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Course Design for National Events by Brenna Fender and Kenneth Tatsch

Who designs the courses for national events?

Over the years, USDAA officials have wrestled with how to best assure quality courses for the Grand Prix and other tournaments.  The organization received criticism that courses were not balanced and that there should be more control exerted over course design at major events.  Ironically, previously there were those who criticized the fact that judges were not given the freedom to design their own courses and apply their own concepts. In 2004, a new approach was developed which has garnered high praises from competitors.   
Judges were asked to submit one or more courses for a class type (Snooker, Grand Prix, Standard, Gamblers, and so on), rather than submitting courses as they would for a regular event. Sue Henry, acting as tournament course reviewer, and USDAA President Kenneth Tatsch reviewed, modified, and refined the designs to achieve a balance of challenges, difficulty, ring dimensions, flow, and other criteria. 
The submissions allowed the judges to provide creative ideas for a course.  To achieve continuity and balance, Henry and Tatsch examined all the courses and modified them to avoid redundancy in challenges both within the course and among all courses. They also ensured that a nice balance of all challenges existed so that the winners demonstrated a wide variety of abilities over the course of the event. 
Henry, who was to be a lead judge at the Nationals, and Tatsch collaborated by email through an entire night to prepare the courses. "We were on the same wave length and were on a roll," said Tatsch.  "When we had exchanged our renditions of the last course, we knew we had found a good formula for the event."  Henry had to withdraw from judging in 2004 due to collegiate examinations she could not reschedule.  She was to take on an expanded role as a tournament course reviewer for 2005 but was fatally injured in a motorcyle accident a couple of weeks after the 2004 event on Thanksgiving Day. Helping to refine the tournament championship review system was one of Henry's last major contributions to the agility world and it is perhaps a little known fact. 

In 2005, David Hanson was asked to come out of judging retirement to take on tournament course review duties.  He and Tatsch employed the process begun a year earlier and again found it to be a good approach to assure exciting and challenging courses for the best agility athletes in the world to compete on while naming a new Champion.  The two will continue to refine the process, providing the best courses possible for the agility championships in 2006.


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