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The future is bright

KUSA Logo In May 1998, agility was born in South Africa. A handful of people realised that in order to introduce an additional, but not alternative discipline into the world of 'dogdom,' required that an organised and forward planning programme be seriously considered and implemented. Peter Lewis, an internationally accepted examiner, trainer and judge from the United Kingdom and one of the founders of the sport, was asked to provide an official course and examination in agility to interested persons wishing to become judges in the sport. Lionel Noik, Chairman of Gauteng Agility Club explains.

Peter Lewis devised an intensive three day (and night) course which was given in both the Cape Province and Gauteng. It culminated in 40 out of the 54 people who took it being awarded their judges 'licence.' Twelve were from Gauteng.

This was merely the first step in a long process, which in my opinion will take at least two years if not longer to develop. I am sure all will agree, that in order to be a 'good' judge, requires more than a set of paper credentials. Reading books and analysing videotapes on judging techniques, designing courses, scribing, timing, scoring and stewarding are all allied to becoming a competent judge. Menial, some might say, boring others might contend, perhaps so, but nevertheless necessary. Dressing smartly, behaving appropriately, exuding confidence and authority in the ring are all integral elements of being a judge. Other aspects of equal importance include practical training at grassroots level and attending regular discussion groups with other judges. In the absence of the above factors being considered and implemented, progress to gain the recognition and respect of both the local and international community will not be achieved.

The Present
A problem presently being experienced in agility is a shortage of specialist helpers or assistants. Volunteers would be required to undergo a morning course in efficient scribing and manual scoring techniques. This would enable clubs interested in holding agility at their shows to have the necessary people qualified to carry out the duties required. It is important to remember that agility, being an international sport, requires international standards at all times.

Collies 'On Top' in Swaziland The procedures in becoming a scribe are not difficult and can become quite enjoyable, as learners become immersed in what is expected of the dogs, their handlers, and the judge. It would be most welcome and refreshing if members of other disciplines came forward and offered their services. This would promote a better understanding amongst clubs as to the needs of an agility event, in order for it to run smoothly and efficiently. To merely invite agility along for the ride, without being fully acquainted with the requirements necessary, is inviting confusion, and a consequent drop in entries at shows.

The Future
Having discussed the past and present, the main question to be answered is: What of the future of agility in our country or in our province?

When one believes in the product being sold, it becomes that much simpler to sell. In the case of agility and its saleability, a few concrete facts should be considered.

In the short space of fifteen months since agility having made its appearance, one hundred and forty one agility record cards have been issued to aspirant competitors in our province. Nationally the figure is approximately three hundred. Agility has been widely publicised both on radio, television and other media sources, and will continue to be marketed in this fashion.

Contacts have been made with various organisations at whose public events agility has been featured. These organisations have requested that agility return in the year 2000. Public interest has been stimulated to such a degree, that enquiries for agility training are continuously being received.

If adequate procedures and standards are introduced at shows, I have no doubt that numbers in excess of sixty-seven entries at the recent Rand Easter Show event will easily be surpassed. A "win-win" situation will be achieved. The clubs will obtain greater numbers at their shows, and in return the competitors will receive judging of the highest standard.

In conclusion, in order to accomplish what has been discussed above, requires tolerance, patience, good manners at shows, sportsmanlike behaviour at all times and respect for judges decisions, (even if on occasions, these are at variance with what some competitors might believe). These qualities need to be encouraged within our province. At a later stage attention could be given to sending teams to world events.

The future for agility is bright.
Let us keep it that way.

Photo credit: Annie & Bryn by Mrs V. I. Meurig-Evans (Cover Dogs in South Africa)