Posted Date: January 1, 2010
A end of year review by USDAA president Kenneth Tatsch.
2009 was a challenging year as we undertook many projects, some of which had lingered for the past couple of years. We began the year determined to finish our long-time-coming web development efforts for Group Services and electronic scorekeeping. We continued to search for alternative venues for the Cynosport World Games and worked to provide enhanced video streaming so those enthusiasts not in attendance could join in the fun of this great event. The Board continued a lingering debate on a number of prospective rule changes, including equipment specifications, tournament rules, and a new Veterans Program. And we forged forward with the third phase of an outside general study of the sport of dog agility.
With so many tasks at hand, we know we fell short in rendering the quality of service that USDAA aspires to and others had come to expect, and at the same time, we did not reach our goals in finalizing so many projects. Frankly, we found ourselves short-handed and working many long hours throughout the entire year, even with the addition of temporary help in areas where temps could be efficiently utilized. In the closing weeks of 2009, frustration mounted as the holidays slowed things to a crawl. However, despite the frustrations, there were some successes.
Significant progress was made on all projects and most will be implemented in January. As part of these implementations, a major goal is to improve customer service. Office support is being evaluated in light of new systems that have been installed in the fourth quarter of 2009, and job assignments will be adjusted in some areas to rebalance the workload and to generally improve service. These changes will become evident over a period of weeks. We will post information on key reassignments as they take effect.
One concern of many is the location of the 2010 Cynosport Games (i.e. USDAA tournament championships). I'm sure everyone noticed we did not get the announcement made by year's end, largely due to holiday interruptions by key facility personnel. We share the frustration; however, we hope to have a signed agreement within the next couple of weeks and will promptly follow with an announcement. Some changes are in store for 2010 at the Games, with a new management team being groomed to guide the event into the next decade. The new team participated in site visits at different venues in November and December and has helped to get us to a decision point, subject to final adjustments to contract provisions that should be forthcoming and lead to signed agreements in the next several days.
A quick summary of other things to come -
- Our Group Services project is almost fully tested with some final fixes finished by developers just two days ago needing some final review; the expected availability for groups to file electronically and prepare their test schedules online is mid-to-late January.
- As part of our database conversion in early October, the staff has been learning the new system (with frustration, I might add), and modifications have been implemented that simplify our administrative interface and will enable us to resume calculation of titles in the next few days. I know we have not delivered the quality of service in the fourth quarter that we aspire to and to which people have grown to expect. As a result, we have decided it is appropriate to issue a 60-day extension to existing subscriptions for those with active subscriptions during the fourth quarter. If a subscription expired during that time, we will reactivate the account for 60 days. These adjustments will be made the first week of January.
- As further improvement of handling of our Yahoo Group (the USDAA Sounding Board) and use of other social media, Brenna Fender will be taking on more responsibility to provide faster approvals for members to certain groups and working as moderator. Other staffing additions will be made to address other growing needs. And we will strive to improve communications as we get the workload balanced and free up more time for this vital need.
- We received word this past week that Tim Verrelli's electronic scorekeeping software has been completed pursuant USDAA specifications and is available for distribution. In the first week of January, we will set out new scorekeeping policy for "outside the computer" procedures to eliminate unnecessary redundancies and contingency plans in the event of computer failures.
- To relieve stress on the office staff, Tom Kula will be the new Chairperson for the Cynosport Games, acting as co-chair in 2010 and taking on full role in 2011. He will be working with a new outside Event Coordinator to render logistical support, in addition to office staff. He and the event planner began working with us in December as part of the site review process and will play an integral role as the planning progresses. Announcement of the venue is expected in the next several days as everyone recovers from the extended holidays. We hope to announce a future year venue as well.
- We have made adjustments in our video player and have finished testing. It is now functioning properly, though there are some improvements in navigation and features that we have planned. We have posted the Performance Grand Prix and Steeplechase video streams (On Demand) and will be posting the Grand Prix and Performance Speed Jumping in the next few days. We will again be implementing discounts for subscribers (and we are studying the time duration that videos may be viewed with hopes of lengthening it). We will issue credits for discounts to subscribers on purchases made on these videos since their release. This will be consistent or better than original price announcements made during the event back in November, which specified that live streaming would be free and a fee charged for On Demand viewing, with a discounted fee applied for subscribers.
- The Board has been deadlocked over several rule proposals over the past couple years, indicating a need to form a larger committee or committees to provide ideas and feedback to improve the sport while maintaining key characteristics; the introduction of fresh ideas and more feedback will help the Board to make more confident decisions on regulation proposals. These involve some "hot" topics as well as other subject matter that we believe will yield better, more balanced programs. The Board will meet over committee formation in the next few weeks and call for a joint Board and Committee meeting in the first quarter. A new rule book will be forthcoming.
- Finally, and seemingly least important, but certainly of great importance over the long-term, our outside independent general study of dog agility was concluded late in December. This was the third of three phases engaged over the past two years by a nationally prominent marketing agency. The study addressed not just what USDAA was doing in the marketplace, but also other organizations and what excites the public about the sport. A by-product of a study of this nature often leads to a new logo, motto, and mission statement, all of which will be released in the first quarter 2010. I extend a special "Thank you" to those competitors that have contributed to this process throughout the past year, including their feedback on the evaluation of possible new logos. We are excited about its reflection on USDAA and encouraging strategies for the future. Further changes in general enhancements to the Web site and services will be forthcoming as a result.
As we enter the 2010, we are excited about a better defined direction and gaining more support through involvement of other qualified individuals and organizations in key positions. We continue to see interests from new groups, domestic and abroad, and economic recovery should bring a resurgence in levels of participation as the sport continues to mature.
On behalf of myself and the USDAA staff, I wish all much success and happiness in 2010.
Kenneth Tatsch, USDAA President