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Talking with Wim Bekendam

Deborah Davidson Harpur continues interviewing judges from the 2010 Cynosport World Games.


Name: Wim Bekendam
Hometown/Country: A small village close to Amsterdam: Nieuw-Vennep in the Netherlands.
Years active in agility: "I was attending dog school with our first dog Bo, who was a working sheepdog, when I was invited to join in training agility at the school.  I began to teach agility lessons in 1993. It took us seven years to reach the highest level in agility competition in Holland. Now I am one of the agility instructors of the dog school that has been nominated best for several years by the Federation for Dog Sports in the Netherlands (FHN). In 2003, I started judging agility in Holland."

Deborah Davidson Harpur (DDH): Have you judged for the Cynosport Games in the past?

Wim Bekendam (WB): For me, it is the first time to visit the USA at all. I am looking forward to this trip as I have heard so many positive stories, especially from my Dutch colleague, judge Gert Siekmans. He told me to enjoy it as much as he did when he experienced the games in 2006, 2007, and 2009.

DDH: What classes are you judging at the Cynosport Games?

WB: I start on Tuesday with a European Standard Agility course. On Wednesday, I am scheduled for the quarterfinals of Performance Grand Prix; Thursday, Team Standard; Friday, Grand Prix Quarterfinals; Saturday, Steeplechase and Team Jumpers; and on Sunday, Rekoons and Junior Handlers.

DDH: Are you doing anything in particular to prepare for judging the Games?

WB: I'm studying the USDAA agility rules, checking at what points they differ from the Dutch rules that I am used to. And I am having a lot of fun in planning the short vacation in the USA when the 2010 Cynosport World Games are finished.

DDH: Do you find that designing courses for Cynosport is different than designing courses for a trial for a local or regional event?

WB: Not really, but this time I did not know exactly what level of difficulty I can put in the courses. Based on the courses from earlier Cynosport Games I have seen, I have not designed very different than the courses I set up in Holland. In Holland, Steeplechase and Junior Handlers are not a part of the competitions, so designing those were new to me.

DDH: What breeds of dogs do you currently have and do they compete in agility?

WB: My wife and I have had Border Collies ever since our first dog. Djingels is a three-and-a-half-year-old male dog, but due to some injuries, he is only able to train agility on a low level. It's better for him to use his working skills on sheepherding and searching and retrieving for hunting activities. With Toyah, an almost-two-year-old female, we are preparing for agility competitions and also train sheepherding and the hunting practices.

DDH: Why did you become an USDAA judge?

WB: When Bo had to retire from agility, I was asked to use the time that became available to judge national competitions. I found out that judging is a great way to experience agility from another point of view. As a judge for agility in Holland I was invited by the IFCS to come to the World Agility Championships in May 2010 in England. There I met the USA judge Janet Gaunt, and Kenneth Tatsch as IFCS council member. This led to the invitation I received from USDAA to judge at this Cynosport World Games.

DDH: What do you think are the qualities that make a good agility judge?

WB: Love for the dog sports, especially in agility. Judge fair and respectful, constantly for all participants equally. Offering agility courses as save as possible, but also create new challenges to the dogs and handlers.

DDH: What is the biggest challenge in judging that you have experienced?

WB: The first time I stepped in the course as a agility judge and every time I judge a group of competitors that are new to me. For instance, the WAC in England and now these Cynosport Games.

DDH: In terms of judging generally, not just at the Cynosport Games, what do you see as the role of the judge in terms of our sport?

WB: The judge must make accurate decisions to be able to determine which dog has run a challenging course the fastest, with the least faults. A judge must use the knowledge of the agility rules to educate and to explain them to others.

DDH: How would you describe your style of course design?

WB: My courses mostly offer fluent lines for the dogs to run with distracting obstacles to lure them away from that track. Handlers should have the opportunity to use different handling techniques to run a clean course as fast or as save as they think they can.

DDH: What advice can you share with competitors who hope to come through with a clean run on one of your courses?

WB: Use the competitions to show all your practice skills and give your dogs the chance to really show off. Have fun and if it is not as successful as you hope for, know that you cannot win them all.

DDH: What do you enjoy most about USDAA agility?

WB: USDAA's contribution to the development of agility as a more and more important sport worldwide. This has made it possible for me to learn how you experience agility in the USA. And I am sure I will take home a lot of ideas to use in Dutch agility.

Deborah Davidson Harpur has been active in dog agility since 1998. Before that she raced karts, was a nationally ranked driver, and was a writer/editor of Karter News Magazine, a national publication.  Since her move from racing on the track to running different breeds of dogs on the agility course, she and her dogs have really embraced all that agility offers. More about her team at www.pm2dogagility.com.

Photo courtesy of Jan-Paul Van Es

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