Advancing Agility in America

I’ve felt for quite a while now that it doesn’t feel like agility in America is advancing at a pace that other parts of the world seem to be advancing.  My experiences competing overseas just amplifies that feeling I have.  The courses, the atmosphere, the mentality all seem to be at a different level in this country compared to Europe.  There is nothing necessarily wrong with that as the demographics and audience in America are quite different than it is in Europe. And that’s fine.  However, there is a sizable minority of agility competitors clamoring for something more in the U.S. That desire has been voiced for a while now, but appears to be picking up steam.

Unfortunately, we currently do not have an outlet for that desire.  The almighty Q still dominates in this country even for those of us that want something more.  We have to get Qs for AKC nationals.  We have to get Qs for USDAA nationals.  We have to get Qs for AWC tryouts.  We have to get Qs for IFCS tryouts.  We kind of have to get Qs for the U.S. Open.  Because of all of this we are still married to these organizations that aren’t necessarily catering to what we state we want.  And because we keep forking over money these organizations have little desire to change.  There is no competitor forcing them to evolve.

AKC recently introduced their Premier class which is a start for them.  USDAA has their Masters Challenge class which is better.  However, both organizations impose certain course design requirements and restrictions on these courses that don’t often meet the level of challenges that a lot of competitors are currently looking for.  UKI is a lot better in this department as they allow their course designers a lot more freedom in their designs.  However, courses tend to be designed to what the majority of competitors want and right now that is often not the challenges this minority of competitors are looking for.

Because of this, I recently started thinking about what I can do to try and move this idea along.  Earlier in the year Rosanne DeMascio organized an unaffiliated agility event in Maryland that featured FCI level courses designed and judged by her.  From all that I’ve heard a fun time was had by all.  That event got me to thinking that maybe I should try to do something like that.  If my desire is to see these challenges in the US then if it isn’t being provided by what we have already maybe I should step up and stop talking and start doing.  So that’s what I’m doing.  I announced my event on my FB page earlier this week, but I will have all of the details out by the end of this weekend.  It will be providing the challenge, the atmosphere, and the mentality I want to see in agility.

My event could very well be just a one off event that never happens again.  Time will tell.  However, I will be supporting, with my time, energy and resources, ANY group or organization that tries to promote this level of agility in this country.  Just tonight George Mariakis launched AC United (Agility Competitors United) which aims to be a new venue that is completely competitor driven.  Please check the website out and send any questions you have to George.  The event I’m planning for the middle of October will be falling under this venue and may be the first one to be held under the banner.  I’m also aware of others across the country working independently to bring this level of agility to their area.  It would be amazing if others started to do the same thing spurred on by the steps some of us are taking.  If they don’t want it to fall under this venue that’s fine.  The key is to expose competitors to this level of agility to try and spur bigger change.

I desperately want to see if we can make change happen organically.  If the big organizations eventually move to make changes because of the actions being taken across the country by groups and individuals I hope that we all can play nicely together and realize we all ultimately want the same thing.  That is to play this silly game with our dogs at a higher level than we are used to doing in this country.  I also hope fellow competitors who have voiced support for these types of things follow through and show up to support these events as they happen regardless of who or what organization is organizing.  Without THAT support we don’t advance agility and instead we just revert back to the status quo.