Transcript for the NAFA Candidate Chat November 12, 2019



EmmaMak

Hi everyone, I'm the NAFA Elections Chair and I'm moderating tonight's chat.
Thank you to Nominating Committee Chair Terry McClean and to NAFA Chairman, Steve Corona, for helping me on the chat tonight.
Thank you to our Board of Directors Candidates: Jonathan Bescher, Cindy Henderson, Leerie Jenkins, Kurt Johnson, Alex Le, and Neil Flood for Executive Director, for putting yourself out there and offering to serve on the Nafa Board.

EmmaMak

It's hard to schedule chats where everyone can attend, especially with candidates on each coast.
Tonight is the first of three chats and we have Jonathan Bescher, Cindy Henderson, Kurt Johnson and Alex Le.
Neil is not able to make any of the chats but is available by email at nflood51@gmail.com if anyone has questions pertaining to his nomination.

EmmaMak

Those joining us who wish to ask the candidates a question, a reminder that this is a moderated chat, so please send a private message to me.
You can do this by typing //pm EmmaMak
I'm also available on FB chat if you'd prefer to interact that way or you can email questions to elections@flyball.org.
We will first take opening remarks from the candidates.

0 questions in the queue. If you have questions please private message me. Thanks

EmmaMak

I actually have 4 questions in the queue.

AlexLe

Thank you so much to Emma and the election committee for putting this together and to everyone for attending and taking an active part in the election. My name is Alex Le. Iím from Region 16, out here in sunny California. Iíve been playing flyball now 9, close to 10 years. I havenít been doing it as long as some of the other candidates, but Iíve been involved long enough and have raced all over the U.S. and Canada with different teams in different regions with my two crazy height dogs to witness some amazing things in NAFA and the flyball community. look forward to contributing to organization and am very excited and humbled by the nomination for BOD.

CindyHenderson

Evening everyone! Thanks for joining us, look forward to chatting tonight. I have been playing flyball for 20 years and have been judging for over 15. I am in MA part of Region 13. Looking forward to hear more about what folks are thinking.

JonathanBescher

I want to thank everyone for joining us tonight, and a special thanks to Emma Mak, Steve Corona, and Terry McClean for making these happen. I am from Region 9, in NC, and I started flyball in 2002, have been a judge since 2009, and a Certified Measuring Judge and Supervising Judge since 2017. I have helped out at CanAm for many years now. Good luck to all the candidates, whoever gets elected, I know will represent NAFA very well.

kurtjohnson

Hello all. Thank you to all who participate live or read the transcripts later. Thank you Emma and Steve. I am from Lethbridge Alberta Canada. Just received my 25 year pin. I have been a head judge for 22 years, supervising for 19. What a great group of Candidates!!

EmmaMak

Apologies if people were trying to private message me. I had to change a setting so they would be accepted. All set now.

EmmaMak

First question from Steve Corona: Each year the board members are asked to serve on several committees. Which of these committees best fit your strengths and which aren't in your wheelhouse?

kurtjohnson

Judges and Rules would be strong areas for me. Technology... not so much.

JonathanBescher

I think the judges committee, which I am currently on, along with the the rules, and technology committee. Being a judge, having to know the rules, and hep explain them make a rules committee a good committee for any judge, and technology because I love being involved in that stuff, along with already helping out Dave Thomas on a lot of things that have been developed, and in development.

CindyHenderson

Thanks Steve, without having the list of committees in front of me I will try and remember them all. A couple I think are well suited are judges and rules - I think some of the wording could be clarified and I think judges training can be improved.

CindyHenderson

Communication is something we have been working to improve and that is an area that needs some continued attention so that also interests me.

CindyHenderson

In general I would say I would be happy to serve on any of the committees - varied backgrounds and perspectives on the committees is important.

AlexLe

I work as an attorney in a large Silicon Valley Venture Capital firm. We invest in startups and small companies and I spend a good percent of my time sitting on multiple boards to help drive best practices and processes from outside the company. This dedication and experience can be of value to NAFA. My background in technology can be of use to NAFA as well as my ability to be very pointed and directed with comms. From what Iíve seen over the years, I can help modernize our use of Technology and even perhaps partnerships with some of the major dot coms and large organizations here in San Francisco. I can also use my skills to help the our Committee with comms and ensure that we utilize, for example, all our social media to provide more transparency to the rest of the flyball community. I see this as a gap that exists currently.

EmmaMak

Second question from Meagan Langs - As a board member it is important that you are open to change and open to hearing other's ideas. How have you been open to change in the past personally or professionally? Or how have you helped change occur?

AlexLe

When I manage my teams at work, or sit on volunteer committees, the one key skill that I always bring is the ability to ensure that we have really pointed accurate decision making. And that we listen and understand what issue/problem being asked or raised. We owe this to the constituents that put us there and we need to make sure that we always represent the best interest of the organization while reflecting changes that the community is calling for.

JonathanBescher

As a judge, we are thrown different rule changes, and need to apply them. I think with all the rule changes, whether I agreed with them or not, I have adapted to, and have been able to explain to anyone else that has asked me about them. Also, as a swim coach, there have been many changes to rules that we have to adjust to. Within my company that I work at, we are always having to change/adopt to new policies in the retail world. I have had to work with others to help adapt to those changes.

AlexLe

I totally understand that change is hard, it can be difficult, but it can also be eye opening, useful, productive and good for the organization. Thatís how an organization moves forward and fear of change or stagnant compliancy will eventually lead to corrosion of trust in the teams and people in charge. Over the years, Iíve made multiple changes in my life, Iíve worked and lived in Berlin, Sydney, Paris, NYC, DCÖ Each time, Iíve had to adapt and learn to adopt and listen and work with the local environment. Working in M&A, I also lead multiple companies through changes as we integrate them into our larger infrastructure at Google. This experience can be applied to help NAFA.

CindyHenderson

Great question Meagan! Lets be honest here - there is a lot of competition that exists in the dog sport world not only from competing flyball organizations but from frisbee, agility, dock diving, etc. If NAFA wants to continue successfully going forward and to grow changes will need to be considered. In my professional life I am the EVP, Strategic Development for a contract research organization providing services to pharmaceutical companies running clinical trials. I run our Sales and Marketing team and work on our Mergers and Acquisition strategy and lead integration efforts. As we have acquired new companies it is critical that we consider the processes, procedures and perspectives of the individuals from the company we are bringing into our organization to make the integration and the overall acquisition successful. Listening to others and considering all ideas to try and come to a decision that makes the most sense for the most people as well as the organization is critical. I would like to bring this skill set to NAFA to ensure we are listening to others an considering how change can benefit NAFA and as many as possible.

kurtjohnson

I feel you must be open to all ideas, and weigh them with thought. Everyone has perspective, not all are going to be the same. If anyone has an idea, it must be listened to and evaluated against your own. I have switched companies, in the same line of work 2 years ago. They have some different ways of doing work than I was used to, and I was able to accept better ways as well as show different things that I have picked up on over time. Its

EmmaMak

Next question from Curtis Smith: Describe your experience and/or qualifications that make you well-suited for serving on a board comprised of members who occasionally disagree with one another.

AlexLe

Great question, Curtis. When I was approached by several people in different regions outside of my own to consider running to fill the upcoming vacant seat for the BOD, I spent many hours in conversation with family and friends to understand what they believed should be represented on the BOD and what their perception were if how things were going.

To me, it boils down to 3 key tenants (1) Forward thinking modernizing the organization (2) Transparency / Comms Ė Listen, respond, adapt (3) Partnership / Commitment to the organization

JonathanBescher

I have no official experience being on a board, however, I sit in all the board meetings that the swim team I coach at. I am the only non Full-TIme coach that sits in all the staff and board meetings. I help make decisions that affect not just the group I coach, but the whole team. There are always going to be differing opinions, but how you resolve them is what makes everyone be on the same page. You also need to support the decision that is made and either voted on, or being sent out by the board, whether you agree with it or not.

kurtjohnson

My experience with NAFA is a strong asset. I have also hold leadership positions at work as an underground construction foreman. I have board experience in the non profit sector as well. Disagreements happen. Be open, honest, and mature.

JonathanBescher

As someone that has been thrown into a Project Management position at my work, you have to learn to respect others opinions and sometimes your opinion is not always the best for the project or the company. I have learned these lessons the hard way, but listening to everyone's side of things makes a decisions a lot easier.

AlexLe

My ability to reflect the culture of the organization and its board and to encourage effective participation in the process is useful. If we have clearly stated objectives and reflect back on how we will serve the organization and the flyball community through those tenants, we should be able to work together to make the organizaiton stronger.

CindyHenderson

I actually hope there is disagreement from time to time - that will be critical to representing ALL of NAFA. It is clear that not everyone agrees on everything happening in our sport currently. So, if we are to represent the members of NAFA then we have to think of these different perspectives and bring them to the table which will lead to disagreements. In my job all of us within the company and on the leadership team don't always agree. I have to use skills such as listening, weighing the pros and cons, considering alternative suggestions, influencing skills and most importantly compromise on a daily basis. As an owner/captain of a flyball team I try (can't say I am 100% successful but I do my best) to listen to the ideas of my teammates - we all don't always agree - but in the end we all respect each other and try to come to a solution that makes the most sense for the team. I would hope to bring this to NAFA.

EmmaMak

Next question from Dave Strauss: Communications, or lack thereof, seem to be a perennial problem. The perception is that the board is very closed and insular and doesn't try to include the Flyball community as a whole. What will you as a board member do to improve the openness of the board, its deliberations, and its decision-making processes.

CindyHenderson

I agree that communication needs to improve. The Communications Committee has done a few things this year to try and improve things but I have to admit not as much progress as I would like has happened. I believe that the board needs to communicate more, use social media, release the meeting dates, agenda and minutes from board meetings faster. I would also like to see a survey (not a formal vote) but a survey done among all the NAFA members - not just the club owners, RDs and Judges - to see what people are really thinking (not just what is posted on facebook by some). I also think the website needs a major overhaul as it is very difficult to navigate and find the information you are looking for - making that more user friendly would help communication

CindyHenderson

I would also like to see more communication among RDs and Judges. I was an RD for 10 years and there was never once an RD meeting - seems that would go along way to understand what is happening in regions. Also a meeting of all judges for training purposes and to discuss new rules would be really helpful - not just email communications

 

JonathanBescher

Within any change, we need to make sure the community knows about what is going to be discussed at the board meetings. However, it is very difficult, when some of those things are brought up at the board meeting. I think things in the past have gotten better, but need to be quicker. I think some of things that get posted to the NAFA Facebook page, or using NAFA News, also needs to be posted on the NAFA website. Not everyone is on Facebook, or gets the NAFA News email. I would like to see the board members going to different regions and having some type of Town Hall meetings with the regions after a tournament. I know when I traveled to Nova Scotia to judge, I had judges come to me and ask me what the thought was of some of the rule changes. Using the resour

kurtjohnson

I agree that this is an accurate perception. As a judge I have always felt that i have been approachable and willing to help, to teach, and to mentor. As a board member, I would work to ensure that every participant in NAFA feels that the have a voice and access to information. I feel that more input needs to be requested from team owners.

CindyHenderson

I like the town hall idea Jonathan - getting out there and really seeing and hearing what is going on in the different regions is important

AlexLe

Over the past 2 years, Iíve been personally affected by several NAFA changes. I ran and trained 2 height dogs that used splash balls. Although the changes did not affect me in a significant way as I was able to quickly adapt to new rules or clarification of rules, it opened my eyes to the way the BOD and NAFA as an organization addressed concerns and issues raised by the people supporting it. This reflects back to the 3 tenants I defined. We have to, as leaders on the BOD, work to reflect how the rest of the flyball community feels and provide key transparency in the processes that are being undertaken and the approach to problem solving. I would advocate for several changes (1) Improve comms to the rest of the community and solicit feedback that is useful and pointed and directedÖ This needs to be improved significantly (2) provide clear understanding to the community on the processes being used to problem solve and be less reactionary and (3) Understand that the BOD doesnít have to solve all issues and all problems. That sometimes its ok to use proven methods that work and that other we donít have to always be different from other organizations. We can also share their ways of solving problems and apply them to our own situations for the enhancement of NAFA.

JonathanBescher

Sorry, hit enter by mistake. Using the resources that we have available, we should be able to get feedback from many more competitors than just the few that aren't afraid to voice their opinions. I know I have told people many times to email NAFA about certain things.

EmmaMak

Next question from Dave Strauss: The dog height measuring issues seem to go on and on endlessly. What do you view as the fundamental problem with measuring dogs, and how do you propose to make the process quicker and easier for all competitors?

JonathanBescher

Cindy, especially in those regions where there are no board members, or even judges.

CindyHenderson

Measuring is obviously a hot topic. In my opinion the fundamental issue is training - not the dogs, the judges. Lack of consistent training for all judges. Think about it - each judge is trained to measure by another judge - there is no video, class, or even consistent way for one judge to train another judge. that is the first thing I would want to fix about measuring - regardless of how we measure (withers or ulna) is that we need to have a consistent way to train judges on how to perform the measurement. Then I agree with the concept of measuring being mandatory. It isn't fair to put competitors in the position of having to challenge each other. Measuring should be mandatory (or you have a height card) and then judges should be empowered to challenge if there is a concern.

JonathanBescher

Dave, I think we all knew a question about measuring was going to come up. My biggest thing with the measuring, is that for the longest time, people really never had to get there dogs measured. When I first started and you had a height dog, you got your dog measured. There was always a line for people to get their dogs measured. Since I have been a judge, I rarely have to measure a dog. The only times I measure dogs, or help measure dogs, is when I am Supervising someone. I think we need to bring back some sort of mandatory measuring. How it is done, and when it is implemented needs to be discussed, but right now people are just choosing their height based on what their dog looks like they are going to measure. That is not good for anyone. I know NAFA has tried to make improvements in measuring. Clarifying the stance has made it easier as a judge, but with anything we all need to practice. Right now, if I didn't have to watch or help teach other judges, I probably would have measured 5 dogs in the past 5 years.

kurtjohnson

Fundamental problem, i believe, has been the consistency of the application of the rule book. I would propose to align all of the judges to the acceptable stance. There needs to be training so that all judges are consistent. I have seen the application of the laser reciever in action, and feel it is an improvement over the wicket. I am also open to exploring other ideas.

CindyHenderson

I feel it is important that as one of the Certified Measuring Judges that I address the whole CMJ concept as well. When I was asked to be one of the CMJ's I thought long and hard about it and I have a lot of issues with it like others do. I accepted the position in part to learn more about it so I could perhaps help influence change in the future. I would like to see the CMJ position eliminated. I understand why it was determined to be needed at the time but it is not something that should be continued. We need to ensure that ALL judges are properly trained on measuring and are held to the standard. I would suggest a re-certification program for judges every couple years. In every other sport I can think of there is ongoing training and education for judges/referees/umpires. Flyball should be the same - require continuing education around rule change and fundamental concepts like measuring

AlexLe

I think thereís too much going with the measuring and dog height issue and they are getting combined into one stagnant problem that seems to persists without solution. We need to break it down into bite size chunks and deal with it individually: (1) Technology Ė we know that the measurement tool used by UFLI and FCI is what the majority of the flyball community prefers. As someone who runs a height dog, it is significantly easier for me to measure in these organizations than in NAFA. This has to be addressed by the BOD or clearly explain why the new laser oriented tool with a stack stance is better. This debate this to be put to rest. (2) We need to address measuring and the process involved. Is it really a training issue? Or is it simply that we need a better tool? I can say honestly that I have trained my dogs to stack themselves for measuring, but why when there are easier tools that can be used to make simplify the process for all competitors? (3) Clarify the rules. I think this area is confusing and the lack of how the rules are applied consistently is alarming. Iíve witnessed a dog measure a full 1Ē lower in one region than another by different judges. This is alarming to me and I believe further clarification of rules can help with this. Additionally, we should ensure that all judges are trained the same way and that there are processes put in place to avoid favoritism with measuring of dogs by certain judges.

EmmaMak

Next question from Dave Strauss: Participation in Flyball appears to be declining - tournaments are getting smaller every year and there are fewer of them (this year's CanAm is a case in point). In addition there is competition from U-Fli which siphons off people and venues. What will you as a board member do to more actively promote the sport in general and NAFA Flyball in particular? What will you do to attract people who might not otherwise consider Flyball as an option for their dogs?

JonathanBescher

I think the overall problem is cost of venues, other dog sports, and competition from U-Fli. The biggest problem with clubs being able to host tournaments has been finding a venue that is cost effective. I know there are some regions that can only host in one facility, which makes it difficult for people to have to travel to that place every time. I know in Region 9 the tournaments have been fairly consistent and we even had a tournament be 3 rings this year, where last year it was only 2. I think it depends on the area that you go. In our area we really don't have competition from U-Fli, but I know in other regions there is a lot. I think as a board member we would need to help the clubs participate in demos, go to dog training clubs and help promote the sport. I know when I am at a frisbee event, I am asking others what other dog sports that they do with their dogs. We just need to be more pro-active about show casing the sport. I think Purina Dog Sports, and our alignment with the AKC helps, but word of mouth is our best bet of getting people to enjoy the sport.

CindyHenderson

Agree participation seems to be declining. First I would like to see the data to fully understand how much, is it in any particular areas, how long has it been declining, etc. In order to address the problem we need to understand what the problem really is. So I would want to do a survey of participants - not just club owners - and ask them questions about number of flyball tournaments they participate in, are they going to fewer each year and if yes, why as some example questions. I would like to ask those clubs that host tournaments what challenges do they have in hosting tournaments. I have a hunch that this is not an easy answer. This is not just a UFLI vs NAFA situation because there is competition from other dog sports as well. Once we understand the situation we can come up with some ideas for solutions. I am sure that measuring is one concern for folks, cost could be another. So, we will have to discuss options to address these. In order to get new people in the sport we need to promote it and that is way I was so thrilled to be part of the ESPN/AKC Dog Day event this year and look forward to doing it again next year. This could be a great partnership with the AKC and ESPN to promote the sport. Also seeing flyball back at the Incredible Dog Challenge is fantastic. We need to improve our marketing efforts to ensure that we are attracting new people to the sport. We need to make it easy for new clubs to form - perhaps ways for NAFA to support new clubs through training and education to help get them off the ground. It is a complex issue and will need to be tackled on several different fronts.

kurtjohnson

This is where we need to be soliciting input from team owners. As a board we need to understand why people aren't hosting or travelling or even participating. I can speak to my own region from an economic standpoint, as to a decline in participation but not for all. I think that NAFA participation in large events such as the Incredible Dog Challenge was great publicity. We need to be "seen" as there are more and more options available to spend money on activities with your dogs.

AlexLe

Over the past few years, Iíve noticed fewer and fewer tournaments in my region and less NAFA participation. This is strange to me because, as a new club owner, I have received higher percentages of requests for flyball training and participation from new people each year. I believe there is a need to nuture and encourage flyball to new folks as they get onboarded. I bring this back to (1) technology Ė I will be honest here, I find the NAFA website extremely difficult to navigate, and I work with the largest search engine internet company that uses daily algorithms to scan websites. We need to work on improving our marketing and perhaps even partner with companies to help us modernize the organization. (2) Comms Ė Again, Communication needs to come out quicker, but also in a way that doesn't stir up or facilitate drama. This means that we need to be transparent yet at the same time fully informative with how we communicate and how it will be interpreted by others. This will encourage new members to participate without worrying about what theyíre getting into or if theyíre taking on too much. At the end of the day, flyball is fun. We do this to be with our dogs and our friends.

CindyHenderson

I agree Alex the website needs to be updated it is very difficult to navigate even for those of us who participate in the sport let alone a new person trying to get into the sport.

EmmaMak

Next question from moderator: What is it about NAFA that makes it the flyball organization you would like to be contribute to in a leadership role?

EmmaMak

I have no more questions in the queue...

AlexLe

Most importantly, I think we need to also stop pretending ufli doesn't exsist. I've had numerous discussions with flyball folks across the U.S. and the majority of the people I talk to like, for example, the Affinity program. If we effectively modernize our approach to address the feelings and reflect what the flyball community wants and address the measuring issue the masses will return.

JonathanBescher

NAFA has given me 17 - 18 great years and has allowed me to participate in a sport with my dogs. I have met a lot of people through the sport of flyball that I never would have met without it. I think it is time to give back, and with the knowledge I have learned through years as a judge, and helping out at CanAm, I think I can bring some ideas to the table. Because of flyball I now have friends, not just across the country, but around the world.

kurtjohnson

My first interaction with NAFA leadership was becoming a Head Judge through Clyde Moore. I literally could feel his love for his dog and the sport. I feel that I have always had a little Clyde guiding me. My history is with NAFA, and I believe in what NAFA stands for.

CindyHenderson

I have been playing NAFA flyball for 20 years and when I began it was the only organization. I have served NAFA as a participant, club owner, Judge, Regional Director, and committee member. There have been things that I have not always agreed with over the years but I have always appreciated the hard work that the members of the board have done every year to try and improve the sport and give us all a venue to have fun with our dogs. This sport has given me so much over the years - I have made the best friends from across the country and I have learned so much from so many. I would like to give back to the sport and do what I can to try and help NAFA be successful going forward for as many folks as possible.

AlexLe

Iíll be honest, I love flyball. Iím a bit obsessed with it. I also love my flyball family. NAFA was the organization that I registered my first flyball dog in. Its allowed me to make some amazing memories with my dogs, my friends and most importantly, allowed me to invest in a minivan and RV when I would never have done so.. EVERÖ
I want to bring a lot of this backÖ I want people to love playing flyball with their dogs, I want people to be excited to go to tournaments AND have more tournaments to go to, I want to introduce new people to new training methods and show them what a great time they will have to work as a team. But to do this, we need to bring NAFA ship around. I want to help provide that needed transparency, improve our technology, be more social media savvy.. Do all the things necessary to make NAFA a cool place for everyone.

EmmaMak

Candidates, please make your closing remarks.
NAFA 2019/2020 Election ballots will be delivered to your email inbox on December 1st if you are a Club Owner, Regional Director, Approved/Supervising Judge or Board Member.
So please make sure you've updated NAFA with your latest email address if it's changed since last election.
Polls opened December 1, 2019. Results will be announced January 18, 2020 at the NAFA AGM in Baltimore, MD

JonathanBescher

I would like to thank everyone that asked questions, and those that will take the time to read these chats. I look forward to answering any other questions. Once again, thanks to Emma for leading this chat.

AlexLe

I am so excited about this opportunity and am very much looking forward to working with everyone on the NAFA Board and hope that I will get the chance to serve in a larger capacity for NAFA and our flyball community. If you have any questions, please get in touch with me or go here: https://alexanderple.wixsite.com/website to see all the questions Iíve answered from people around the different regions about how I will serve on the NAFA Board and to share your vision on what we can do to work together and make NAFA a great flyball organization.

CindyHenderson

I would like to thank everyone for your participation in the chat tonight and I look forward to the upcoming chats as well. It is critical to hear from as many people as possible so we understand the issues, concerns, ideas, and positive feedback from the flyball community. I love this crazy sport. My whole family and everyone I work with knows it - they probably get sick of hearing me talk about it sometimes. Some of my very best friends have come from the flyball community and I am thankful and proud to be a part of a community that is so caring and helpful and really demonstrates such amazing sportsmanship. Thank you to Emma and the board for supporting this chat tonight. I am happy to answer any other questions for anyone and can be reached via facebook. I hope that I will get the chance to work with everyone to improve this crazy fun sport we all love! Thanks again!

kurtjohnson

Thank you all for your thoughtful questions and taking the time to learn a little about the candidates. Thank you to all the candidates.. and hello to all! Thank you to Emma and Steve, as well as the serving board, for all your work.

EmmaMak

Thank you to all the candidates and the members of the NAFA community for their participation this evening. This concludes tonight's chat.
Next one is Tuesday November 26 - 8pm EST. Good night.

SteveCorona

Thank you to our candidates for participating in the chat this evening and providing their insight into the topics addressed tonight. Thank you also to those in the flyball community that submitted questions and to Emma Mak for leading tonights chat.