March 30, 2022

Episode 306: Interview with Trial Secretary Noreen Bennett

In this episode (41:23)

In this podcast, Noreen Bennett of PawPrint Trials joins the podcast to educate competitors about the role a trial secretary plays at AKC trials.

You Will Learn

  • The responsibilities of the trial secretary.
  • How management of trial entries and results have evolved over the years.
  • Why most trial entries are not handled electronically.
  • The future of agility trial management.
  • How Jennifer feels about her brief stint as a trial secretary.

Mentioned/Related

(upbeat music) - Welcome to "Bad Dog Agility," (dog barking) a podcast helping you reach all of your dog agility goals, whether it's competing under the bright lights of the televised finals at Westminster or successfully navigating a homemade course in your own backyard, we'll bring you training tips, interviews, and news about the great sport of dog agility. Are you ready? - I'm ready. - I'm ready. - I'm ready!

- The show starts with your hosts, Jennifer, Esteban, and Sarah. (upbeat music) - I'm Jennifer. - I'm Esteban. - And I'm Sarah, and this is episode 306. - Today's podcast is brought to you by the Westminster Kennel Club. There's been a big change to the date and location for the ninth annual Master's Agility Championship at Westminster. The show has been moved to the Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, New

York, and will be held on June 18, 2022. The trial will run from seven a.m. to 10 p.m. - This is the second time Westminster Agility will be held at the Lyndhurst Mansion. I competed there last year, and it's a beautiful outdoor location. It's held in two rings under covered tents. The Standard round and the finals will be held on artificial turf in an 80-foot by 130-foot ring,

and the Jumpers round will be held on grass in a 65 by 125-foot ring. - For 2022, your dog will need a MACH title to enter the Regular class or a PACH title to enter the Preferred class. They must have the appropriate title at the time of entry. Okay, now, listen carefully. There are two groups of people who will be able to enter this event. The first group

is invited entrants. These are all the dogs who are already registered for the original January date. If you are in this group, you should've already received an email with instructions for how to apply your entry to the new date. I hope you're checking your email because the deadline for this preliminary registration is today, March 30th, at three p.m. Eastern time. Dogs who are invited are guaranteed acceptance as

long as they meet the March 30th deadline. You must enter the same dog that was entered in January. No substitutions will be allowed. If you miss the deadline, you can still enter with the second group. The second group is the non-invited entrants. Westminster will accept entries on a first-received basis to fill any remaining spots in the trial. The opening date for new dogs is April 6th at seven

a.m. Eastern time. - I will be at Westminster again this year, and I hope to see you all there. - Today's podcast is also brought to you by HitItBoard.com and the new Teeter Teach It!, an easy-to-use tool that controls the amount of tip on your teeters so you can introduce motion to your dog in a gradual way. Go to HitItBoard.com for the new Teeter Teach It! and other

training tools and toys. Use discount code BDA10 to get 10% off your order. That's HitItBoard.com. Today, we are very excited to be joined on the podcast by Trial Secretary Noreen Bennett. Welcome to the podcast, Noreen. - Hi, thank you. - We are continuing our series on kind of a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on to create the trial that all of us as competitors go and compete in.

So in our last podcast, we talked to AKC judge Sheyla Gutierrez, and today, we're going to be talking with Noreen about everything that a trial secretary does and a little bit about her own trial secretary business and all of the things that she has been adding, but I got her name from competitors who are really excited about all of the perks that she had on her website, so

kind of talking about some of that and just more generally, what does a trial secretary do? And I do know that this is, you know, there are some things where it's gonna be the same everywhere, and there's gonna be some things where it depends on the trial secretary. It depends on the club. It depends on the show, but just to give people a general idea. So Noreen, let's

just start off with, well, first, let's start off with, like, your experience in the sport before we even get into your experience as a trial secretary. - Actually, my parents used to show in obedience back in the '50s with their collies and golden retrievers, so I really did grow up being a part of dog clubs and dog sports, et cetera, and then in the late '90s, we started

doing some of the agility, and I got talked into being a trial secretary for our local clubs because, as I said, I've always been involved in clubs, just doing different things. So 1997, '98, '97 was the first year I was trial secretary, and then it kinda grew, and Sharon Anderson, who was the Director of AKC Agility, talked me into trying to become a business because she knew she

could get more trials going, and so in 2000, I started doing it for other clubs, and then in 2005, I quit my regular job and started doing it full-time. - Wow, so I think that that kind of mimics some of the progression that we've seen, I think, everywhere because I was talking to you before the podcast about how when Esteban and I started agility, at least in our

area of the country, the club would put on the trial, and each club would just have one of their club members be the trial secretary for their own trial, and then it wasn't until in our area, somebody came and built an indoor facility, that they kind of became the one and only trial secretary for the whole entire area, and all the clubs went to them, and I wasn't

sure if that was, like, that progression was just our area because of the indoor facility, but it sounds like it's kind of been a trend across all of agility to have trial secretaries that have a little bit more experience, who service multiple clubs rather than each club providing their own. Jennifer, have you kinda seen the same thing? - Yes, absolutely. I remember back in the day, there was

one trial I actually agreed to trial secretary because we would kind of have a different person do each weekend, so you know, you have different trials opening at the different time and kind of accepting entries and sending out confirmations, and you never wanted to have the same person have two trials going on at the same time. So we crossover, and I was, like, "Oh, I'll do this one."

It was a one-time deal. It's a lotta work, all right, but now, we see this trend of, like, in our area, the trials at my facility that we help host, it's just two people, and they kind of alternate every other show, or if there's a particular weekend that they can or can't do, they rotate, but they're doing it more professionally, I guess, or you know, more as a

business, and then you gain all that experience, and you know the ins and outs, where the one time I did it, I spent as much time figuring things out as I did actually working on the trial stuff. So we are seeing the same trend in our area as well. - All right, and just to give everybody a little bit of background, Esteban and I are in the Houston,

Texas area, so Texas, South. Jennifer's in Ohio, and Noreen, you're up in the Northeast kind of. I looked at some of the trials. It was all New York, Rhode Island, Maryland, Connecticut, so that area. - Yep, correct. When we were doing this, when we were starting to grow agility, I'll say, in New England, the season pretty much ended with our November cluster, which was the biggest show then.

It's still the biggest show 20, whatever years later, and that was it, and then we didn't have any more trials until end of April or May because of the weather in New England, and everybody did obedience in that timeframe, and we actually tried to have some big spring trials. Nobody answered because they hadn't been training 'cause there just weren't those indoor places, and slowly but surely, the weather

got to people, and then we had some, we've got American Canine up in New Hampshire, which is where a lot of our trials are, so we're able now to do trials through the winter all year long, and people could train all year long. So yeah, definitely a metamorphosis. We don't have very many outdoor trials at all anymore. I say unfortunately, though. I'm not crazy about when the weather

is bad, but it is a different atmosphere when you're outside. It's different for the dogs. They're not feeling that contained stress and energy that they're getting from all the other dogs and the people. The agility community tends to walk around more. They talk to each other more. They're not just, like, sitting in their car, looking at their phone, waiting for their run to happen, right, but you know,

running in the mud and the snow and the rain, not a lotta fun. - Right, yeah, and we had the exact opposite problem. You could not have outdoor summertime trials. Like, the dogs just would wilt completely in Texas in the summer, and so it was really nice to get those indoor facilities. So I wanted to give people some background. You know, a lot of people have a pretty

good idea of what the trial secretary does, but I bet there's a lot of details to what you do that people are unaware of, and I wanted to give people an appreciation of everything that the trial secretary does and just a working knowledge of what goes into a trial. So how would you, like, let's kind of walk through a trial from beginning to end from the trial secretary

perspective. So how do you, first, get hired to do a trial, and then, like, what is your process for going from being hired as the trial secretary till whenever your job is done? - Yeah, and as you mentioned in the beginning of the interview, the different parts of the country run them very differently. Because I started way back when, and I very much come from a club perspective,

I work with my clubs. My clubs for the most part hire their judges, handle the site, that type of thing, and handle their ribbons. We have other trial secretaries that handle all of that, and the club has a very small part in it. My clubs are pretty active. So usually, it's word of mouth. It's somebody that's new in the sport, somebody that's been in the sport, and they

say, "Oh, I didn't know we could do a trial," and you know, they contact their clubs, so generally, reputation et cetera is what gets you the club. Once I start talking to the club, we decide what classes they wanna do, what days they're available, what weekend is available, what site is available. We put the class order together. We put the running order together, all that type of stuff.

We get all that information. Contract goes out to the club. We put the premium together. That's the start of it. We then load that up on my website, and now, because I'm doing almost all the online entries, things are a little bit different, but I'll talk about both, and then once the trial opens, either I'm getting paper mail, which is what I used to get in literally buckets,

like the, you know, post office would drop off a bucket of mail. Now, it's online, so I don't get a whole lot of paper mail, yay. We process the entries, either manually entering them into a program. There's only two or three programs that most people use. Again, my online system downloads them automatically into my program and sends an email out, so otherwise, if you're taking paper entries, you're

manually typing everything in. Ideally, you have that exhibitor in from previous shows, so you're not having to repeat. You know, you can just pull up the last name, and then it's looking at the entry and seeing. Part of the reason I went online, 30% of the entries are incorrect. They're missing information, and it's a legal document, so we have to go back out to the exhibitor and say,

you know, "I may know you've entered Master's for the last 10 years, but you circled Excellent, right, so I need you to come back with an email that says, 'Yes, I'm supposed to be in Master's.'" That email correspondence takes up so much time, right. I send the email out. You respond. I say, "Thank you." You say, "Oh, I'm really sorry," and I write back and say, "Oh, that's

okay," so now, there's five emails going back, where I coulda processed how many more entries, right, but anyway, they go into the program. An email gets sent, closing date comes. In the meantime, we've moved people in and out, right. People have withdrawn from the trial. There might be a wait list, so now, we're moving some more people in off of the wait list. Closing date comes, and now,

the confirmation letter gets prepared, which is what class are we gonna start with at what time? How many walkthroughs are there gonna be? Volunteer schedule might be put together at that time if it wasn't done previously. Our VIN numbers are assigned. You're looking to see, hoping to stretch people out that have four dogs, so they're not all running back to back type of thing. In my new online

program, I can compare for a two-ring show and actually see where the conflicts are. - Nice! - So it'll kinda highlight, and I can move you to avoid some of that because if you don't move people, then first of all, the gate sheets are a mess the day of the show, and secondly, people don't volunteer because they're worried they're gonna have a conflict. - Right, okay, wait, sorry.

I have a few questions (laughs) before we move on. So at what point, and who, is interfacing with AKC in terms of, like, getting the premium? Does the premium have to be approved by AKC or, like, submitted to AKC? Like, how does that interface with AKC work? - The club submits the application to AKC, and it's supposed to be in six months ahead of time, and the application

has the judge and the classes. It does not have the class order or the jump height order. It has the officers on there. Doesn't say what you're doing for ribbons. That information goes into the premium. The AKC gets a copy of the premium, but they do not approve the premium. - Okay. Yeah. - Yeah, yeah. We just go back and forth with the club to make sure that

the premium has everything that they want in it, using the knowledge we have to make sure that it has the stuff that has to be in it. - Right, yeah, and when you mentioned the armband numbers, I had, like, a total flashback. I was, like, "Oh, yeah, armband numbers." Like, I wanna know which of our listeners, you know, were competing when you had to have the sticker, the

armband number on? I know- (laughs) - Think they were mailed. This was when I was working my other job, and I just would, you know, sit there and stuff these stupid envelopes with the confirmation letter and cut up the little armband stickers, the big two by four ones that ruined your clothes, put 'em in the envelope, put the stamps on, you know, and off they went. It's just

wonderful not to have to deal (laughing) with that anymore. - All right, so anyway, those were my questions. I think that's it. So okay, so continue on. - So a confirmation is now emailed out. I think everybody pretty much does that. We post a copy on the website in case you lose it, and in my online system, you can log into your own account so you can actually

see everything. You know, even if you lose the email, you'll know exactly what you entered, et cetera, and then, (sighs) the day of the trial, the day before the trial, the club generally sets up. They get the setup course from the judge so that they can set up the basics. My clubs make the arrangements for the judge, for the hotel, all that, their airfare, all that kinda stuff.

They work with the judge. There's a couple of clubs that I do it with, but for the most part, it's the club's responsibility. The club brings in the ribbons. They bring in their food. They bring in their raffle tickets for whatever they're gonna do for the workers. Generally, they bring all that in the day before to the site, and then, I also correspond with the judge at that

point, sending in the confirmation letter, you know. Now, we can't get the maps until 12 o'clock, so we correspond about that and how I'm gonna get the maps so that I can post 'em up on my site. I don't know about you guys, but for the most part, all of ours are electronic. We have very few paper maps anymore, and then the morning of, we're off and running,

and you know, the club also sets up the volunteer schedule. I'm automating that now so it'll be easier for my clubs in the future, and you'll be able to say, "I really like to scribe." You'll put that in your record, and then when we send the confirmation letter out, it will come up and say, "You like to scribe. You're available to scribe in these spots," 'cause it knows

what classes you're running in, and then you could just click it. We have pre-day check-in, so people can check in online the day before. All that kinda started with the pandemic so that we didn't have to have people crowding around the gate sheets, and that's been really helpful. It's nice to not have to worry about checking in 'cause I'm probably one of the worse ones about doing it

the morning of the trial, and you don't have people out there walking the course, and the gate steward's saying, "Is so and so running? Is so and so running?" So that gets taken care of, and then we score the scribe sheets as they come in, and the judge reviews everything, the scribe sheets to the catalog before we release the ribbons, and at the end of the weekend, we

post our results, and the hard copy of the catalog goes to the AKC, and the professional trial secretaries send the results of the catalog electronically, and so it makes it a lot easier for the AKC 'cause if they don't send them electronically, literally, the AKC has to key in every qualifying score, and that's obviously where errors come in, but with the electronic results, they're already in there, and

then all they have to do is match, then they can glance at the catalog and so, "Yep, that's in there, that's in there, that's in there," so it goes much quicker. - Yeah, that's so much work. I think people kind of forget that how, like, if you have to be there for every minute of a trial, like, how long that is on a weekend or on a three-day

trial, and then if you're the trial secretary for, you know, and it's, I don't know, like, how many weekends a year do you think that you do? - Oh, I don't know. I probably have maybe four weekends off a year, four or five weekends off a year? - Wow! - Right, so it's, I mean, so it is a full-time job. It's just not Monday through Friday, right? It's

like Friday through Monday. - I think people forget that yes, we're there, and most of the trial secretaries that I know compete, but you know, you're there at seven o'clock, and you're there usually for one show till five or six or seven. That's one weekend that's 20 hours' work, and then you go back to the, for me, 'cause I travel a lot, I go back to the hotel,

and I'm answering emails, working on other confirmation letters. You know, I don't go back and get to watch TV, right. So in one weekend, we're easily putting in, you know, 25 hours, and then you come home, and we've got Monday through half a day Friday, 'cause I'm usually leaving for another trial, doing everything else: getting the entries in, the confirmations, depositing checks, et cetera. Yeah, very long. It

gets old. (everyone laughing) - That's so interesting. - It's a lot. - I think I never realized that there's such a partitioning of duties. You know, I just never think about it, and you see the same trial secretary, and I just kind of assumed that the trial secretary is in charge. If there are issues, let's say there's some kind of dispute between two competitors. You know, let's worse-case

it. Who settles that? Is it going to be the trial secretary? Is it gonna be the club? Like, how does? - You mean a dispute as in some dog goes after another dog, that kinda dispute? - Yeah, yeah, stuff like that. - Well, our hope is that one of the AKC reps is there because that's always really, really helpful. I mean, myself, I can't speak for other ones,

but I'm always grateful when I see a rep 'cause I think- - So you're happy to see the rep. You're not unhappy to see, okay. - No, no, I'm happy to see a rep, and you have to think a lotta clubs, it's their only trial for the whole year, right, so they could be doing trials for 10 years. They've probably had three or four trial chairmen throughout that

time. They may never have had to go through a dispute. So I'm not part of the committee for most of them. Some trial secretaries belong to all the clubs, so they're always part of the committee, but I do walk the chairmen through the protocol on what has to happen because depending on how severe it is, they have to determine whether they're gonna have a bench committee hearing, if

they have to have witness statements and follow that protocol, which I don't know any club that looks forward to that. It's a lotta work. It's a real lotta work for clubs to go through that, and especially because we're a pretty small community, so you usually know people that are involved, you know. It's hard for clubs not to be biased or, you know, they know that person's done this

10 times before, but you know, I have to say we're pretty lucky that we don't have very many bench committee hearings, but yeah, I'm not usually a part of them. I will give the paperwork and explain to them what need to be done, but then the decision is up to the club and the committee that they've chosen. - Interesting, interesting, so there's this real interaction, right? So the

judge owns the ring, right? - And everything in it. - Courses and everything in there, and then you are running entries, results, data that's going to the AKC, and then the club is really there with the operations and providing, you know. - Volunteers, right. - And timers and setup and that kinda thing. - Right, they've contracted. Oh, sorry, go ahead. - I was going to ask, do you

have people, do you bring the people that set up courses, or is that the club's responsibility? - Yeah, generally, the club does that. They look through, they will often say who's entered that could be a chief course-builder so we can give names. We have a small group in some of the trials that almost hire themselves out and say, "Hey, you know, if you need more people, we'll do

chief course builder." You know, there's trends, and right now, to me, the trend is, you don't always have people there for the first class. We like to start with FAST so people can get in some training, and if you're not in FAST, you're not there, and FAST is probably one of the most difficult classes to scribe, so nobody, like, really waves their hand and says, "I wanna do

that," so you know, they can rely on some of these people that they know, and they will pay them to come and help orchestrate that. In AKC, and I don't do any of the other venues, it's always ultimately the club's responsibility, though. So if things go wrong, it's the club that kinda has to answer to AKC, which is for some of the groups that they use a club's

name, right, they give the club a certain amount of money, and then the group runs everything for that particular club, the responsibility still lies on the club in the end. They're the ones that have to answer to the AKC if something goes wrong. - Right, so is there something that you get asked to do or to help with consistently that isn't part of the trial secretary job? Right,

what's the thing that you're constantly having to tell people, "I'm sorry, I can't help you with that"? Or is there something where people kind of misunderstand the job of the trial secretary in some way? - That's a good question. - 'Cause we'll just answer it now, and then nobody'll ever ask you again in your entire career. (laughs) - I wish. (laughs) No, I mean, I think, well, first,

because you try to answer whatever you can, right? Even if it's not my responsibility necessarily, I'm not gonna say, "It's not my job. Go talk to that person," 'cause that's just rude. I think the hardest part is that, I don't even wanna say people don't read rules because none of us read all the rules for anything, right. That's just reality, but when they're asking to make a change

that can't happen because we're past the closing date, or, "No, I know this dog is sick, but I can't put in that dog instead," right. "I can't move you up on the wait list." There's a lot, in my opinion, and I don't feel like they're doing it to, I don't feel like most people are doing it to say, "Well, let me see if I can play this card."

I feel it's more out of, like, "Oh, I didn't realize you couldn't do that," right. "I just figured I had a spot in the show. I could put another dog in that spot." That happens a lot, a lot, for me anyway. - I think the biggest thing that our trial secretaries are constantly telling people, and you've already alluded to this is, like, read your confirmation. Read your preliminary

confirmation. Like, don't wait until the day of the trial to look up at the gate sheet and go, "Well, I didn't enter 12. I was supposed to be in 16," and you know, a lotta times, in fact, it may have been an error on the secretary's part, where they had to enter it manually, and they entered it wrong, or sometimes it is an error on the exhibitor's part,

but don't wait until you look at the gate sheets to the day of. Like, that is why we get sent. I know for me, as a competitor, I feel like I get sent three or four or five versions of the confirmation for every show. Like, we received your entry. Check over the information. Okay, we had the random draw. Check over the information. Okay, now, it's closed. Check over

the information. Okay, now, here's the judging schedule. Check over the information, and people, all they do is they wanna see that they got in, and they're like, "Oh, okay, I got in," and then they show up the day of, and it's such, you guys have so much on your plate the day of. I mean, you have a lot on your plate all the other days too, but, like,

the last thing you need to be doing is going through entries, seeing whose fault it was. If it was the fault of the secretary, you know, fixing it or, I don't know how actually the rules are. If it's the fault of the exhibitor, sorry about your luck. It all coulda been taken care of if you just read your confirmation, or even going back to what you made the

point of earlier is complete your entry form to the best of your ability. Make sure you read through all of the stuff, sign it. You know, I've known entries that got sent back because they just forgot to sign it. They were so busy filling it out, you know, and I know now, we have more ability to enter online or at least even just print the entry forms off

online, and that is helping, but so much time is taken up by people, exhibitors making errors, you guy's correcting 'em, and then not checking their confirmations. - Yeah, and I'll say now that I'm online, it's really interesting, as errors happen, I can honestly say, "It's not my fault," right? You entered online. You chose your classes, then you submitted the entry. You can look under My Entries at any

time and see what classes, and (giggles) you know, sometimes you'll get people saying, "Oh, I can't believe I did that," but I get people that say, "I'm in Excellent. I don't know why." Well, (giggles) you entered your dog in that class. Like, there was no manual intervention, but there's still a little bit of not taking responsibility for it, you know, and sorry, you entered it, you know, and

you try to fix whatever you can fix, right? There's no point, if somebody's entered in the wrong class, you know, they changed the rules on this, so let's say you were in Open on Saturday. You moved up to Excellent, and then you get there on Sunday, and you realized you shouldn't have moved up. They let you put the dog bag in Open because otherwise, you qualify, you know,

if you run and you qualify, you're gonna get the nastygram from AKC that says you shouldn't have been in here, so there's no point in that type of thing, but yeah, people still make mistakes even on the online, and they kinda have a blank look on their face like, "I don't know how that happened." - Yeah, that's me. So are the days of printing up your form, signing

it, and sending it off with a check, are those days over? Because that's the last time I did an entry, or do some. - So yeah, so we'll get you that in a second 'cause I hear Noreen is doing some cutting-edge stuff, but yes, the last thing that you and I did, we still printed it. We wrote a check. We mailed it by snail mail, and I see

Jennifer nodding her head and saying she's still printing off entries, so I don't think that it's, I don't think online is the way that everybody is doing it, but we wanna get to that too to kind of hear about how Noreen has put that together, but I think Jennifer had something else to add here. - I was just commenting as you were talking about all of the online

process, is that, you know, we talked regionally how we're from different areas, and things are happening, but the online entry thing is not in Ohio. (laughs) I entered my first online entry, like, three weeks ago because the club offered, like, 100 entries online, and the rest had to be mailed in. I am still printing, snail mailing, buying stamps at the post office, and getting things in the mail,

and I just had a trial that I got closed out of because I mailed it 48 hours before the trial entered, and it took six days to get there in the mail, so I'm, like, you're talking about all this online stuff, and I'm so intrigued. Like, yes, please, tell me more. - I know! - Come to Ohio because this sounds awesome. - It's, like, literally the only reason

that I have a checkbook and stamps, right? Like, I don't write checks to anybody except for trials, right? And I don't send mail to anybody except for trials. So Noreen, tell us, like, how this whole system came to be because this is something that you put together, right, so how did that happen? How did you make this wonderful thing a reality? - I wanna say I hear. You

know, you see comments on Facebook. I don't know why other trial secretaries don't have an online system, and I can tell you exactly why. This was my fourth time trying to get this done. Thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours, and it never came to fruition. You know, if you're working with a programmer that doesn't understand, I'll say dog language, they're gonna say, "Well, I thought you said classes

were Standard and Jumpers. Now, you're saying classes are Regular and Preferred," right? The whole language barrier because, as you know, if anybody does programming, I relate it to, it's like eating chicken cacciatore, and now, you've gotta go back and create the recipe, right. You have to start with the end in mind. You've gotta put in every single piece that might possibly come up because you can't start with

something small and then keep trying to Band-Aid it because you forgot to say, "Oh, we allow this," or, "Oh, we allow that." So it takes a certain type of individual, and Mike, my programmer, had done a program for a video service that happens at one of the trials, Paws in Action, and so I said, "Oh, do you think he'd possibly do, you know, a program?" No, he wasn't

really interested. This was all during the pandemic. Then he came back a few months later, said he was interested. I had happened to herniate a disc in my back. I couldn't even sit, so I was, like, "Yeah, I can't do that now." (laughs) You know, it just kinda rolled on, and I have to be perfectly honest: there was a part of me that didn't even wanna try because

I'd been shot down, and when you're trying to process all this mail, I don't have extra hours to do the other stuff, right, but Mike does USDAA, so fully familiar not with AKC but with the terminology that is used, and I really just wanted an online system. That's all I wanted. We did the online portion. Then he fed it into my program, so that made a huge difference,

right. It's not just that people got to enter online. It's deposited right. He rewrote the program. It's deposited right into the program, so our very first online entry was opened last May. It was for a trial in July, and both of us admit we didn't do the brightest thing because it was for the Yankee Golden Retriever Club, which allowed golden retrievers first, priority entry, right? So doing that

online is very different than just paper entries. We had two days at Golden, so everybody got put on the wait list. If you didn't have a golden, you got put on the wait list. So of course, people were, like, "I'm doing it online, and I got put on a wait list," and you know, there was just chaos, (arm thudding) but that first day, we were on a Zoom

meeting, watching people enter, right, and you just see the numbers, and then it finished, and we both said, "Well, that was uneventful." Like, that's the way it's supposed to be. I feel like I could write a thesis on it. Nobody expected it to be as popular as it is. Some of the sites, the trials fill within a minute. People, they kind of pre-enter. They get their entry already.

It sits in their account, and let's say the trial opens at 10 o'clock. 9:55, they open up the entry. They get to the page that's now going to turn a different color when the entry can be accepted, and they hit Enter, and you just see the numbers go, and so we've talked a lot about why, like, where were these people before? Right, are these pandemic puppies that are

coming out? Do we have a lot more Novice A people, a lot more Novice B people, and I say the reality is how many of us would go up and actually change the station, the channel on our TV? We don't. We sit there with the clicker, right? And so making it that easy because that's what we all have. We go on Amazon. We just click, click, click, click,

click. Makes all the difference. You're not in your car saying, "Oh, I gotta remember to print that out when I go home," or, "Oh, I don't have a stamp," or, "Oh, I don't have a check," or whatever it happens to be, people send me pictures of where they are. We had some person who worked out on the ocean, and she was out on her boat (laughs) on her

phone, doing entries so that she could enter at the correct time. The other thing that kinda surprised me, a good 50%, maybe a little bit more, people enter on their phone. I personally am not a phone person because I'm in front of the computer all day. I don't use my phone like a computer. I use my phone like a phone, so I had no idea that that many

people, you know, entered. So everything has to be formatted for the phone. Right, you can't have people having to move around, and small percentage use iPads, et cetera, but mostly it's phone to enter. - Wow, so besides the online entry, what else does your website provide, or have you grown it from there? Like, did you add things to it, or did you kinda have this vision that you

did all at once? - Yeah, so in May, we had our first online entries, (arm thudding) and then in July, I think it was, we did the first scoring, not that the exhibitors really would've known that. That was kinda behind the scenes using a new program to score versus my older program, and then we started talking about the cluster, the November cluster, which is four rings, right. We

have 5,000 entries over four days. It's a huge, huge event. - Is that Springfield? - We didn't have it last year in 2020 because of the pandemic. Obviously, it's way too many people to be around. My programmer Mike had never been to it because he does USDA, so trying to explain what's involved, but the thing that we wanted to do was to let people not feel like they

have to be congested, so we added the pre-check-in the night before that you can go ahead and check in. He added a realtime run order, so my scribe sheets have little barcodes on them. The score runner scans the bar code. That updates the runtime, so at any time, you can go on my site and look and say, "Oh, I was gonna be on at 9:36, but now, I'm

gonna be on at 9:45." So that allowed people to either stay in their car. They don't have to keep going up to the gate sheet and saying, "Where am I?" "Where am I?" They knew exactly that, okay, I'm on in 10 minutes. I'm on in five minutes, or there's four more dogs before me. So that was another big piece to it. Then we added putting the results into

your account, and you could sign up for a text message. That's another thing I should mention. The text message thing is awesome. You get an email when the premium's posted, and if you sign up for the text message, you can get a text message 30 minutes before the trial actually opens to remind you, "Don't forget to enter," which most of us still set our phone for another timer,

for, like 20 minutes because that half hour disappears, and I'm the same as everybody. Like, I think that's one thing people don't understand. First of all, I don't get my entries for free. I pay for my entries also, and I have to enter like everybody else, and I'm a little on the spastic side, so you know, I'm, like, ready to press the button, and then my pinky goes

over and hits another button like, you know. Anyways, so you can get a text message. Now, you come to the trial. You're looking online to see when you're gonna run, where you are in the running order, and then you get a text message with your results. So as soon as that class is done, it might just be the 20 Novice class, pending judges' approval, you get your text

message. So you don't have to also go over to the ribbon table and hover around there. I still use carbonless scribe sheets. I know it's most of the country does not use those, but I personally just find 'em invaluable so that, you know, especially in FAST. The exhibitor comes out. They can pick up their carbonless sheet and say, "They didn't circle the eight." You know, "I got the

bonus. What's this fault for?" It gives them the chance to go back and ask the judge what the mistake was for, and then, your records are all kept, so you can pull up all of your qualifying scores. We're hoping to add more filters this year so that you can pull up Double Qs or Triple Qs or Qs under this judge. You also have the capability of putting a

little heart next to your favorite location so that only those come up. You know, you don't wanna hear about the trials that are up in Maine if you live down South or whatever. - Right. - But I think that's most of it. - Yeah, that sounds amazing, and I'm so impressed that you're able to put that together, and I totally understand what you're saying about how it didn't

just happen. You know, there's some failures before the success, and that makes a lot of sense. All right, well, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast. I think that will give people a lot to think about. I mean, first of all, I think people who haven't been in the sport very long, they need to have an appreciation for all of the work that goes into

the trial. For those of us who have been around, it's pretty incredible to listen to the differences in different areas of the country or, you know, just the innovations that you as a single individual have made and the effect that that's having on your area of the country. I hope we see more things like that. I'm really impressed. As a technical person, I'm really impressed with what you're

doing and really excited by it, and thank you so much for joining us today. - Thanks for asking me. I appreciate it. - And that's it for this week's podcast. We'd like to thank our sponsor, HitItBoard.com and the Westminster Kennel Club. Happy training! (upbeat music) - Thank you for listening to "Bad Dog Agility." We hope you enjoyed today's episode. For more information, updates, and links to all our

socials, just check out our website, www.BadDogAgility.com. If you haven't already signed up for our email subscription, we would love to have you join the BDA community. Until next time, take care. (upbeat music)

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