December 12, 2023

Episode 324: Resource for AKC Agility Course Maps

In this episode (32:59)

In this episode, we’re joined by Sammi Flynn, the admin of a Facebook group dedicated to archiving AKC Agility course maps. This group, with over 6,300 members, collects maps from various agility trials to aid in training and competition preparation.

You Will Learn

  • The purpose of the Facebook group and its approach to collecting agility course maps.
  • The group’s policy against critiquing maps or judges.
  • How agility competitors use these maps for training, trend analysis, and mental puzzles.
  • Sammi Flynn’s journey from a novice to group admin and the challenges involved.

Mentioned/Related

(upbeat music) - Welcome to "Bad Dog Agility." 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. - The show starts with

your host, Jennifer, Estevan, and Sarah. - I'm Sarah, and you're listening to The "Bad Dog Agility" podcast, episode 324. Today's podcast is brought to you by hitaboard.com and the new Teeter TeachIt, an easy to use tool that controls the amount of tip on your teeter so you can introduce motion to your dog in a gradual way. Go to hitaboard.com for the new Teeter TeachIt and other training tools

and toys. Use discount code BDA 10 to get 10% off your order. That's HitItBoard.com. Today I wanted to talk about a resource that I have started to use more and more for agility training, and we are joined today by the admin of that resource, Sammy Flynn. Welcome to the podcast, Sammy. - Thank you. Hello. - Yes, hello. Well, I have been using a Facebook group that you're an

admin of. Remind me the name of, the exact name of the Facebook group so that people can go and find it. - Okay, it's AKC Agility Course Maps. - All right, and just like it sounds, it's a place for people to put their course maps from AKC trials specifically. And I've used this resource usually around big events when I'm looking for maps from a particular judge for something

like the National Agility Championships or the Invitational. And I think in the past year, I started to become aware of just how much was in the group. And so I wanted to bring Sammy on the podcast to talk about this group and really shed some light on it for all of the competitors out there that may not realize that this resource is available. So, Sammy, give us a

sense of the purpose of the group. - Okay, the purpose of the group is to archive. And by the way, we are now 6,300 members. - Wow. - So we archive through all different channels every, we aim to archive every AKC agility course map every weekend. We, I think, have every ISC map. So if people are getting into ISC, all you gotta do is search ISC, they will

all come up. But we basically do everything, from novice trials only to ISC cups. So if it's out there, it's running this weekend. This weekend we had 40 trials, which is huge. Most people don't know. It ranges from 27 trials on average up to 40 a weekend. So we had 40 and we only missed out on one. - Wow. Yeah. That's amazing. It's like you have this really

interesting view into the schedule that not many people, you know, are looking at or even care about, right? Everybody's looking at the trials that are near them, and it doesn't really matter to you what is going on across the country, but you, I had no idea how many trials happened in a typical weekend, but after adminning this group for a while, you've got that readily available. And I

think it's just the pure coverage that really struck me in the past year where I hadn't realized how systematic you were about making sure that you had full coverage, reaching out to people and saying, we are missing this one trial. Who was there, who can get the maps, that kind of thing. So how long have you been adminning this group? Did you start the group or did you

take it over? And then how did you get to where you can take a weekend of 40 trials and get every single map except for one trial? - I started in late 2019. I started Agility in 2015. I actually cut my teeth with Bad Dog Agility. They were my first trainers, started me online. And I just, it's a group. I'm in Southeast, I'm in Georgia, so I'm in

the Southeast area, and I'm kind of in an isolated area. So I started just as a a novice, you kind of want maps, and I think a four year person can still be a novice, but you want maps. You still think there's gonna be water jumps and hoops of fire, and you need to see they're not gonna be on that map. And so I started trying to archive

maps, and I didn't really like the way I saw them on some of the other sites. They were put into judges' folders. But when I went to look in the judge's folder, I got maps just flipping past me with all kinds of dates. I could be jumping from 2012 to 20-whatever. And it wasn't in any order. And I think people, more than anything, want recent maps. You don't

really care about a map that has a shoot on it. And maybe one day soon you won't care about a map that has a pause table on it. So you wanna see recent maps. So I started them in a different format. I just started putting them on there each weekend. If you scroll down, they just come in order as I start posting them. So somebody who says, I

wanna just see what's current, I wanna see what people are doing across the country. They can just look at those 40 trials this past weekend, for example, and not worry about who the judge is. If you want a specific judge, you can put that judge in. But some people aren't really looking for judges. They're really looking more for trends. - Right, yeah. It's like two different ways of

looking at the same information. So tell us a little bit about your process for getting, close to 100% coverage. - Yeah, that was interesting. That grew and grew and grew thanks to all the agility competitors. But basically I just started inviting my friends. I started, I was trialing three weekends a month back then, and I was asking all the judges, some of them said, oh, this is a

great idea. Yeah, sign me on, ask me, email me. I'll send you my maps if you can't get 'em. And so others weren't so great on the idea, but they came along, and then people just asked other people. Now, I will say in the beginning, I put a lot of time into it. I don't put a lot of time into it now, but I put a lot of

time into, it's a network of trial secretaries who post their maps on their websites, Agility Gate, sometimes Facebook pages where they will post their maps, groups, clubs will post their maps there versus the trial secretary. My one down and dirty trick is, if I really wanted, you're the last trial, I'm gonna take the time to go look at your premium. And if your members, or if we have

members that are on your premium, I'm gonna start messaging them. I'm gonna say, you're a member. This is your Facebook group. Wanna send us maps? And the very last one is people say, how did you know I was here? Running orders, if you're on the running order for that trial, and they will post the running order. They're gonna put the maps on the wall. Very few places do

that anymore, but they're just gonna put a copy of the map on the wall in the arena, and somebody's gonna have to take a picture of it. - Right. - And if you're on the running order, I might be asking you to do that. People just, they're surprised. They say, oh yeah, sure. And they're great about it. They do it, send me great pictures, but they're just like,

out of the blue, you picked me to get your maps? Yeah, well, I recognize your name. - It's like desperate times. - After all of that came together, we still have, gladly, we still have judges joining every week, which is nice, because in a perfect world, I think it should be a gift from the judge, I think. - Right. - The judge should send us his maps. -

Right. - That's his right, his prerogative. And he should say, okay, here I'm sending you my maps. But of course, for a long time people have been sharing them just by, from going to a trial. - Right. - And posting them. - Yeah, it's interesting because we used to have a website. It's basically defunct now and down, and I'm happy to have something else that is taking over

here, but we used to have Agility Course Maps, which the idea was to gather up all of the maps and have them be searchable and things like that. And we got a lot of pushback from judges. And in fact, I kind of think that we were a little too early in putting that website together because Facebook was not nearly as prevalent as it was now. And so then

I think five years after we had that website, all maps are just, flying around Facebook and there's no controlling it, and there's no telling people they can't do it and things like that. And so I can totally appreciate how you might get some pushback at first, but I feel like you're so established now, and now with a record of basically near 100% participation, I think it opens things

up so that the judges, can relax a little bit and realize, this is just the way of the world. And most people are participating, but you also do a lot to protect the judges. So why don't you talk a little bit about that. - Right. When we started in our little rules, it tells you right up at the top and at the top of the page, it always

says, we are a library. We archive maps. We don't critique maps, we don't critique judges. Plain and simple. And I tell judges when I approach them that that's our, we operate on that. And I think that has made a lot of them feel more welcome. But when we first started, I still had people that in spite of knowing the rules, would come on and say, oh, this was

horrible. This was just terrible. Nobody queued, my dog couldn't make it around this course. This shouldn't be a course, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I just said, you know what, to me, there's no such thing as a bad map. There's a challenging course, there's a course my dog won't get around because he doesn't have the skills and I don't have the skills. Or maybe it's not his

style, but there's no such thing as a bad map. And there's really not such a thing as a bad judge. And we're not gonna sit here and trash judges because you didn't queue or I didn't queue. That's just not allowed. And so I kept warning people and warning people until finally a couple years ago, I said, you know what? This is silly. We're not little kids, we're adults.

If you trash a judge or criticize a map, and to me, criticizing or questioning a map is criticizing like, what kind of dogs do you think would make it around this course? You have to really, your comments have to be positive. I'm sorry, we had to just swing over to, if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. So if you're gonna, the next person that

says something bad, you're getting thrown outta the group. And I'm gonna name you, I'm gonna say, Sarah has been thrown outta the group because she just couldn't say nice things or couldn't follow our rules. And I did that. And oh boy, I got messages from this person's friends. I got messages from this person. I just said, look, I warned, I warned, I warned, unfortunately, you had to be

the example. After a couple weeks, I did take her name down. I did take that message down. I took it down. But I haven't had any trouble since that happened. - Right, that's amazing. - I have had, oh, I've had two instances of judges criticizing other judges. And that's a tough one. 'Cause you don't wanna boot a judge out, especially if that judge is helping and sends in

their maps, et cetera. I'm not saying who they are or that they were, I'm just saying that when a judge is a member and they come on and say, hey, you're not right here. This isn't legit. You shouldn't have done this. That was a tough one. I didn't boot 'em out, but I did take their stuff down. I just, as soon as it comes up, we have a

couple of another co-administrator people and they're always policing for stuff. As soon as it comes up, it goes down. - Yeah, to me the other thing is we know that every map has been approved by an AKC rep. - Right. - Right. - So somebody made a mistake somewhere, whether the judge is new or the judge was in a hurry, or whatever happened, something got by, rule was

broken on course design, the AKC rep didn't correct it. Well, I'm sorry. It got the seal of approval and this is the way it is. So let's not talk about it. This is not where we're gonna talk about it. - Right, absolutely. - You can, we had one, one map where people were just up in arms, and I'm just like, and they never mentioned it on my page.

They took it somewhere else. - Right, and that's what I was gonna say. I mean, there's a whole wide world out there, but you've really set the rule for your group. And I think that's fantastic because you have this super narrow focus of the goal of the group. And because it's super narrow, you're really able to like, realize it to really make it happen. And the kind of,

the proof is where you are today in terms of coverage and participation. So kind of going back to the idea that you have this unique view into AKC agility as the admin of this group, what are some of the things that you have observed just from having your eyeballs on so many course maps? - Oh, that's a good one. I think sometimes that judges are in the group

to see what other judges are doing. And this is another use, I'm not gonna make any guarantees here, this is kind of funny, but I've had so many competitors tell me this, that they see patterns and definitely we see patterns in fast. For example, about a year ago, somebody had an innovative send. And I noticed as it went across, 'cause I was particularly interested in fast, I was

getting my dog started and fast and master fast, and I'm looking at all the sends, and it unveiled the next few weeks that people were using that same send all over the country. But with a little twist on it, they had their own little variation of it, but it was kind of unique. I'm sure it had been used before, years ago, but here it recycled. And so people

started telling me, I see patterns in in some of these things. And so they started looking closer at them and sure enough, I'm trialing four, four weeks later and I have a very similar send to what I'd been looking at. And I had trained it. So I think people subconsciously, whether they mean to or not, 'cause there's only so many ways you can write a song or make

an agility map, that judges will be in there looking to see what they're looking to see what their colleagues are doing. Some judges don't travel very much. They stay in their region. They're looking to see what's going on on the other side of the country, and they wind up creating a map that's very similar, with a little twist to it. And the other facet to that is I've

had fast competitors, and this is really fun. Well, you may not think it's fun, but if you run fast, it's fun. It's also fun to do with UKI gamblers and snooker. But look at those 40 courses, those 40 trials this weekend. Three of them were, I think two of them were ISC only. But almost everyone had fast in it. And I had a competitor come up to me

and say, this is like the best thing since the New York Times password or crossword puzzle. They said, I can't wait for the weekend. I start out Friday evening, I look at all the fast, and I think, how could I run those? Because he knew he had a master dog, he knew exactly how much his dog could cover and how many seconds. And he said, I'd love to

sit there and see how would I run it to get the whole 80 points in the send? - That's so interesting. That keeps me entertained. He said, that keeps me entertained all weekend. it's treating agility as a puzzle, but it's also, it highlights that there's this whole aspect to agility that could be enjoyable, that you don't need a yard, you don't need space. Maybe your dog has hurt,

but you can still take a look at these maps and make sure that you know how you would handle them. Make your game plan even if you don't run it. I feel like a lot of handlers, you have a pretty good sense when you look at a map whether you have the skills or not. And so you don't always have to run the course to be able to

learn from the course and pick out the piece where you're like, this one part kind of, I don't feel great about and I'd be uncomfortable if I saw it in a trial. Well, you might see it in a trial. You could see it in a trial. So if you look at a map and you're not comfortable with it, that is a huge blinking red light telling you this

is something that you should probably put a little bit of time into making sure you have that skill. - Right, but you can imagine the mental skills he has. - Right, running those, running those courses in his head. 40 of 'em, the next time he runs fast. He's seen that. - Yeah, that's amazing. I love it. You had mentioned that people use these maps for a lot of

different ways. I use it for looking at particular events that we're preparing for. Other people are looking at trends. This guy is using it just for fun. So are there any other kind of interesting use cases that have come out of the group of how people are using the maps? - I have a, well, it's to be expected. I have a lot of trainers who tell me they

get their class maps from it. They look at it to see what looks like something that their students are working on. They find a nice map. They pull it out, they use it. I'm gonna tell you my secret, how I use it, and you're, again, remember, I don't think there's a bad map, a hard map. I think they're challenging maps. I think they're challenging judges. And if I

have a master dog, that's what I wanna look at. So I have my little secret list of five or six people that I think are challenging, and I'm not gonna stay away from them. This is not like a lot of competitors tell you, oh, this is my no-show list. I'm not gonna compete in front of this guy. I never get a queue, and this is my go-to list

these people. I always queue in front of. Okay, well I have those two lists, but the easy list is for my beginner dog. My dog's just starting out. These are the courses he's gonna see. Once he's got a little training, he's gonna see the challenging list. And honestly, here's the fun part, of about six people on that list, I'm never gonna run in front of three of 'em,

right? I've never seen them in my part of the country. They probably don't care to travel and they're in other parts of the country all the time. And so you might say, well why are you bothering with their courses? Well, you know what, when I can run those people's courses clean the first time, I'm doing really well. I have done something. And I love those people. Whenever I

see their names, they're trialing this weekend, and a couple of them don't trial very often. They don't judge very often, rather. When I see their name that lights up my Christmas tree, I'm like, oh boy, I've got a whole bunch of new maps from them. I hope they're doing premier. So I think some people use 'em that way. - No, I love that. - We think that the

obvious thing is just to go and say, okay, I'm running in front of Joe Smith next weekend, and let's go see what his maps look like. I don't know that that's gonna, you're gonna queue in front of Joe Smith when you can cue these other people's courses first time, the really, really challenging courses. Then you don't have to worry about who you're running in front of. - Right,

right. Exactly. And the thing is for people who are gonna go to national level events, if you're gonna go to nationals, if you're gonna go to invitational, you don't get to pick those judges and it doesn't do you any favors to have kind of hidden from some of the harder judges, when a lot of times, those are exactly the judges that get tapped for an event like the

Nationals. It's always gonna be a little harder than your typical weekend trial when we get to those final events. - The other thing people, and this is what you guys are famous for, small sequences. A lot of people tell me, you know what, even though I can't set up a full course, I look at the maps and find the oh part, the part where I'd be running clean

until I got to here. And then I can set up a course or a little short sequence around that. - Practice that part. And I think the other benefit I think to doing that kind of thing, both for small spaces but also more generally for maps is it adds a little bit of almost randomness to your training. As handlers we tend to fall into patterns. And so we

may set up jumps kind of similarly, if we are just making something up for ourselves, we're gonna end up with kind of the same spacing. We're gonna end up with kind of the same angles. And then it's always when things are a little off at a trial that it starts to make you feel not so great about running the course. The angle is a little bit different, the

spacing is a little bit different. And so I like using sections of judges maps because I feel like it prevents me from subconscious patterning or kind of subconsciously showing my dog the same picture over and over again, and adds that little bit of randomness that's gonna help them generalize their skills. - And you just pointed out one of the biggest criticisms that people have of judges, and I

don't understand why I some people can't see it, is judges are gonna have prejudices, I call 'em prejudices, but we have our prejudice toward wanting to set up a certain setup all the time. They're gonna have prejudices towards certain types of courses. Either they're training, where they compete, what kind of dogs do they run? People say, oh, his courses are always good for little dogs. They're not good

for big dogs. Well I don't know about that, but maybe they have little dogs, or maybe they have big dogs. The secret there is get a little dog 'cause they can run anything, they're not gonna land. I run in 12 inch, so I guess, I look at it like there's not a whole lot of 12-inch dog can't run, right? But I understand those border colly people when they

say he's gonna jump and land over there on the other side. And have trouble making that turn. But I don't know, I think most maps are pretty balanced, but there's no way that you can't design something and not have those prejudices even though you went through course design school and everything. You're still gonna have a little bit of somehow pinwheels keep coming back into the map or something

like that. - Yeah, absolutely. Alright, well I think we've covered everything that I wanted to cover. Oh, I guess one last thing that I will say is that if people are going to come join this group and check out the maps, and maybe they don't use Facebook groups as often, it is worth it to take a little bit of time to figure out how searching works in groups

because it just makes this repository all the more powerful. So, take a couple of minutes, do a Google search and make sure that you know how to use searching within groups because you can search by like a judge's name. You could search by the word ISC, I guess that's one other thing I should point out is that you're really good in the group. It's not just a map.

It'll usually have like the club name, the judge name, the date, all in the text part of the post so that it is very searchable. - The other thing people don't understand though, is that you can't search by what's on the picture. And you can't search by the size, we try to help people out. They're looking for a certain size course, right? And I can pretty much tell

them some of the venues that have that, but I don't put venue names that just gets to be too much. You have to know that TA Garrison Arena is in Pendleton, South Carolina. Or you can just Google it because I'm gonna put Pendleton, South Carolina in there. It's the trial, the group's name that's putting on the trial, and then the location and the dates. So you can pretty

much, back when we didn't have all in the beginning, we didn't have as much premier, honestly. And you could search by Premier. Now if you put Premier in there, just about everybody is running Premier every weekend, there's only a few exceptions. - And it is really exciting that you've got all the ISC maps because ISC is this kind of brand new thing. And so as it is taking

off, I feel like this is the year of ISC. And as it's taking off, having those maps there is really great because it's a whole new ball game. And then we're getting, we had a podcast with Kerri De Young talking about ISC, I'll put a link to that in the show notes. But, we're getting maps from European FCI judges that are then, the maps are being judged by

AKC judges here, but they're designed by European judges. And so it's been really interesting to see that, see those courses and see that process play out here in the United States. - Well, we have had, Bill Pender just had his own weekend of courses. This past weekend. We had two three day ISC cops with European judges. But hey, Jay Kessel had two ISC maps in his trial this

weekend in New Jersey designed by him. So we've had Brian Ferran, I'm think Bill Pinder, now Jay, I can't think who else I might have missed. But we've had a few of 'em and we've got a few more scheduled to come up with American judges will be doing their own ISC maps. And that is our only exception, by the way. We don't allow any brags, so don't please

don't post that. I got my mock at this trial. We don't allow any brags, we don't allow anything like that, and no videos, except the exception we have is that people ask for, they our first ISC maps a few months back, they said, I'd love to see a video of this. And I said, anybody running ISC who wants to post a video of a run, please attach it

to the map. Don't put it as a new post. But that's more to let some of these people see. - We've got some really nice, nice videos of some super fast dogs. But yeah, some people wanna see it run, they just are so amazed by how difficult some of them look. - But it's nice to see it successfully done because I think it it in some ways it

kind of demystifies it a little bit. I don't know the specifics, but I'm sure everybody has heard the story of about how nobody thought that the mile could be run faster than whatever time. Until somebody did it, and then four other people did it right after. And it's that the story, that it's meant to convey that there's this belief that something is impossible that holds people back. So

I kind of view it like that for ISC. That when you see other people successfully run it, you start to see the possibilities instead of looking at the map and just seeing impossibility. - Exactly. Exactly. So we do invite the ISC competitors to post their videos with the appropriate map, attach it to that map. But otherwise we try to keep all the bragging out. It's a library. No,

it is a fantastic resource and yeah, it is literally a library and I'm super impressed by the decisions that you've made and the way that you've grown it and keeping it really laser focused. And I think that you're now rewarded by the having this amazing resource for the agility community. I think all the decisions that you made are kind of part of what made it successful and will

continue to be successful going on. I feel like you've kind of hit that critical mass where now everybody is on board with the sharing of the maps and the coverage, and everybody's working together, and everybody understands the rules. So really congratulations to you and thank you for putting together this resource for the whole community. - Thank you. I could not do it alone though, but thank you. -

All right, well that's it for this week's podcast. We'd like to thank our sponsor, hitaboard.com. 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.

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