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Agility students and those dog owners interested in learning about agility should consider attending and volunteering at an agility trial.  For one thing, you can’t beat the up-close-and-personal view of the action by sitting on the sideline of an agility ring!   If you never plan to compete in agility, you will have a ton of fun watching the wide variety of dogs performing at all levels! 

If you plan on competing yourself sometime, working a class or two at a trial really helps to calm many of the nerves you might have when you imagine yourself in the ring.  Seeing experienced competitors in the Excellent ring perform flawlessly is inspiring.  Seeing them make mistakes is comforting.  But, it is also valuable to watch young dogs start their agility careers in the Novice ring.  It can give you a realistic idea of what to expect from your own dog when your team enters your first trial in the future.

There are certain jobs at agility trials that are easier than others.  For your first trial, it is recommended that you have a low-stress, fun introduction to agility trials, so don't try to act as a scribe or a timer at your first or second trial.  You might want to watch a class or two - just to get a feel for how things work.  Then you should be ready to try ring crew, leash running, and score sheet running. 

Here is how it works:  When you arrive at the arena, find the volunteer coordinator who is responsible for assuring there are people assigned to all the required tasks.  The coordinator will usually not be too far from the volunteer sign up board.  When you sign up to work, it is typically for one class, such as Novice FAST, or Excellent Standard 20″.  Each class takes anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes depending on how many dogs are entered, and what type of class it is.   Here are some of the newbie-friendly, easier jobs at agility trials.

chuteRing Crew - Bar Setter or Chute Straightener

Each ring needs 3 ring crew volunteers who are responsible for resetting bars if a dog knocks one off and straightening the chute after each dog goes through it.  Additionally, the ring crew changes the heights of the jumps, table, tire, and sometimes the A-frame, when the jump height changes.  You sit on a chair inside the ring and watch each dog run.  If a dog knocks a bar or otherwise displaces an obstacle, you wait until the dog is no longer running in your area of the course, and fix the obstacle.

Leash Running

leashA great starter job!  It’s simple, it’s good exercise, and you get to see each dog’s run from start to finish. As the leash runner, you are expected to pick up the dog’s leash once they have started the course, and drop it off at a pre-determined spot near the exit so it is waiting for the competitor as they finish their run.  Your goal is to be as unobtrusive as possible.  Some handlers will hand you their dog’s leash, others will throw it towards you (stay alert, leash clips can be painful!), and many just drop it behind them.

It is important to wait until after the dog has begun running to pick up their leash, as you want to avoid inadvertently distracting the dog.  You should also keep an eye on the dog while it is running in case something happens to terminate the run, such as the dog eliminating in the ring or the handler asking to be excused.  In those cases, you will want to bring the leash directly to the competitor or meet them right by the exit.

Scribe Sheet Running

This task is a bit easier on your body than leash running is — you get to sit for much of the time.  Each dog’s faults and time (the score) are written down on a piece of paper by a scribe.  This piece of paper needs to make its way from the score table in the ring to the where ever the trial secretary is set-up, and that’s where you come in!  You get to sit in a chair behind the scoring table.  (That’s where the timer and the scribe sit.)  After each runs, the scribe will pass you the score sheet.  After every three or four runs, you take these score sheets from the ring to the trial secretary so the dogs’ score can be processed.  If a competitor asks to see their score sheet, it is OK for you to show it to them, BUT THEY MUST REMAIN IN YOUR POSSESSION until delivered to the trial secretary.

DON"T WORRY!  BE HAPPY!  Volunteering can seem a little daunting, and novice exhibitors often cry, “What if I mess something up!”  Remember, it’s agility, not a life-or-death scenario.  Let the volunteer coordinator (or judge) know that you’re new to this, and he or she will be sure to explain the job, help you get started, and provide assistance if you need help.  Even very experienced exhibitors make mistakes or get distracted and forget to reset a jump properly.  Your fellow volunteers will always assist.

Volunteers are crucial to this sport! — Without them, trials cannot run.  Our clubs reward volunteers with a voucher that can be used for lunch, merchandise at a vendors booth, or a discount on your entry for an upcoming trial. 

We hope to see you volunteering at an upcoming trial!  You will be glad you did!   Beth White - Trial Chair  knoxtnusa@gmail.com

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