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Feedback from the 2014 Skyhoundz World Championships

First of all, thank you to Peter, Jeff, Nancy, Mad-Dogs and everyone else who make this happen every year.

From September 21-29, I traveled to Chattanooga, Tennessee for the 2014 Hyperflite Skyhoundz World Canine Disc Championship. Lara and I flew to Chicago from Edmonton, drove 10 hours to Chattanooga and stayed in a hotel with 6 dogs for 8 days. For the amount of money and time we spent getting there (and taking that time off of work) and also for the amount of time/money we spent traveling to the qualifiers in order to have a spot at worlds, and also for the time/money I spent traveling to Edmonton to practice with her and her dogs, plus the fact that it’s called the “World Championships” and every time we competed or attempted to qualify with a dog, we had to pay for it, I had high expectations. If this event was volunteer run and we only had to drive 30 minutes then my expectations would obviously be different, but they weren’t. Hyperflite is a business and they sell discs and clothing and books and videos. Like any business, they want to make a profit. Until the financials are shared publicly for the World Championships, it’s safe to assume that they make a profit from all of the entries. So, taking all of the above into account, the World Championships should be a big deal, should be professionally run and we should feel like our money is well spent. Throughout the week, during the last chance qualifiers and also during the world championship days, there were situations that arose, there were errors in scoring, we finished in the dark everyday and there was a lot of people making comments about what was happening. I decided to gather all of those voices in one post to share with the canine disc community (and ultimately Hyperflite) what those suggestions are. Although I will be sharing with you those people who contributed by offering suggestions to me, I won’t be singling out any individual so although you’ll know who contributed, you won’t know which suggestions belongs to who (at the request of many contributors). If you have any suggestions to add, or would like to comment/respond to me on any of the points, I welcome your feedback. I will say that many of the people I talked to told me that Skyhoundz is their favourite series (and for myself personally, other than the Quadruped, Skyhoundz is the only canine disc series I compete in). So everyone just wants to help make it better and that’s what this post is all about. No matter if someone finishes first or last, we just want to make sure that they have fun and keep coming out!

These are in no particular order and many were done by me throughout the event and then I added points later on after talking to fellow friends/competitors. I’m also not advocating and saying that all of the suggestions should happen – that’s why they are called suggestions. But you’ll see that some of the feedback is absolutely valid and should be action items.

Contributors: Tracy & Adrian Custer, Rick Rauwerda, Angela Ewtushik, Rachael Mohr, Brandy Oates, Tim Gieb, Jeff & Jackie Sheetz, Pennie Mahon, Chuck Middleton, Andrew Han, and Gordon Cheung

  1. During the Sport (D/A) division on the weekend, there was too much leeway with letting competitors go out of turn after the ranking round. The order is the order is the order. The higher scores have earned the right to go later in the order so someone with a low score shouldn’t get to go just because they happen to be doing freestyle around the same time. They knew going into the day that there might be possible conflicts but that’s nobody’s fault except their own. Going later in the round is an advantage since you know what scores you have to beat and what you need to make the cut. So unless you’ve earned that right, you either go early or you miss your turn.
  2. On Friday during the Last Chance Freestyle, there was an issue with tracking the proper scores. One of the competitors didn’t show up and instead of deleting the entire row (or just giving them a zero) only the cell was deleted which right away put the scores out of sync. This caused 3 freestyle teams to go later on after all of the top 10 freestyle teams had done their round of D/A and their second round of freestyle. Not only were the competitors only given a few minutes notice but the weather was different (wind and the sun was going down). There was no pressure either and so 2 of the 3 teams ended up making the cut for the Saturday World Championships. Of everything that happened, this was probably the worst mixup. They should have allowed 2 additional qualifying spots into Saturday’s finals, to keep things fair. Who knows if the 2 people knocked out would have changed their strategy for D/A had they known they needed a bigger round.
  3. According to the rules for Xtreme Distance, the field should be set up according to wind direction, which should be down wind. Regardless of if a competitor has the ability to challenge the world record, every competitor should be given the opportunity to challenge their personal best. When distance is thrown into a headwind, that makes it more challenging and in many cases, impossible. During the Xtreme Distance Last Chance, the fields were shifted because enough of us complained that we were throwing into the wind. However, on Wednesday, during the Xtreme Distance World Championships (when it matters), the fields were again set up into the wind and this time, they weren’t changed. It’s absolutely unacceptable that we spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of time training and traveling just to show up and not be able to throw downwind.
  4. The classes in Xtreme Distance make sense – Micro, Light, Classic and Unlimited. However, what doesn’t make sense are the weights of the discs. Get rid of the weights and just assign various discs for each class. The reason that this NEEDS to change is due to the 85g limit in Light and the 125g limit in Unlimited. Lara bought BRAND NEW Jawz Pups discs from the Hyperflite table, walked across the park to the judges table, had the discs weighed and many of them weighed 86 or 87g, which meant that they were too heavy for Light. Discs can easily vary in weight by a few grams – even discs of the same run – this is nothing new. However, when the rules say 85g yet the organization who sets the rules has discs that don’t even make the weight limit, then something needs to change. Also, the scale can vary by a few grams. I was at a qualifier in July that used the same scale as the one at the World Championships (Mad-Dogs were running both) and yet the number they recorded on some discs in July were different than the numbers they recorded in September. Due to wind, the placement on the scale and even variance with the scale itself, it’s not accurate or consistent. So I propose that we do away with the numbers and instead categorize discs based on their class. It will also save time since we won’t have to weigh discs anymore.
  5. Judging consistency needs to improve. This is the World Championships. We pay for each dog and each event. There is thousands of dollars collected. So how come competitors are called upon to volunteer to judge? The best example of this is with Xtreme Distance. Competitors were standing out in the sun for hours judging and then were expected to compete later on. Take some of the money that we have paid and hire judges – get college kids, whatever they determine to be best. But it’s silly that competitors are expected to volunteer to judge.
  6. Get rid of the plaques. So many people who have been supporting Skyhoundz for years have enough plaques to shingle their roof. Give us discs. Ribbons. Anything but big bulky plaques. For those of us who are flying we almost always have to play extra to bring plaques home. The money Skyhoundz spends on plaques could be better spent on other services such as paying for judges in DDAT or Xtreme Distance
  7. The rules are the rules. Stick to them or change them. When they are presented to an official to question an incident, you MUST abide by them. Otherwise why even have rules.
  8. Everyone should throw at the same time. If someone isn’t able to throw when they are scheduled and cannot make a spot later or earlier on then they should be scratched. Because of changing winds and sun position and perceived competitor pressure, everyone should go together. An example of this was during Micro Men’s Xtreme Distance when one competitor went hours before everyone else since he had to leave early.
  9. If we’re going to have spectators, then announce for them. Many of the people watching are seeing it for the first time and have no idea what they are watching or don’t understand how the judging or competition work so with some extra explanation, people would be better able to understand what they are watching and also could explain it to friends and family better.
  10. Micro dogs should be measured in line with every other organization including AKC, Dock Dogs and USDAA. There are just too many cases/rumours/situations where a dog is “micro” in Skyhoundz but not in any other organization. Every competitor and breeder and dog trainer I’ve talked to agrees with this and suggested the AKC/Dock Dogs/USDAA guidelines.
  11. Although the DA rules clearly state that an extra half a point will be awarded when all 4 paws are off the ground in an obvious jumping effort, there is an unofficial guideline that an in stride jump doesn’t count. This needs to be made crystal clear because there are many cases in D/A when a dog has all 4 paws off the ground but it’s not counted as a half a point. If a dog is running hard and they jump in stride, that should be awarded the same as a dog who waits for a disc and jumps straight up into the air.
  12. In freestyle or DA in the first round, a person or dog should never have to run back to back. Since it’s random or at least based on qualifying spots, the order can be changed to prevent this situation from occurring. However the first round running is determined, the list should be double checked manually and adjustments be made.
  13. On the Sunday, the events were taking longer than expected and the event staff started taking down the banners. The banners were in place to create a barrier around the field. Those barriers were up all day yet the top 3 teams in Micro Freestyle and all of the Pairs Freestyle teams had to go without the barrier for their second round. I heard a few competitors voice concerns and when I confronted the Hyperflite staff, I was told that it was done to “save time”. Yet it really didn’t save time because the events were still going on.
  14. There should be warmups allowed in Xtreme Distance between each class. The wind changes and it’s important as a competitor to learn the wind with the discs that you’re going to be throwing. Only allowing for a warmup at the beginning of the day doesn’t prepare you to throw later on.
  15. There should be a set schedule for judges/staff breaks – These should be put into the running order at the beginning of the day so teams can prepare their warm up accordingly.
  16. Announce the competitor numbers – Many people do not know others by name so we rely on numbers to decide when to start warming up.
  17. Use two way radios – Use two-way radios between the support staff on field 1 and the support staff on field 2 so the announcer on field 1 can notify competitors where the running order is on field 2. This is especially important on the Friday Last Chance and on Sunday when competitors have dogs in both events. It shouldn’t be up to the competitors to run back and forth. It’s the World Championships so communication shouldn’t leave people confused or unsure when they are running. I saw this happen more than a few times where people were confused by the running orders or the order or events.
  18. There should be no cut in sport division – Why is this the only division at ‘The World Finals’ that has a cut? I think many competitors would gladly play all three rounds on field 2 if there were not a cut.
  19. They should allow custom wardrobe/costumes in Pairs Freestyle – Pairs is a distinctly Skyhoundz/Hyperflite event and costumes will only add to the buzz and make it more entertaining for not only the spectators but also the competitors.
  20. Discdogathon and Xtreme Distance should be on different days since it’s way too big of an event to run both on one day. This leads to inconsistencies and mistakes and it’s way too hectic to have competitors running back and forth between the fields. You could even put DDAT and XD on a completely different weekend since having it in the middle of the week makes it difficult for many people to get the time off work and attend.
  21. The events need to be more consistently run because it feels a bit haphazard at times. All of the events should  use an automated timer (the prerecorded voice) so it’s the exact for every single competitor. Many times competitors did not receive a proper countdown and it did affect a few rounds from a strategic point of view.
  22. Instead of having one person be the timekeeper, scorekeeper and linejudge, have 3 people doing this. It’s too much for one person and as the day goes on, it creates errors and inconsistencies. Going along with one of the other points, Hyperflite has money coming in so why not hire some judges?
  23. In the rules, when it says “team” does that mean the handler and the dog or just the handler? This is an issue because there have been a few instances where the time started before the dog got to the line because the handler was there – this needs to be clarified as to what the “team” means. Specifically this is referring to a timing error during Xtreme Distance where a competitor had their time started although their dog wasn’t at the line yet so the definition of what they mean by “team” is needs to be crystal clear.
  24. The number of qualifying spots at each event should be based on the # of entries. For example, 1 q spot for every 10 entries… or something like that. Would need to crunch the numbers to make sure the world finals don’t have too many people but then the allocation is fair so the smaller qualifiers don’t get the same number as the larger qualifiers.
  25. Youth competitors should be able to play and not have to qualify, until the numbers increase. Since most qualify on default anyways, it likely wouldn’t change much.
  26. Freestyle timing should be 2 min at both qualifiers and world championships since competitors will have to add another 30 seconds to their routine if they qualify. It makes sense to make it consistent. To save on time at the Discdogathons. make that event 90 sec.
  27. Since European countries are permitted to attend any qualifier in Europe, why does the same not apply for North American countries? Canadians and Mexicans and Americans should be allowed to attend each other’s qualifiers.
  28. In order to speed up the pace of the events on Sunday, they could run the micro dog d/a on another field while the 1st round of pairs freestyle is happening on the main field.
  29. Everyday went until it was dark so the events should start earlier in the day. All of the competitors are pretty much there and setup by 730 or 8am so starting at 930 or 10am is too late.
  30. Too often, qualifying spots are taken by people who have no intention of attending the world championships so the qualifying spots should roll down if someone is unable to attend.
  31. This has been talked about before, but they should limit the number of dogs a competitor is allowed (5 maybe?).
  32. They could add a professional division so people who do shows for a living would be competing against each other and if people wanted to challenge themselves, they could register and compete in that division too.
  33. There should be higher points awarded for freestyle vs less points for the DA component.
  34. There should be more people qualifying at each event in Canada since there are less qualifiers held in Canada
  35. There should be new judges added in each year or more often. It seems like the same judges have been doing it forever.
  36. Go back to regional qualifiers for the classic. I think those were better and taking the top 3 should be the minimum. It’s like saying “hey here’s a plaque for finishing on top of the podium but don’t come to worlds because we don’t celebrate 3rd place.
  37. This is DISC Dog, not dancing with dogs.  The time should start in freestyle when you start, NOT when you throw your first disc.  Some people are way over 90 seconds and even 2 minutes with all their dancing before time starts when they throw the first disc. This would match human freestyle where the time starts right away. Since only those tricks with a throw count, there’s no real reason to waste time before the throw.

    Do you have any suggestions you’d like to add? Do you have any comments on any of the above? Feel free to post your comment below or email me at