’m hoping that my leadership experience can translate just as well.

I’m a forward thinking individual who believes in positive change. I’m passionate about Flyball, and hope the sport continues to grow and evolve for the better. I hope to be part of that continued growth and evolution.

Getting to Know the Candidates 2023: Jon Bescher

My name is Jonathan Bescher and I live in North Carolina with my wife and daughter. I have been involved with Flyball since 2002. I became an approved judge in 2009, and a supervising judge in 2017. In 2020, I was elected to the Board of Directors, and I am finishing up my first term. I my first term as a board member, I was nominated to be the Chair of the Judges committee. I have also been a member of the Rules committee.

In 2017 I won Judge of the Year, and also won the Josh Beissel award. I have judged in many different regions, along with being a Head Judge at CanAm in 2012 and 2015. Since 2017 I have been the judging coordinator at CanAm. Since 2014 I have taken on the task of being the CanAm Gift Basket Coordinator. I have also judged at the first AKC Flyball Dog Challenge held in Concord, NC. I was on the selection committee for the 2020 FCI World Championships, and am now on the selection committee for the 2023 AKC Flyball Dog Challenge.

My wife and daughter both participate in Flyball, and we will travel to as many tournaments as we can. We have 3 dogs that currently play. My wife runs 2 of them with my daughter running our oldest Border Collie.

Outside of Flyball, I own my own software business, specializing in Point of Sale software and services. I also am an Assistant Coach for one of our local USA Swimming clubs. This past year I was awarded from NC the Phillips 66 Volunteer of the Year award. I have been on the board of directors for my swim team for 3 years as the Vice President.

I am seeking a 2nd term on the board because I fell that I can keep contributing to the board, especially through the judges and rules committee. I would like to keep progressing the training and the relationships between the judges and the RD’s. I feel that I listen to the flyball community and that I am available willing to answer any questions that they may come up with or help in anyway I can.

Getting to Know the Candidates 2023: Paula Johnson

I am excited to introduce myself as a nominee for the NAFA Board of Directors director position for 2023. For those who don’t know me I am part of team Zoom! in Region 2 and a NAFA judge.

I have been involved in dogs and dog sports from a very young age, starting with dobermans and rough and smooth collies. I currently share my life with 5 dogs including a whippet, saluki, 2 miniature bull terriers and an adorable 10lb pound puppy and of course my wife Kim (captain of team Zoom!).

I have trained and competed in many different sports from obedience, rally and agility to tracking and nose work, but Flyball came into my life just over 12 years ago. It has been a blessing to find such an amazing community in dog sports.

I am recently retired from a career in public relations and marketing as the Associate Registrar, Student Recruitment at my local university, McMaster. I believe that the skills I bring to the table include leadership, change management, marketing and project development. Having served on many committees as well as being Chair of our provincial body, I am familiar with working with and leading teams of people. I have also been the President of my local dog training club for 2 full terms.

I believe strongly in giving back to a sport that has given me so much. That is the reason I decided to become a judge and why I am running for the Board. I recognize that NAFA doesn’t run on its own and takes a great deal of effort from some very dedicated volunteers. I think I bring the perspective of clubs that maybe do not aspire to be the best or the fastest, but that want to have fun with their dogs and their teammates. At the same time, I think the job of any member of the board is to represent all clubs and to learn to listen and understand their needs and balance sometimes competing ideas.

As we all come out of this pandemic (fingers crossed), we are in need of growth and rebuilding of our sport. I personally think it is an exciting time with lots of opportunities to be innovative and continue the good work that is already underway by NAFA. We can always do better.

I hope I get a chance to answer your questions and to represent you on the board.