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.

Meet Your 2022 NAFA CanAm Judges

One of the many enjoyable aspects of CanAm is getting the opportunity to race under judges from other regions that you may not otherwise see. Each brings their individual background, experiences and style to the flyball ring.

Let’s get to know them a little better.

2022 NAFA CanAm Championship Judge
Peter Wesdyk

Region 8
Breakaway Flyball
Years judging: 17
Years playing flyball: 28

“I became a judge because I wanted to do everything I could to foster and improve the sport of flyball.”

Peter currently has four dogs: Buffy (Shepherd mix) who is “just” a farm dog, Jinx (Border Collie) who is retired from flyball, Mindy (mix) who currently races, and Pi (mix) who is in training.

Away from flyball, he enjoys playing with home automation, growing his vegetable garden, playing video games, and camping.

Did you know? “I am a super geek by nature. I set up home automation, write code to make it all work and track all of the stats off my personal weather station.”

Maija Doggett
Region 18
Alaska Dogs Gone Wild
Years judging: 5
Years playing flyball: 18

“My region only had one resident judge and he never got to run dogs because he was always judging. Adding myself as a judge has given him the ability to play the game in addition to judging it!”

Maija currently has four dogs, all rescues: Diva, a Siberian Husky who has been Region 8 MVP and is Maija’s second rescued Siberian to play flyball; Busy, a Portuguese Podengo Pequeno who is ADGW’s Multibreed height dog; Buddy, a deaf Sled Dog who has earned 1,374 precious points; and Prima, a Siberian puppy recently adopted from a local shelter who is in training to perpetuate Maija’s Siberian flyball fantasy.

When not playing flyball, Maija enjoys supporting the fight against cancer for humans—and dogs.

Did you know? “I married my husband so I could have Dog in my name! Also, I love the music of Flaco Jimenez!”

Paul Ferlitto
Region 14
The Gamblers
Years judging: 21
Years playing flyball: 22

“I became a judge because I love the sport and wanted to help promote flyball.”

Paul currently has two dogs, both rescues: one mixed breed and one Border Collie.

In addition to flyball, Paul enjoys golf.

Did you know? “My wife and I have traveled with and raced 13 dogs. I have judged in at least twelve states, and my wife was Region 14 Regional Director.”

Photo by Dave Strauss

Mary McElligott
Region 2
(Plays mostly in Region 2, lives in Region 13)
Spring Loaded
Years judging: 3
Years playing flyball: 15

“Tim and I both decided to become NAFA judges in order to give back to a sport and organization that we love. Having a built-in relief judge comes in handy!”

Photo by Dave Strauss

Mary currently has four dogs: Tek, 10-year-old Border Collie, retired flyball dog; Disco, 10-year-old Miniature Aussie, retired flyball dog; Tessie, 8-year-old Border Collie, current flyball dog; and Bliss, 4-year-old Border Whippet, current flyball dog.

Before an injury sidelined her, Mary was a runner and competed in two Ragnar Relay races (200-mile team road race). Now, when time permits, she enjoys yoga.

Did you know? “I’m the mother of two incredible humans: a 28-year-old daughter who is an attorney, and a 25-year-old son who is a schoolteacher. I’m an Enrolled Agent and have been a tax accountant for the last 25 years.”

Tom Lamont
Patriot Flyball
Region 13
Years judging: 6
Years playing flyball: 12

“I became a judge because I like the excitement and the challenge. Also, because I was at a tournament in Dover, New Hampshire where Cindy Henderson was the only judge, and she was unable to get a break or run her dog because there was no backup judge, so I wanted to prevent that from happening again.”

Tom currently has three dogs, all of whom have played flyball: Jessie is 14 and retired; Dillon is 11 and still running; and Cedar is 6 and full of energy.

Besides flyball, Tom enjoys golfing, hiking, biking and kayaking on Cape Cod and in New Hampshire.

Did you know? “I am a retired police officer and a Marine. I have two sons and nine grandchildren. I have been happily married for 49 years.”

Stephanie Treviño
Hairier Jump Jets
Region 9
Years judging: 8 years
Years playing flyball: 13

Stephanie currently has three dogs: a Sheltie, a Border Collie, and a Mini American Shepherd.

Outside of flyball, Stephanie supports her two kids who are busy doing theater and dance. She’s looking forward to finding another hobby in 12 years.

Did you know? “I’m from Washington State—and I have snowboarded since I was seven but haven’t in 14 years since moving to Virginia.”

Fighting For Freedom Flyball Club – Region 16 (Redwood, CA)


We are a small, competitive flyball club in the San Francisco Bay Area dedicated to modern, safe flyball dog training and enhancing each canine/handler team’s potential. We love our sport dogs, we love engagement training, and we love fast flyball competitions!

Our members are active in dog sports and compete in multiple activities, including Agility, Dock Diving, Barn Hunt, Bikejoring, and Canicross. We are committed to safe training and work all our dogs through a clear, concise flyball foundations program, ensuring top performance and consistent flyball runs.

Our club loves racing and running fast lineups in west coast tournaments throughout CA, AZ, NV and CO. We love competing in Division 1 and hold numerous records in multiple regions.

Nose to Nose – Region 3 (Mankato, MN)

We are a group of friends who love playing with our dogs. We are always looking for new friends to join our team!

Contact us on our FB page:

Our club believes in positive, motivational training, including treats, toys, and most of all, PRAISE. The best part of our flyball club is the bond that is created between owner and their dog(s), as well as the friendships that are part of our club.


Some of our brags:

Dobby is the fourth top-scoring Min Pin in NAFA history and received region 3 MVP in 2017.

Diesel is the seventh top-scoring Weimaraner in NAFA history.

Josie is our highest point earner – 44,262 and is a Flyball Grand Champion.

We have several dogs who have earned their Iron Dog title!

Q&A with Candidates 2022 – 1 of 2

Question 1: How do you see yourself managing your work/life balance along with the time commitment of board members?

Kathy Haney: I have been managing that for the last 3 years during which I have been a Board member.  I am currently semi-retired from the business my husband and I have run for the past 30+ years.  Spending a lot of time babysitting young grandchildren, but can use my flyball board time to relax from that, lol.

Russell Evans: My family life and my work have always been my priorities. Finding the required time to satisfactorily support being a board member will be a challenge, but a welcome challenge. Flyball has been an important part of my family since 2003 and we’ve always managed by working together. Communication and understanding expectations are vital in this regard.

Emily-Rose Allred:  I am very lucky to have a job that allows me to take care of many personal matters while at work. I’m in a position where my job is not time intensive nor particularly emotionally needy. I have a lot of energy and time to give to another outlet. 

Meagan Langs: I know that board members are expected to attend and participate in board meetings and various committees.  I also know they are expected to help with the hosting of CanAm every year.  If elected I will be able to actively attend and participate in board meetings, and at CanAm.  I also promise to not take on more than I can handle during my term. On a personal note, my “kids” are my dogs & cat.   My husband works from home and takes care of our fur kids when I am away traveling for flyball etc. I have the support of my family to live out my flyball dreams.

Question 2: Being on the board sometimes requires compromise or even sometimes things not going your way. Even if the vote or item doesn’t go your way, are you willing to support the stance of the majority?

Meagan Langs: I understand majority rules.  I also understand that I need to be supportive of the process.  One of the things that makes NAFA so amazing is that we do have a say on things.  Voting is awesome and I am thankful for the opportunity to do so even if I don’t always agree with the end result.  I also know that just because something goes one way for a time it doesn’t mean than things can’t change down the road.  I have found that many things in life and in flyball come full circle.  So, if things don’t go my way at a certain time, it doesn’t mean it won’t change if I stay positive and play the long game.   I am not going to quit NAFA, the board, or flyball because I don’t like a particular vote or decision, and neither should anyone else.

Emily-Rose Allred: I have worked almost a decade in and with animal rescue. I spent a lot of time compartmentalizing and having to work through decisions I didnt agree with, as well as having my mind changed over time with stances I didnt think I would ever come around to. Having an open mind is crucial in situations like this.

Russell Evans: I would always support the majority decision. That is the only way a board can function in support of NAFA members.

Kathy Haney: Absolutely.  I have done it in the past, on the NAFA Board, while running our flyball club and in my professional life.  None of those are dictatorships and you always have to realize that there is a reason and need for having more than one opinion.  Board decisions are made by the majority after research and discussion.  In order for this to work all members need to stand by the final decision, whatever side of that decision they are on.

Question 3: What are your thoughts on flyball equipment specifications (e.g., boxes and jumps)?

Emily-Rose Allred: Flyball is evolving and changing. It only makes sense that the equipment should be changing. I have really liked what ive seen since the box  size change and as a club have discussed the larger jumps. While I know there will be a cost factor which would be difficult for many clubs I do think that larger jumps are the way that the sport is trending. I think we need to make sure we are evaluating safety in the sport as dogs are only getting consistently faster. 

Kathy Haney: I believe there is always room for improvement and that the sport of Flyball needs to keep evolving.  I am in favor of any changes that improve and/or make our sport safer and more efficient.

Meagan Langs:  I think we need to be open to exploring new and safer equipment and options for our dogs and people.   As a team captain I fully understand what it takes to buy equipment, haul equipment and replace equipment.  I also know that it will cost money, it will be more to carry, and it will be expensive.  Do I want to have to buy the equipment, build the equipment, or haul bigger heavier equipment?  No, I don’t.  However, my inconvenience is not more important than dog safety.  I have run on wider jumps as recently as last month at a flyball tournament.   I can promise you it was safer for the dogs.  Our dogs ran on the wider jumps one week and then attended another tournament on the usual smaller width jumps the following week.  Afterwards we discussed did we see any issue with the big jumps?  Did our dogs perform differently from one week to the next? Everyone I have talked to has only had positive things to say about the wider jumps.  Additionally, our dogs didn’t have any issues adjusting from the big jumps back down to the smaller width jumps the following week, the dogs seemed to adjust accordingly.  I believe the dogs will and could run faster on the wider jumps if given the opportunity to use them long term.  If you truly don’t believe wider jumps are safer take some time to review videos of dogs crashing over the jumps.  I am sure some instances you would still have injured dogs but if it decreases the amount of injury by even a few dogs isn’t it worth it?  As we all know sometimes crashes happen and there is literally nothing you as a handler, or a team member could have done to prevent it.   Anything we can proactively do to make the sport safer for the dogs is something we should seriously consider.   

Russell Evans: I like the idea of wider jumps and would like to see this become part of the racing standard. Like you, I’ve seen collisions from time to time and all reasonable steps must be taken to avoid them.

Regarding flyball boxes, Section 1.1 (e) (v) of the NAFA Official Rules of Racing, “Judges have the discretion to declare a box unsafe and therefore not usable” is a very important point. Boxes in poor repair should be excluded when a judge makes such a determination.

Question 4: Do you have any skills that could help the board (marketing, programming, accounting, etc.)?

Russell Evans: I’m formally trained in project management and have extensive experience with planning and writing.

Kathy Haney: Nothing specific, but I am willing to help out in whatever is needed and will put in every effort to build up our sport, making NAFA a welcoming, fun organization for people and their dogs

Meagan Langs: I am good at getting people excited about flyball, flyball tournaments, flyball practice, etc.  Regardless if I am captain or a team member I have been the “team communicator” for years. I think it is important to communicate with people in a positive way.  Find out what they are thinking, explain why certain things were decided, and let them know you hear them, even if what they are saying doesn’t fit with the plan right now.    

Emily-Rose Allred: I’m pretty infectious on social media. I think the board has done an amazing job the past few years getting flyball out there and can only hope to help grow the sport. I think continuing an online presence and making flyball accessible is so important. Racing is only fun if we have clubs to race! 

Getting to Know the Candidates 2022: Meagan Langs

My name is Meagan Langs and I have been playing our great sport for the past 15 years. In flyball I have participated as regional director, co-captain, and most importantly, a team member.  In my professional life I am a paralegal with extensive experience in assisting with drafting correspondence and various legal documents along with cross-functional expertise in social media, sales, management, training, and education. Prior to working in the legal field, I worked as a teacher for twelve years.  I strive to find ways to help increase productivity and efficiency with positivity.    

I live in Mesa, Arizona with my 4 dogs, 1 cat, and my husband Chris.  We have had a wide range of flyball dogs:  a rescue height dog, pure breeds and a purposely bred flyball mix.  My background helps me see the different perspectives people have within our sport.   I believe it is important to see the individual pieces that make up the big picture when making decisions as our sport moves forward and becomes more mainstream in the world of dog sports.     

Getting to Know the Candidates 2022: Kathy Haney

Hello all,

I would like to introduce myself once again to all of the NAFA community.  My first term on the NAFA  Board of Directors is coming to an end and I would appreciate the opportunity to continue working for this great organization.

Way back in 2001 I was watching a new station called Animal Planet and they just happened to be highlighting a dog sport called Flyball.  I had a ball crazy Lab/Boxer mix at the time and thought, “Oh wow, they invented a game just for my dog!”  It just so happened that there was a flyball team near me which was starting a new class.  We signed up and the rest is history.  I started my own club, Surf City Flyball, in 2008 and we have been running in Regions 6 and 16 ever since.  Our team consists of some very fast dogs and some not so fast dogs.  We love them all the same.  I started with a large “pet” dog and every dog I have gotten since then has been bought or adopted with Flyball in mind.  My latest dog happens to be a height dog and I think that having her has given me a much better perspective on the unique need to keep the height dog aspect of flyball intact.  Making sure the measuring process is easy and fair for everyone is very important to me.  I feel that I can bring some of our all inclusive viewpoints onto the Board so that we are sure to keep and attract participants with dogs of all shapes and sizes who want to have fun, but are not diehard competitors (at least not in the beginning).

 I have served as the Chairman of the Election Committee last year and have been on the Rules Committee as well.  I strive to be accessible to any and all members who have any questions or concerns and am always to willing to listen to what you have to say.  I appreciate that you trusted me the last time I ran for the Board and hope that you will give me your support this time.  Thank you,

Kathy Haney

Getting to Know the Candidates 2022: Russell Evans


Personal: Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, currently lives in Wheat Ridge, Colorado (Region 19). Married to Susi Evans (Launch Flyball) since 1983. One daughter, Jessica.

Work: Presently working for the State of Colorado as a System Administrator in the Office of the State Controller. I spent 22 years as a Windows software engineer for various ERP vendors and, before that, 12 years as a Security Specialist in the USAF. Attended University of Maryland, European Campus, focusing on Mathematics and Computer Science (major).

Flyball: First involvement with Flyball was as a box loader in 2004 and worked my way up to running dogs. I am very much involved with my wife in training all our dogs as well as club dogs. I run with Launch Flyball and love competing with my whippet Quid. We host 2 tournaments a year. I’d like to make a difference and have input in growing the sport and making it as safe and fun as possible for dogs and handlers.

Interests: Travel, writing, flyball.
Thank you
Russell Evans

Getting to Know the Candidates 2022: Emily-Rose Allred

My name is Emily-Rose Allred and I am running for the NAFA Board of Directors.  

I started playing Flyball in 2012 with my shelter mix Nova. She needed an energy outlet and loved a tennis ball. I googled “Dog sports” and found flyball. From my very first practice I was all in. I have never been a family person, but have been so blessed to have found my family within the flyball community. 

In 2018 I founded That’s So Fetch Flyball Club in Region 9. We started with 4 core members and have quickly grown to 12 active teammates with many wonderful dogs. In my day to day life, I am an administrative assistant for an outdoor lighting company and can be found pretty much 24/7 on the internet talking about flyball. 
I share my life with 7 dogs (and a husband) all of which have played flyball or are in training. From a French Bulldog to a sports mix, I am equal opportunity in my home and in my club for all people and dogs. 

I chose to run for the NAFA board because of my passion for the sport.  I would like to help promote our sport and help current competitors have the best time possible. My goals would be finding ways to open dialog between competitors, as well as make resources for captains who need help and feedback.  I know personally navigating as a Captain, I have needed support from many other Captains in my Region and wish there had been easier access to information or mentorship.  Most importantly, I would like to serve on the NAFA board because I would love to give back to the community that has given me so much. 

Sharing the Sport of Flyball

REMEMBER YOUR first flyball dog?

By Jayne McQuillen and Dede Crough

This year at CanAm XII, NAFA teamed up with AKC.TV and ESPN to showcase flyball to a broader audience. The CanAm Championship races will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Sunday, October 17th and TSN2 on Monday, October 18th (check your local listings). Such fantastic exposure–combined with more people looking for ways to have fun with their dogs– means we’re likely to get a lot of inquiries about how to get started in flyball. Here are some great ways you and your club can play a part:

Get them hooked!

  • Invite interested people to visit a tournament and experience the excitement of racing in person!
  • Invite new people to watch a practice or, even better, try out some simple things like recalls with their dog.

Classes or workshops

  • If you are open to new members and/or teaching classes, get your club featured here on the NAFAblog. Contact us at cc@flyball.org.
  • A “try before you buy” workshop is a great way for both the instructor and the dog owner to determine if flyball class is the right choice for a dog. You could make the fee for the workshop very reasonable and apply it to the cost of the first session of classes for anyone who registers before the next beginner session starts.

Help connect people

  • If you aren’t currently taking new club members or offering classes, reach out to other area clubs, your regional director, and training facilities so you know where to refer anyone who contacts you for info.
  • If you offer classes but your club isn’t taking new members right now, find out which nearby clubs are taking new members so new dog/handler teams have somewhere to go once they get closer to being competition ready.

Teaching flyball to new people can be challenging; it takes time and patience. Although there is more upfront effort required to train both inexperienced handlers and green dogs, there are big payoffs in welcoming new people. When I look at Skidmarkz, almost every handler started with no experience, but a lot of desire to learn. They have all grown into amazing handlers and team members who each bring unique skills to our club. I know Skidmarkz is stronger for helping people get into the sport.

My first dog was a challenge to train. Zoe wasn’t fast, and she didn’t take to the sport easily. But it was that dog, and the training support we received from other flyballers, that hooked us on the sport. Think back to the dog that got you into flyball. Maybe you are lucky enough to still have that special dog in your life. It’s highly likely someone took the time to show you how to train that dog.

People ask, How did Skidmarkz become such a big club? How did you manage to bring 19 people and 42 dogs to CanAm? It didn’t happen all at once; all these orange people have slowly trickled into the club over the years. We’ve always welcomed those who wanted to learn and do more with their dogs. We took in some unlikely dogs with fantastic owners. We were willing to take anyone who truly embraced the sport and our club has flourished as a result. Great potential teammates are out there wanting to do more with their dogs, wanting to learn this sport. Make sure you don’t miss out on an opportunity to help them be successful and to help your own club out in the process! The sport needs you. Go Flyball!

Lots of orange at CanAm XII!

Masked Flyball – Tips & Tricks

By Jayne McQuillen

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

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

Things to keep in mind:

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

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

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

Other things to consider:

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

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

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

Get to Know NAFA People – Andrea (Annie) Taylor

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

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

By Dede Crough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We asked Annie:

What’s your favorite part of the job?

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

What’s the most challenging aspect?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q&A with Candidates 2021 – 2 of 2

Question 1 – Which Committee(s) do you think would be a good fit for you and why?

Lynda Mantler: I am eager to work diligently where needed should I be a successful board candidate. Areas I feel I would be able to contribute best are: 

Marketing Committee – Continue with the Junior Participant pin and CanAm shirt competitions.  Incent Junior Participants by bringing in extra recognition for them; bring a wider array of NAFA branded products available to competitors and judges.  Smaller items could be offered for purchase as tournament prizes. 

Judges Committee – Regular dialogue with judges as they are often first to see issues that need to be addressed.  Ensure we properly equip our judges with meaningful training and trust them to do the job.  Provide a prompt response when NAFA is made aware of issues brought forward by judges, competitors and RDs. 

Technology committee – There are some people out there in the flyball community who have great ideas and are working on ways to improve technology such as the way stats are recorded at tournaments.  Let’s get them talking with the technology committee.  

Election Committee – Continue to explore ways to engage our constituents in the process.  Encourage interested competitors to run for election.  Ideally, NAFA would have representation from many geographic areas. 

Executive Committee – I am currently serving as secretary and would love to continue in that capacity.  Having the minutes available to be read as soon as possible is an important part of communication with the flyball community. 

Emma Mak:  First, I would like to continue on the Rules Committee, as I’ve been a member since 2017 and chair of that committee since 2018, so I bring experience, as well as my in-depth knowledge of the NAFA database and things like regional, NAFA and ROCC calculations to the table. There will be rule changes coming based on the new measuring system rollout, and as a co-chair of the Special Measuring Committee (tasked with coming up with recommendations for the rollout for the board), I’m well positioned to steer the Rules Committee as we make the necessary adjustments to the rules.

Last year I chaired the newly formed NAFAblog Committee, and would like to continue working on that as the articles produced are a means of engaging the flyball community, as well as a way of attracting new flyballers by featuring clubs that are looking for new members and/or offering lessons.

I would also like to continue as a member of the Technology Committee, as I’m NAFA’s statistician and have the most in-depth knowledge of the database. The committee will continue to focus on further development of new EJS components, as well as longterm plans for moving the sport forward with tournaments becoming paperless. In the shortterm, I’ve been using a great online scoring program developed by a competitor at my club’s tournaments, and hope to see if NAFA can make this available. I would also like to see the website be updated to use WordPress so as to become more easily updateable and compatible with mobile devices.

Jayne McQuillen:  I think I would be a good fit for the Rules, Marketing, Disciplinary, Technology Committees.  I am already on the Communications & NAFA Blog Committees.  I am a good fit for the Rules Committee because as a Regional Director, I have to be very familiar with the Rulebook.  Competitors routinely asked about rules, rule changes, and interpretations of the rules.  I have discussed many rule related issues with judges, the Executive Director, and sent items to the BOD for further clarification.  I also drafted the RD Handbook which required sifting through the Rulebook to narrow down which rules specifically apply to the RD.  I think I would be a good fit with the Disciplinary Committee because I do know the rules and have dealt with issues further forward!  While I am thrilled with the new EJS system in development, I think there is more technology that NAFA can continue to make improvements.  Technology also involves websites, databases and any emerging avenue we can utilize to make competing or hosting a tournament easier.  Tying technology into Marketing & Communications efforts is a good way to make sure NAFA doesn’t miss out on new ways to keep the sport modern and relevant.on the ground as an RD.  I have a strong interest in marketing the sport of flyball.  To me, marketing is not just making people aware of flyball and aware of NAFA.  We need a more concentrated effort to not just make people aware of the sport, but to help clubs turn them into competitors.  We also need more support to help with club development in areas where there are no existing clubs.   Last, I love technology and I would love to help push the sport

Alex Le: I can add value to any committee but would love to be a part of the Technology Committee.  Given my background with the firms here in silicon valley, I can help drive some strong relationships to help with building a better website or even partnering with vendors to help streamline costs for streaming during our CanAm tournament.  I know alot of work goes into building our new lights and would love to help out where I can.

Question 2: What things have you done to help Flyball in general and NAFA specifically in the past?

Alex Le: I have loved flyball ever since I discovered it with my first labrador retriever.  He was never the fastest but he enjoyed his time playing and I enjoyed meeting so many incredible people all over the US, Canada and now throughout the larger flyball community accross the world.  I’ve been a huge advocate for the sport and driving new members by teaching beginner flyball classes and encouraging new participants to try the sport whenever they see us practicing or working foundational skills.  I am currently a member of the Communications committee and would love to be more involved to help provide additional transparency or in whatever capacity is needed to help NAFA grow.

Jayne McQuillen: As a 20+ year competitor and team owner, a lot of what I have done is on the ground level.  First and foremost, I have offered the opportunity to learn the sport to people in my local area. Being willing to teach classes, to train new dogs off the street and get people excited about the sport is really important!  As the team owner I’ve overseen Skidmarkz growth from 8 people in 2002 to 20 people today, most of whom were brand new to the sport of flyball.  My husband and I have built own flyball training building, which we rent out to other local clubs and individuals.  That enables more people to practice without investing in lots of equipment.  We also have hosted fun matches as an opportunity for local clubs to get tournament like experience.  As a Regional Director, I’ve also helped put on an Open House, in the largest Metro area of Iowa.  This helped the first Des Moines Area flyball club get great exposure to interested people and there are now 2 clubs in that area!  I try to provide connections for mentorship, training and equipment resources to help those teams starting out.  On a regular basis I am contacted about clubs in our region and send interested people to the nearest clubs.  I try to maintain an accurate contact list and know which clubs are teaching classes and/or accepting new members.  I work to maintain an active, informative and fun regional Facebook page that keeps competitors up to date. Recently I started a Facebook group for flyball just in the St Louis, MO area.  There has been a continual stream of interest in flyball in that area, but no active clubs.  My hope is to organize a similar Open House style event in that area, when it’s safe to do so.  Hopefully, this will jumpstart club development in what was a hotbed of flyball years ago.  I have tried to increase NAFA’s profile by participating in the Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge and I followed up by contacting local news outlets to promote the airing of that show, as well as the sport of flyball in my area.  I’ve also a volunteer with the Communications Committee and the Special Measuring Committee.  

Emma Mak:  I feel very strongly about NAFA flyball. Before my last three years on the board, I was a non-board committee member on the Rules Committee, Technology Committee and Election Committee for several years. I’m also a Co-Regional Director for Region 2, working mainly on the non-event duties, such as approving sanctioning and schedules. I think one of the best ways to contribute to NAFA is to host tournaments! I’ve been a Tournament Director and/or Tournament Secretary for my club for a few years hosting popular, themed events in our region.

Lynda Mantler:  I have helped organize and participated in many public flyball demonstrations such as fairs, Canada Day celebrations, Giants lacrosse games and even for a church group! I also was one of the organizers and trainers for introductory flyball lessons for many different sessions over the years. We handed out flyers that were produced by our club and also the NAFA brochures. And of course, I talk about flyball to anyone I meet who does not know about it!

I have a strong work ethic.  Over the years I have done a lot of volunteering to help clubs at tournaments.  I love to work as line judge, on the timing table or wherever I am needed.   I have served as tournament director and tournament secretary and had a few opportunities to sub in for our Regional Director.  All great learning experiences!

For NAFA, I have served on the Board of Directors for the past four years and have had excellent attendance at meetings.  I have worked on:

  • Disciplinary Committee and have been working on an ad hoc committee regarding procedures for Unsportsmanlike Charges.
  • Judges Committee – working on the committee to oversee education requirements, development of new judges and advancement of judges.
  • Executive Committee – In my role as secretary, I have worked at getting the board of directors meeting minutes out in a timely fashion. Having the minutes available for participants to read is part of the efforts to help communication. 
  •  Special Measuring Committee – the committee goals are: 
  • Make Measuring Easier for Competitors, Judges and RDs
  • Make Measuring Consistent
  • Ensure fair checks and balances in the overall process
  • Chair of the Marketing Committee.  Working on the ongoing yearly projects and looking to expand on that as noted above. 
  • I have brought forward ideas from competitors and some of them have been approved by the board and implemented. 

Working at CanAm to support the event.  My job the past few years was organizing volunteers to ensure we had people to work on the timing tables, line and box judge positions for up to 7 rings.  On race days, it means getting everyone to their position on time and organizing breaks and lunches for everyone so racing can run smoothly.  I spent a lot of time doing all of these jobs as required.  It meant long days of being on the go (38,000 steps one day), but it was a challenge and a great feeling to accomplish this. 

Question 3: Open – Anything you would like to add as a closing statement for your Board of Directors candidacy?

Lynda Mantler: Why vote for me:  Passion for the cause:  FLYBALL!

I will support the flyball community and express my opinion at meetings

I will diligently prepare ahead for each meeting.  I will make the time to do this.

Eager to serve on committees.

I will bring your ideas and concerns forward to the board

I enjoy serving organizations that I am involved with.  I have prior board experience having served on nonprofit flyball and community club boards and various industry boards.  I have served as secretary and treasurer and director at large. 

Some people excel at flyball skills training.  That is not my forte, however, I feel I have much to contribute to the board of directors. 

I realize that the status quo is not good enough in organizations.  If we stay the way we are, we are actually falling behind other organizations that are making advancements and taking some of our members.  We need to continue to evolve and improve.  There is competition out there which definitely makes us better.  We need people who are open minded and willing to make changes that will make our sport better.  i.e., new awards, new tournament formats, new technology, exploring ideas from competitors. 

We all need a fresh start every year. It’s important that we go into the New Year with an open mind and a new way of thinking. I am really looking forward to racing again.  It has been a long time since most of us have been able to see our flyball friends and feel the excitement of competition.  I am an optimist and believe we will make flyball work in 2021.  It may not be the way we want it to be at first, but we will get back into the lanes in some fashion and appreciate every bit of it.   

The final date to vote is January 13.  Please be sure to cast your vote and vote for Lynda 😊  I would be honored to serve on your behalf.  

Thank you!

Emma Mak:  I’d just like to say thank you to those that are taking an interest in our responses to these questions and those posed in the live chat. I hope to continue serving on the board during this difficult yet exciting time, as we move towards re-opening and rolling out a new, robust measuring system. Looking forward to seeing you all in the lanes when we can be together again!

Jayne McQuillen:  I thank everyone for taking the time to get to know all of the NAFA Candidates.  I see volunteering on the NAFA BOD as way that I can give back to the sport that has given so much to my family & I.  I have already stepped up and volunteered as an RD, and on several Committees.  Overall, I hope everyone has gotten a sense of how much I value promoting this sport to anyone.  Current flyballers obviously know the sport and love it.  However, I think there is a missing link between people knowing that Flyball exists and people having the opportunity to train & compete in it.  I know many flyballers have had the chance to try out new sports in the last year due to COVID.  The opportunity was there to try those sports out, when it’s safe, Flyball needs to be just as easy to try out.  We all can make sure we grow our own sport by not turning away interested people.  We can increase participation, grow teams, grow clubs and in the end grow tournaments by helping make sure the sport is accessible.  I also invite anyone who has questions for me to email mcjayne@yahoo.com.         

Alex Le:  Thank you so much for taking the time to read and consider all the candiates.  There are some amazing people here that will be able to provide great support for the board and help NAFA grow into a great organization.  I am so excited, as I am sure everyone else is, about getting back into the ring for racing and seeing all my friends again in 2021.  I understand that change is difficult and hard and we’ve all been through alot in 2020.  I hope that everyone takes a look at my strong background in management and my comitment to providing transparency and support to all players.  As a board member, you have my promise to bring you transparency, to ensure that you will be listened to and that your concerns and issues are addressed.  This is the way to help all of us create a great NAFA organization.

Q&A with Candidates 2021 – 1 of 2

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

Alex Le: The primary reason to serve on a Board of Director is to meaningfully contribute to serving an organization.  That’s a pretty typical answer.

I am a leader.  I’ve managed large scale silicon valley projects, large budgets, led diverse teams and spent countless hours in meetings and conference calls to deal with emergencies and put out situational fires.  It’s in my DNA, and its been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional life.

BUT I also believe NAFA may be in need of a strong go getter within the Board.  We want to continue to ensure that we challenge the current flyball players but also effectively reach the new ones that are joining the sport.  Getting these folks to engage and participate requires us to build trust through our transparency while being able to allow NAFA to adapt and move into a more diverse and connected flyball community.

Cultural organizational changes are challenging and scary…. And I want to help NAFA embrace new perspectives and views.  I come with solutions and can bring action oriented common sense to help move NAFA through my skills in technology, communication transparency, partnerships, and building engagement with our flyball players.

Jayne McQuillen: I have always believed you should give back to the organizations that you enjoy participating in if you want them to continue to be there for you to enjoy.  Having worked with various volunteer run organizations, I am well aware that there is a need for hard working, thoughtful people to keep moving the organization forward. 

Emma Mak: I am running for my second term as a board member because I enjoy giving back to NAFA flyball; the sport has brought me so many positive things in my life: great friends, great dogs, and a sense of community. I like working on a team with the other board members and ED, all of whom also have a great passion for flyball and for helping people. I feel my strengths which include working out the details of how something can be implemented, being determined to get things done in a timely manner, and having leadership skills add value to the board.

Lynda Mantler: As a current member of the board, I want to continue to support and contribute to the sport I am so passionate about. I have received so much from the awesome experiences I have had during my time in flyball and have made lifelong friends. I want to be involved and give back to the sport.  I Iike to know what is going on and I find work on the NAFA board very interesting and challenging. The board needs many points of view and I am not afraid to speak up at meetings and state my opinions.  It’s important to have views from all the various regions.  I enjoy being part of a team that I can contribute to. 

Question 2: What is the one thing you would like to see changed, added or removed and why?

Lynda Mantler: An overhaul of the entire measuring process has been top of mind. This is being actioned now by a special measuring committee and will be resolved in the coming months, so I will choose another topic. 

An idea for when racing resumes…introduce sanctioned pairs and singles racing on a trial basis.   Tournaments will likely be smaller when we can begin racing again.  This would enable the host club to offer another class of racing to help with entry fees and add revenue for NAFA as well. 

Some advantages of trying this out: 

  • Fewer people in the ring at a time
  • Set aside a specific time frame for when these races are run, ie. lunch time and after the teams racing has finished.  That would allow some competitors to come into the venue only when they are racing.
  • After the long period when we haven’t been racing, there will be dogs that can complete the course but are not ready to race on a team.  It would give them exposure in a tournament environment.
  • It would give competitors the opportunity to have their dog’s time recorded on the EJS
  • Suited for competitors whose club can’t field a team but have members that still want to come out and race
  • This could work for clubs that can field a team but don’t have enough for multiple teams.  The dogs not on a team could race in singles and pairs. 
  • Dogs would run fewer heats than dogs on a team, so it would work for dogs that need to work up to full time racing again

Monitor the success of the new offering and invite feedback.

Emma Mak:  I want to see improvements to the measuring system implemented. I’m currently co-chair of the Special Measuring Committee and we’re presenting a plan for a fully realized mandatory measuring system to the board by the end of this year. The plan will realize three goals:

  1. Making measuring easier for competitors, Judges and RDs.
  2. Making sure measuring is consistent across regions.
  3. Ensuring for checks and balances in the overall process.

Measuring has long been a point of frustration for NAFA’s competitors, and implementing a plan that meets these three goals needs to happen so NAFA can move forward and put this divisive issue behind us.

Jayne McQuillen: I would like to see improvements in NAFA’s technology.  At the bare minimum, a modernized website that is more user friendly.  I think it especially needs more appeal to people who are trying to find out about the sport.  Along with that, I would like to see a move to more electronic record keeping for tournaments.  I know Alex Le has some great ideas on that front that are already being implemented at tournaments in his area.  

Alex Le: Ohhh, tought one.  I do see, from the past few years, that there is a changing population participating in flyball.  With this comes advances in the way we play the sport and as the sport grows,  we get these incredible faster times and each year, a new crop of participants join the fun.

For us to move NAFA into the next stage, we need to be able to embrace collaborative problem solving.  The organization needs to be able to adjust to the changing environment and let go of the zero sum game, where someone has to lose in order for you to win.  Where collaborative problem solving occurs, innovation follows.

If we work together to solve problems and take on insights and perspectives from our members, we grow together to represent everyone involved.  As an example, I recently proposed that we review our website and as COVID events unfolded, offered a plan to help NAFA move into a more responsive communication standard and transparency, in addition to improving our web site and infrastructure.  I don’t come with complaints; I always come prepared with solutions and partnership with large organizaitons who are willing to help us solve problems and improve the way NAFA responds to members and provide needed transparency.

Question 3: How would you deal with a situation in which you have a strong opinion on a topic/issue brought up for a Board of Directors vote and the majority of the Board disagrees with you?

Alex Le: I believe this question should be stated as how would the current Board of Directors feel if the majority of the people from NAFA disagrees with the Board.  

Disagreements and differing perspectives are the hallmark of democracy and our growth as an organization.  I am not asking to be a Board member to further my own interests; I am running to be a NAFA board member, as I’ve alluded to in my answers, to represent the folks on the ground who play flyball with NAFA and who spend countless hours trainning and travelling and participating in dog sports to spend time with their dogs and their friends.  

Being in a leadership position means you have to be able to practice critical listening skills and be able to translate that into a prespective that will allow the organization to grow as changes are inevitable and change can be good.  In my professional life and personal life, I am keen on hearing all perspectives and am very good at understanding all sides of an issue.  If there is a disagreement, I plan on being connected enough to the NAFA players and participants to give them a voice at the table.  

If the there is a strong disagreement from the Board on an issue at hand, I plan on being able to articulate the different perspective and represent the diversity that exists from the NAFA participants.  I want to make sure that even if the issue vote is not the decision for the majority of the Board, the different views and diversity of the minority perspective and the members’ views are not under valued or that the voices are not being heard.  To me, the NAFA Board needs to represent all of NAFA participants; we need to be more effective at ensuring that we elevate different voices, integarte these contrasting insights and that we always welcome conversations, even if they are difficult ones to have. 

Jayne McQuillen: I fully recognize that my thoughts are not the only thoughts on any topic, being a board member means you have to be willing to compromise, adjust thinking and work to move forward any decision.  Board members can all have their own opinions, but that doesn’t mean your way is the only way.  You can set aside your opinion to work toward group goals.

Emma Mak: The Board of Directors is made up of nine people from various clubs, regions, and backgrounds, who want to do what is best for NAFA. I’m not someone to hold back my opinion for what I think is best for the organization, but if the majority of the board disagrees and wants to go a different way – I will support the final decision. When discussing a topic/issue, it’s good to have respectful disagreement among board members, as considering different view points, and looking at an issue from all sides are key to coming to the best decision for the organization. Once the decision is made, it’s important to move past any disagreement and work as a cohesive team to communicate and implement the results of that decision.

Lynda Mantler: This is bound to happen when there are differing opinions as there needs to be on any board. I have experienced this and what I did was express my opinion and the reasons for it to ensure that what I believed was understood.    When the vote went in a direction I did not agree with, I respected that my view was not that of the majority.   It did not stand in the way of me earnestly working towards the outcome for the project that had been decided on.  I contributed within the guidelines provided and focused on the positive aspects of the project. In the end, I felt a sense of accomplishment for doing this.

Getting to Know the Candidates: Alex Le

Alex is a proven leader and has held leadership positions in Business Strategy, Information Technology Management, and Program/Portfolio Management.  He is a lawyer by training and currently serves on multiple boards including co-chair of the HRC fund raising committee and an active member of the Fair Oaks City Council in his community.  For NAFA, Alex is currently on the Communications Committee. 

He comes from a strong management consulting background, having worked for the top 5 professional services and consulting organizations and currently works with a Silicon Valley startup in CA to help drive program management processes and implement best practices.  This background to driving engagement and transparency to constituents is an asset that he can bring to NAFA. 

Alex is running for NAFA Board as a new member to bring a much-needed injection of insight and execution to help the Board fulfil its vision and further the flyball sport within the dog sports community.  Alex brings awareness and understanding of new members that have joined the flyball community, seeking a fun and energetic activity for their dogs.  With this comes the socialization aspect of flyball events and an opportunity to meet others who share these interests.  A Board that understands and reflects these values and interests of ALL their members is key to a successful growth of flyball and NAFA.  To this end, Alex will be running on 3 key components that he will bring to NAFA: Transparency, Fairness, and Modernization. 

As we grow as an organization, change is inevitable, and Alex will bring the sharpness of his ability to solve problems and targeted execution to help NAFA move forward into its next phase.  We must, as an organization, re engage flyballers and do so in a systematic approach that will drive those key engagement interests from ALL our members.  A NAFA future with a strong structure to provide members with transparency and use of technology to modernize how we play the game will be the key to our success as an organization.  This way of thinking and commitment to our members will keep all of us competing with our dogs in NAFA and make our time with NAFA a top notch flyball experience.

Getting to Know the Candidates: Jayne McQuillen

My name is Jayne McQuillen and I am running for the NAFA Board of Directors.  

I was introduced to flyball in the fall of 1998, when a flyball competitor adopted one of my foster dogs.  She invited us to a practice and a few short months later, our dog was in the ring!  A year later, we needed a second dog for my husband to play with.  We eat, breathe, sleep flyball now!  I never would have imagined that 20 years later we would still be enamored with the sport.  As a bonus, we are sharing that love with our eight year old daughter.  The big attraction for us is just having fun with our dogs, however, we found a second family with our club and supportive community of fellow dog lovers.  

I am currently the club owner of Skidmarkz Flyball Club, Regional Director for Region 21, a volunteer with the NAFA Communications Committee and the new Special Measuring Committee (SMC).  I volunteered to draft the first version of the new Regional Director’s manual.  Which is a great help for new & existing Regional Directors, as often the responsibilities of the position were passed by word of mouth.  It also helps provide uniformity across regions and well as transparency to competitors about the role of Regional Director.  I am very excited to be involved with the (SMC), the new measuring device looks very promising.  We are working to make sure the measuring process is easy for competitors and clearly communicated.  As the Regional Director of an active and growing region, I have tried very hard to help new people find clubs to play on and helped new clubs develop from scratch.  Having the opportunity to fill these volunteer roles with NAFA has given a great insight into the complexity of issues facing the NAFA BOD.

In my real life, I work part time as an Administrative Assistant, which allows me time to delve into lots of other interests.  I spent 18 years involved in Australian Shepherd Breed Rescue organizations.  Helping first with a large national group, ARPH, as a foster home, Regional Representative for Iowa and a BOD member.  I was the founder of a smaller Midwest based rescue group, Protégé Canine Rescue where I also served for ten years as President.  Working in non-profit animal welfare organizations required a great deal of people skills, compromise and flexibility.  I currently run a business teaching dog training focused on performance skills.  COVID-19 has added new challenges to that.  Thankfully out of the box thinking has enabled me to find new ways to teach in these difficult times.

 My primary reason for running for the NAFA BOD is to utilize my diverse experience to grow the sport of flyball by creating a competitive environment that is accessible to everyone.  I have trained a broad array of dogs, some slow, some fast, some steady and some unreliable, and have dogs who fit in every category.  My club once could barely field 2 lineups, and barely ran under 24 seconds.  We have grown to a much larger team, with a wider variety of dogs.  Currently, I have one of the fastest dogs on the team, as well as one of the slowest which provides a great contrast in training and competing.  I believe whether it is a dog, team, or club that everyone deserves equal treatment and to have their interests represented in a fair way.  So many times those pet owners do go on to become the fiercest of competitors.  Many times they just find what I did, a fun outlet for their dogs and a fun group of dog lovers.  I really want NAFA to focus on making sure the bread & butter competitors are not taken for granted. 

Getting to Know the Candidates: Emma Mak

READY?!! It’s one of the best sounds on Earth, as the teams watch the lights for racing to begin…I’ve been playing flyball for eighteen years, and STILL find the sights and sounds thrilling.

In 2001, I told my friend that we were getting a miniature poodle puppy, and she said–Oh, you should do flyball with him!–we need height dogs. We went out to a practice and I’d never seen anything like it. It was fascinating to see dogs put the sequence of moves together. I couldn’t wait to see if Jonah could learn it. After about a year, we were in the lanes and Jonah was absolutely loving it…he would actually glance over at the dog in the other lane and try to beat it back.

Since then my family of people and dogs has grown significantly: Gord and I now have four kids and five dogs, most of whom participate in various ways in flyball. We are members of SpringLoaded, which is based in Niagara region, Ontario. Our club hosts multiple tournaments a year, where we have themes and encourage people to unleash their weirdness and dress-up–and maybe even dance a bit to our awesome tunes. I’ve been a Tournament Director and/or Secretary for most of our events. Hosting can be exhausting for a club, but it’s also SO much fun, especially when your teammates like to be creative and put their own special spin on the events.

We all know flyball is the best dog sport: it’s the only team sport and this means you get a whole new group of people to care about—your team, and beyond that, your ‘flyball family’ from all over North America. Over the years I’ve done work maintaining the NAFA database and it gave me some insight into the NAFA board work and committees. I’ve volunteered time on Election, Rules and Technology Committees to give back to the flyball community that’s brought me so much. I finally got up the nerve to run for the board in 2018.

I’m now the NAFA Vice Chairman, and chair of the Rules Committee and NAFAblog Committee. In my first term, one of my favourite accomplishments has been working with volunteers, Dede Crough and
Jayne McQuillen, to get the NAFAblog started as a way to engage the flyball community, and feature clubs looking for new members. My current main focus is as co-chair of the Special Measuring Committee (SMC), with Cindy Henderson. We are a nine-member team tasked with providing the board with a fully realized plan, by December 31st, 2020, for implementing a new measuring system that accomplishes three goals:

  1. Making measuring easier for competitors, Judges and RDs.
  2. Making sure measuring is consistent across regions.
  3. Ensuring for checks and balances in the overall process.

As the SMC works on the rest of the full plan, we’re keeping the feedback we’ve received from competitors, RDs, and judges front and centre. We know that competitors want to move on from the measuring issues of the past, and we’re determined to get it done.

Thanks for taking the time to read this to get to know me better. I hope you’ll consider supporting me in a second term as a board member. Wishing you all the best and look forward to seeing you in the lanes once flyball resumes. Stay safe!

Getting to Know the Candidates: Lynda Mantler

Hello fellow flyball fanatics, 

I am running for a second term on the NAFA board because I am passionate about flyball.  When I started out, I never expected it would come to this!  I was just looking to get my dog into agility so we could have an activity to do over the winter months when it was cold and wet outside when I got home from work every day. 

The agility class was full so I enrolled my Weimaraner in flyball lessons.  It seemed like a fine sport to me but my dog was crazy about it so I continued on and joined the flyball and agility club.  Then we started competing and I saw that competitors spent their entire weekend running flyball.  That seemed extreme to me but before long, I was spending my weekends at tournaments,  helping with club lessons, working on the board of the club and planning all my vacations around tournaments. 

That was 20 years ago!  As with most hobbies you get into, there is so much more than at first meets the eye.

I have run on fast teams and slower teams; open and regular.  I’ve enjoyed travelling to other provinces and states, and while each region definitely has its own flavour, one thing that is constant is that teams crate together, delight in camaraderie, share food, love their dogs and have a great time in the lanes. 

I am a member of Run Free Flyball Club in Aldergrove, BC in Region 7; British Columbia, Oregon, Washington.  We host a tournament every year and I have been tournament secretary since joining the club.  We always add a little extra fun to the tournament by making up games, contests and awards. 

I realize that people have different reasons they love flyball and I understand the rewards available for dogs and competitors in all divisions.  Flyball matters for all people and all dogs. 

As my involvement in the sport grew, I became very interested in anything to do with organizing and working at tournaments which evolved into my interest in serving on the NAFA board. 

My experience in my worklife has been largely managerial.  I have served on numerous industry and community boards. 

My duties on the board have included the Disciplinary Committee, Judges Committee, Executive Committee in my capacity as secretary and Chair of the Marketing Committee.  I’ve attended CanAm every year that I have been on the board, working and supporting the tournament. 

Being on the board has brought an understanding of the magnitude of work and sacrifices that board members undertake to make flyball fair for all regions.  I feel very privileged to be working on behalf of NAFA competitors. 

I am currently on the Special Measuring Committee to review the entire measuring process from the device through to the actual measuring of dogs at tournaments and recommend to the NAFA BoD a new comprehensive program and process for measuring.  It will be great to finally get this resolved and roll out the plan.  NAFA needs to keep moving ahead to stay relevant in the dog sport world. 

I miss flyball so much and am anxiously waiting to get back in the lanes.  We have a great flyball community.  I’m really looking forward to seeing all the people and dogs again! 

Thanks for reading.  I hope you will consider voting for me in this election. 

Lynda Mantler

Maintaining Canine Fitness During Flyball Hiatus – PART 2 of 2

Authors: Keri Evers-McQuiggan, Lisa DosPassos, Emma Mak

In the second part of this series of how to keep our flyball dogs fit during this time off, we’re looking at our last two (4 & 5) canine fitness topics: how to keep a veteran dog fit and healthy, and suggestions for exercises to help prevent injuries in the future. Check out our previous article (1 to 3) that looked at how to keep your dog fit when you have limited space, a weekly program for canine fitness, and how to teach behaviors geared specifically for puppy fitness.

Our contributors to this series are all NAFA competitors and have certifications in the canine fitness/rehab/conditioning field. The advice given here deals with general exercises, and should not be taken as specific medical advice for your dog.

4How do I keep my veteran dog fit and healthy?

Contributor: Keri Evers-McQuiggan, DVM, CCRP, Niagara Canine Conditioning Centre in Niagara, ON

Club and Region: Keri runs with SpringLoaded in Region 2

Keri has been playing flyball for 17 years and currently runs with her 3.9s Boston Terrier, Bacardi Breezer.

The good news is that even with this prolonged layoff from flyball, our dogs haven’t lost a lot of fitness . . . provided they have been maintaining a moderate level of activity. Veteran dogs certainly know the game, so missing out on practices and competitions is not a concern regarding loss of skills. The most important things are keeping them limber and ready for action so that they don’t hurt themselves when they return to full activity and sports.

If you haven’t been able to maintain some level of activity, now is the time to start EASING your way into more exercise. Start with walks on flat, even ground for 10-15 minutes. As you feel more comfortable, make walks longer and start adding in hills and rougher terrain, then add some spurts of jogging.

If your dog has had an injury in the past or has joint pain or stiffness, passive range of motion (PROM) is a great way to get those joints loosened up and feeling good again. To do this, put one hand on each side of the joint and slowly move through the full but comfortable PROM for 30 to 60 seconds. There’s no need to force or stretch anything. DO NOT “BICYCLE” A LIMB. Most dogs don’t like this and it’s not a natural movement; focus on one joint at at time.

Core strength and joint stability are the keys to minimizing injury. Isometric exercises, where muscles are contracted but not changing length, are low impact and very effective—for example, balancing on an unstable surface like an air mattress or other inflatable. Leg lifts are another easy exercise. Start by lifting one leg at a time. Don’t lift too high, and do keep the limb in the plane of the body. Hold each one long enough that your dog has to stabilize himself, but not so long that he starts to fall over. If very wobbly, keep a hand under the belly to steady your dog. Progressions are holding the limbs longer, doing diagonal limbs at the same time, then going to both limbs on the same side. ALWAYS make sure you exercise on non-slip footing, but you can progress from the flat to unstable surfaces.

5What are some exercises I can do with my dog to prevent future injury?

Contributor: Lisa DosPassos, Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner

Club and Region: Lisa is the captain of Revolution Flyball and runs in Region 15

Lisa with Max

Keeping your canine athlete fit and strong goes a long way in injury prevention. While the nature of many dog sports makes it impossible to prevent all injuries, we can take steps to reduce the likelihood of them occurring due to repetitive stress and compressive activities.

As we attempt to keep our dogs fit during this unexpected downtime, and as we prepare to start back up with training, the main goals are strength and mobility. Building and maintaining strength and mobility in three areas—your dog’s core, limbs and spine—are helpful for both optimal performance and prevention of injury.


Exercises and activities that focus on engaging the muscles of both the abdomen and spine of the dog are helpful for improving core strength.

Some exercises that are beneficial include:

Planking: Have your dog place both front feet on the floor, slightly forward of their natural stance, and reach their back feet to a surface just beyond their natural stance. Be careful not to over stretch your dog in this position, or the focus will be on limb stability rather than core engagement. Start with the dog targeting marks on flat ground (dots, tape, etc.) and progress to raised, stable surfaces (step, rubber bowl upside down) and then raised dynamic surfaces (inflatables or foam cushions). Be sure to stabilize any surface or material that the dog will be standing on. Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds.

Leg Lifts: With your dog in a stable standing stance, slowly lift one leg off the floor, being careful to not pull the limb away from the body. Start with one leg, and have the dog hold this for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat for each leg. To increase the challenge, lift one leg from the floor, and once the dog is stable, slowly lift the diagonal opposite leg, (example, right rear leg and front left leg). Hold the stance for 5 to 10 seconds. You can increase the challenge by having them standing on a dynamic surface such as an inflatable or on a large piece of foam matting. Be sure to keep the surface from shifting while your dog is standing and balancing.


Diagonal Leg Lifts

Strengthening the limbs includes challenging both the large muscles as well as the smaller stabilizing muscles. Routinely performing range of motion exercises with your dog through all the joints of the legs, including the toes, will also alert you to any changes that may need attention.

Side Stepping: Guide your dog to step sideways:

Flat surface – side step in a heel position, or by guiding with a cookie or by using your body to guide. Add small poles such as agility jump poles, wrapping paper rolls or pool noodles for your dog to step over.

Raised surface – place your dog’s front feet or back feet onto a large rubber bowl, disc or a travel board, and guide them to step to one side and then the other.

Bows: Teach your dog to bow with their front end. Start on the floor, and to increase the challenge, progress to having the dog’s back feet on a surface a few inches in height. This is a great shoulder and front end exercise.

Sit to Stands: Position your dog in a corner and ask them to sit. Then ask them to break, stand, or get up (whichever command you normally use). Try to limit you dog from stepping forward while moving into the stand position. This will focus their effort on the hind end. Increase the challenge by having the dog stand with front feet up on a raised surface.

Range of Motion: Routinely take some time to move all of the joints of the limbs, from toes up to the body, through a full range of motion. Be sure to move each individual toe, bending and straightening each segment. A stiff or sore toe can create big problems either immediately or over time. If you notice any heat or reaction from your dog as you move any joint, compare it to the other side/limb and alert your rehab professional for further assessment.

Sore toes can can create big problems…


Spinal mobility and strength are integral to your dog’s health and fitness throughout their lifetime. Plank exercises and swimming can strengthen both your dog’s spinal muscles and stabilizers. Try the following stretches and movement exercises to help facilitate mobility and detect any limitations or difficulties which may need to be addressed.

Cookie Stretches: Lure your dog with cookies for these three neck/upper spine exercises:

Head Turns – Stand over your dog and gently “anchor” them around the waist area with your legs. Lure them to bring their head back towards their hip on each side, and reward them with a treat. Go back to neutral, and then lure them again, this time moving their nose towards their knee on each side. Finally, lure their head toward the floor or their toes. Note any hesitancy or difficulty from one side to the other.

Head Up/Head Down – Lure your dog to raise his head upward toward the ceiling, and then bring the treat down towards their sternum, moving your hand under and through their front legs. Hold this position for a few seconds as the dog tries to get the treat from your hand.

Side-to-side Neck Movement – With your dog seated in front of you, move the cookie slightly toward the front of their shoulder on each side, to encourage them to turn and move the upper part of their spine/neck.

Figure 8 or Leg Weaving: Lure or guide your dog to move in a figure-8 pattern on the floor, or to weave between your legs. Repeat several times in each direction. This is a good exercise to incorporate as a pre-run warm-up.

Zipper: “Zip” down your dog’s spine before they run. Hold your thumb against the side of your index finger (like you would hold a key), and before your dog goes for a run (down the course, for a recall, etc.), gently “zip” your hand down along the spine. This can bring blood flow to the spinal muscles and can also alert you to any sore areas. This technique is especially good for adult and senior dogs.

‘Zipper’ back massage technique

This is the final article in the two-part series on canine fitness in the time of our hiatus from flyball. Thank you to all our contributors: Joy Adiletta,
Keri Evers-McQuiggan, Lorraine Messier, April Pelletier and
Lisa DosPassos for providing invaluable information about how to keep our dogs fit and ready to return to flyball.

Hopefully these two articles inspire you to enjoy some quality one-on-one time with your dog doing some fitness exercises. Although, like us, most dogs would love to be in the lanes right now, just being with us is what they crave most. Until we can all see each other in the lanes again, stay safe. Go flyball!

Maintaining Canine Fitness During Flyball Hiatus – PART 1 of 2

Authors: Joy Adiletta, Emma Mak, Lorraine Messier, April Pelletier

How can we keep our flyball dogs fit during this time off from the sport we all love? With no tournaments, limited or no practice, not to mention restrictions on public spaces, it can be a real challenge. We approached some of our members that are professionals in the canine fitness and rehab field for some advice. The advice given here deals with general exercises, and should not be taken as specific medical advice for your dog.

We broke this topic down into six common questions and divided the content into two articles. This is Part 1 of 2 and deals with a weekly program for keeping your dog fit, activities/exercises for small spaces, and taught behaviors geared specifically for puppy fitness!

Thanks to our knowledgeable contributors for the great input! Is there a topic you would like to see addressed? Or maybe you’d like to be a guest author? Let us know at cc@flyball.org if you have an idea for an article or would like to contribute.

1How do I keep my dog fit when I have limited space (indoors or in my backyard)?

Contributor: Joy Adiletta, CCFT in Seattle, WA

Club and Region: Joy runs with Engage Flyball in Region 7

Joy has been a CCFT since the program’s inception in 2016 and owns Ready on the Line Canine Fitness Training. She is owner/captain of Engage Flyball, and currently races with Ezri (HOBBES), Sirella (FGdCh40K) and Sarek (puppy in training)

Requirements: Indoor or outdoor 10′ x 10′ space; Equipment: Stool, padded surface.

It can be a challenge to keep your dog fit in small spaces, especially in the current COVID-19 situation where shared larger spaces may be inaccessible. You can do some simple exercises at home with minimal equipment that will help keep your dog fit. Make sure care is taken to ensure good form (not as easy with the busy, fast dogs!) Give these exercises a try, and see if you can think of other ones to add on once you’ve mastered them—or contact a certified canine fitness trainer (look for the CCFT or CPCFT certifications) for more help!

  1. Tuck Sit to Kickback Stand with Stool – Have the dog place their front paws up on the stool and then bring their rear to a tuck sit, hold for reward, then have them kick their hind feet back into a stand. This works the rear end and the core, as having the front paws up ensures weight-bearing in the rear, and the movements utilize the core muscles.
  2. Pivot with Stool – Have the dog place their front paws up on the stool and then pivot around the stool with their back legs (go in both directions!) For best results, the dog should move their rear feet independently, not just shuffle in reaction to your lure or body pressure. Advanced dogs can also step over stationary objects around the stool. This exercise is great for rear end strength and agility, as well as better body awareness.
  3. Roll Over on Padded Surface – The twisting motion that our dogs go through in a box turn is called transverse motion, and it’s one of the hardest ones to work outside of flyball. Teaching a slow and controlled Roll Over (on a padded surface for comfort—a rug or yoga mat is great) is the simplest way to work those muscles. Be sure to teach it in both directions, and keep it slow and controlled to get the most benefit out of the exercise.
  4. Spin/Turn & Leg Weaves – Spin/Turn is simply having the dog turn in a circle with a flat back, ideally slowly and on command, without a lure. Many dogs like to spin really fast, or spin and land in a sit, so take the time to train a slow movement that keeps the dog in a stand at the end. Remember to teach both directions! This exercise helps with spinal flexibility and body awareness. Once your dog does spin and turn well, you can progress to leg weaves. Leg weaves are great for warming up and focusing before going into the flyball ring, too, so will be helpful when we return to competition!
Sirella and Sarek – demonstration of Roll Over and Spin/Turn

2What are some suggestions for fitness activities for puppies and young dogs (under than 15 months)?

Contributor: April Pelletier CVT, CCFT, FP-MT in Pembroke, MA

Club and Region: April runs with Mass Chaos in Region 13

April has five dogs that are either playing flyball or in training to compete.

Many of us have puppies right now (including myself!) and we are looking for ways to keep them active with age-appropriate activities. Fitness activities are a great way to work your puppy’s mind and body, and you don’t need much time or fancy equipment!

The most important thing you can do with your puppy fitness-wise is to teach them body awareness. This is a critical skill for all our flyball dogs, not only to help prevent injury, but also to improve performance. Simple activities like teaching your puppy to walk over poles (cavalettis), pivot work, backing up, and teaching them a rear foot target are just a few of the many body-awareness activities you can do to benefit your puppy.

For this article I’m going to provide instruction on how to begin teaching your puppy two important foundation behaviors: how to pivot and how to tuck sit!

For teaching the pivot you will need something stable and fairly low to the ground for your puppy to put their front feet on (try a rubber feed bowl, placed upside down.) It is important to make sure whatever prop you choose won’t move around on the ground while your puppy is stepping on it. It’s also crucial that your pup has a non-slip surface while pivoting. I recommend putting down a yoga mat (or two) on the ground, if needed. Check out this video:

Foundations for Pivoting

We can also teach our puppies some foundation behaviors for fitness that will help them with more advanced fitness exercises as they get older. Taught behaviors such as tucks sits, folding downs, kickback stands and rockback sits are useful for this and also build body awareness.

For teaching your puppy a tuck sit you will need a low, stable, non-slip object that is large enough for your puppy to comfortably fit all four feet on (I recommend a balance pad which you get on Amazon, but you can also use a couch cushion or a memory foam dog bed). Again, we want to make sure the floor surface isn’t slippery, so put down some yoga mats if needed. Here is a video on teaching a puppy to tuck sit:

Foundations for Tuck Sit

We have only just grazed the surface of the many fitness activities you can do with your puppy! If you are interested in learning more about canine fitness for your puppy or adult dog, please visit www.newenglandk9athlete.com or follow us on Facebook.

3What is a good weekly program for keeping my flyball dog fit during these times?

Contributor: Lorraine Messier, Owner/Trainer at Canine New England, Inc., in Walpole, MA

Club and Region: Lorraine runs with Patriot Flyball, Region 13

Lorraine has been playing Flyball in Region 13 since before it was an official region! She started with a club called Jumpmasters and recently launched a new club called Patriot Flyball. She is also a NAFA Judge.

Fitness fundamentals start with very basic behaviors. This allows you and your dog to develop a system of understanding and identifying proper behavior, and how to use verbal cues and rewards effectively.

If we start back at the beginning . . . did you teach your dog to sit first? How did the dog sit? Most dogs learn by following a treat at the nose, following the treat upward and backward until the butt touches the ground and . . . BAM! we give them a cookie. By not identifying clearly the behavior we want, your dog may have ended up with a lazy sit to the side, each foot pointing east and west, with their knees up near their ribs! Let’s start at the beginning so we can train those muscles to support the hind end and core throughout your flyball dog’s lifetime.

If you and your dog are new to fitness fundamentals, here is a list of seven routines to teach—a new one for each day of the week! Typically we practice a routine of two reps, three to five times (2 rep., 3-5x) with a break in between.

Some dogs may already have many of these behaviors and should work towards practicing each of these three to five times (3-5x) within a single session every day. This would equate to roughly 20 minutes (including breaks in between). Given the drive of flyball dogs, this should be an easy place to start.

DAY 1: Tuck Sit

Work this exercise on the flat. Front feet should be stationary while bringing the rear feet forward. Butt/hips are to be square with the shoulders.

DAY 2: Kickback Stand

Once again, this is done on the flat. This exercise is great for building core, hind end and belly. Work on a tuck sit to kickback stand as part of your routine.

DAY 3: Play Bow into a Sphynx Lie-Down

This can be three exercises in one: ask for a play bow, unfold to a stand; play bow into a down (Sphynx position); and back to stand.

DAY 4: Backing Up

Get your dog stepping backwards in a straight line.

DAY 5: Pivot

This works best from a raised platform. Get your dog in a straight stance in front of you with front feet on a platform and work the pivot using your body pressure, stepping left and right; hind feet are stepping both clockwise and counterclockwise.

DAY 6: Full Body Stretch

Using a raised platform (for example, edge of the couch), get the dog’s front feet on the platform with their rear feet on the floor. Encourage stretching upward while ensuring the top line of the dog remains straight (do not let your dog arch their neck backward over the spine!)

DAY 7: Figure-8 Through Legs

Slow rotation is best to encourage each step.

This seven-day routine can be made more challenging by using a slant board to enable greater weight distribution to the hind end.

This concludes Part ONE of our TWO-part series.

Thank you to Joy, Lorraine and April for their contributions to this article! Part 2 of this series will be coming shortly and addresses two more areas of canine fitness in the time of our hiatus from flyball: how to keep your veteran dog fit and healthy, and suggestions for exercises to prevent injuries in the future.

While we are all missing flyball, may you and your canine athletes stay healthy and safe until we can get back in the lanes once again!

Flyball Returns to the 2019 Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge

By Jayne McQuillen, NAFA Communications Committee

On August 5th, I received a surprise phone call from Paul Carson of Carson Events inviting Skidmarkz Flyball Club to participate in the 2019 Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge on September 27-28 at Purina Farms just west of St. Louis, Missouri. Carson Events decided to bring flyball back to the IDC in a big way! They invited the top two finishers from both NAFA & U-FLI’s 2018 championships. The idea was to showcase the best of the best from the sport of flyball.

Sharing that honor with the Skidz Crew were teams from clubs Hyperflight, Omaha Speed Racers and Animal Inn. The two greatest challenges were the short notice and that the IDC is held outside on grass. Not only were teams scrambling to get time off and lodging figured out, we all had to figure out if our dogs could play flyball outside! Adding to the time crunch, the IDC was only two weeks before CanAm and three weeks before U-FLI Champs. Normally busy fall schedules suddenly got a lot busier. Just one more adventure in flyball!

The last time the IDC featured flyball (in 2013) they ran a singles competition. Full teams racing posed some new challenges to the producers. They aren’t terribly familiar with flyball racing, so when the teams had questions, it led to even more questions. Namely, how would this blended competition work? NAFA sprung to the competitors’ aid, not only providing an EJS, but also negotiating a lot of details. We are so grateful that NAFA Executive Director Neil Flood explained flyball to Carson Events and helped us figure out how to make it all work!

This was a showcase of flyball for TV, not a tournament. To accommodate everyone, we used U-FLI heights and box regulations and NAFA lights and racing rules. Unfortunately Neil couldn’t join his club Animal Inn at the IDC. Riding to the rescue was Steve Corona, Chairman of the NAFA Board of Directors. What makes this even more admirable is that Neil and Steve were just a few weeks out from CanAm, the World’s Largest Flyball Tournament, as well as dealing with regular NAFA business. As the NAFA representative, Steve became the point of contact with Carson Events. He not only advocated for the teams, he helped make sure we put on the best show possible. When we had concerns or questions, he had already anticipated them and was working on resolutions. Schedules, heat, rain, runback length, taking down and setting up the EJS . . . all became details the competitors didn’t have to deal with! We could focus on safely racing our dogs. Also working tirelessly were judges Randy Garvin, Jess Love and Anthony Pirnat. They left just as much, if not more, sweat out on that hot, humid field as the competitors!

Carson Events and Purina Pro Plan treated the competitors really well. We had catered meals onsite, including an amazing dinner at the Purina Event Center featuring a great presentation highlighting the 22 years of the IDC. They also provided great swag, and free massages and chiropractic care—just for the dogs, unfortunately! They also went above and beyond to ensure the safety of our dogs. And to top it all off, we had front row seats to watch all the other events! Many of us were a bit starstruck seeing top international handlers and dogs from other sports.

Overall, I think the IDC will show a larger audience how exciting flyball is, not to mention how amazing our canine athletes are! And it will show the sportsmanship and true spirit of teamwork that pervade the flyball community. We all wore the same white IDC shirts, which made it hard to distinguish the individual teams when we raced. But it also meant that all you saw were flyballers—not NAFA teams, not U-FLI teams—working together in the spirit of cooperation that we love about this sport. If you needed a boxloader, pass caller, whatever . . . all you had to do was ask. At the Incredible Dog Challenge, we were all on Team Flyball and we were all #IncredibleTogether.

We don’t have exact dates and times that the 2019 Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge will be airing on TV, other than possibly in November. Stay tuned to NAFA communication channels (the NAFANews group, Facebook, Twitter, and this blog) for updates. You can also follow Carson Events on Facebook. They have a sneak peak posted already!