Seems like it’s been a while since we’ve had some good agility drama. Or maybe I just notice less. But, man, USDAA does know how to drama. Their latest being doubling their tournament qualification requirements for nationals as well as requiring 10 titling Qs. Which is quite a jump! It has not gone over well, for multiple reasons.
I think what it comes down to is that USDAA was one of the few places where it was less about the Q and where people actually ‘competed’. In the US, pretty much the only place left for an actual agility ‘competition’ (where people are actually attempting to run full out and win) is at nationals. Local trials and regionals have become nothing more than a means to an end of getting there. At least with USDAA at least it was fairly straightforward to qualify for nationals. But not anymore, they have joined the masses and it’s now, once again, about collecting Qs rather than actually, well, running agility. Which is good for making money for the organization, but so sad for the sport.
So where is agility in the US going? When it becomes about collecting Qs instead of, well, attempting to do the best you can – that’s not why I love agility. Of course there is a wide range of reasons people love agility, but I do think there is a subset of folks that really do want to do agility … just for agility. To do the best they can, to run without thinking about qualifications and double Qs. And of course you can always do that, no one is stopping you from running that way at every trial – but it’s way more fun when the people around you are of a similar mindset. I love agility where people are pushing and really going for it – it’s inspiring and fun. Focus on consistency and qualifying kills the joy of agility in my mind. I do realize that for many folks that’s not true – but I also think you can have your pick of ANY venue in the US and have plenty of consistency based goals to focus on – but not many ‘competitive’ goals. There is no benefit in winning, even at AKC nationals, it’s still all about just playing it safe so you can get through.
So, yeah, it was sad with USDAA’s announcement as it’s the end of the era. There was much grandstanding about going to UKI … where the only reason people run in UKI locally is to qualify for nationals! People want to actually COMPETE, but it’s just not something we have available except for very expensive, hard to qualify, hard to get to national events. And to me it’s not about ‘winning nationals’, it’s about being in an environment where people are finally DOING AGILITY, not going through the motions collecting Qs.
Of course, I had no plans to go to USDAA nationals, and I most definitely don’t now. I feel bad for people that wanted to go to nationals and live in areas where the qualifications are simply not even feasible. As for me, USDAA courses are still more interesting than AKC, so we’ll continue to play at our very limited local trials. There’s even a chance that Bright might get her Advanced title at her next trial. You know, five years later.
My interest in agility has remained the same through the years, I love training it, I love running it – trials, well, they give us something to work on. I don’t have any interest in traveling or being on world team or winning nationals, I just like to do the best we can. Would love to see more of the Cups, even with non-international courses (backsides and threadles are not necessary to make a course interesting!). I have less interest in UKI, which seems like a cup where I paying a lot more money for no apparent reason. And the only training in the ring thing has never sold me, nor do I ever see anyone taking advantage of it in actual meaningful way. It doesn’t matter if you ‘correct’ your dog during one run if you’re just going to have no criteria for the other 5 … that’s not a training issue, that’s a handling issue. A-hem.
Anyway, finished up with my summer trick classes this week – so many cute tricks, gah! Really had a lot of fun with that, and it was hugely helpful for me as well. I may have trained a lot of tricks, but most of them aren’t on cue – so that’s our project, first making sure the dogs can actually reliably do the tricks they already know, then just going through the tricks we haven’t trained.