Monthly Archives: July 2010

BC Diary: Day 8

I’m slow to get moving this morning, but once I’m up I’m feeling slightly more human than I have for the past day or two. Maybe it’s the 6+ hours of sleep a couple nights in a row. Or maybe it’s the tuneless ditty running through my head this morning: “Two more days, only two more days . . .” (Those of us who sign up for all of SN are entitled to two days off; several of us on BC were assigned the last day as one of our days off.)

Today should be pure fun: another all-saber day for me. I like these because I come originally from a saber-only club, and I know more people in saber than in the other weapons. (I keep hoping that someday I’ll be able to see the other weapons better; about all I can do now is tell the difference between good foil and epee and bad foil and epee. But that would mean I’d need to actually watch more foil and epee, and who knows where or when that could ever happen?)

This morning, I have 120 fencers in the Div 2 MS closing at 8:oo and another 41 in the assorted age levels of the Vet WS, all closing at noon. (That means I’ll be playing with five colors of markers today to distinguish all my events.) Around 8:00 someone brings the sheets with the no-shows down from registration and each of us with an 8:00 event calls our missing fencers in turn. We still need to develop a standard procedure for marking those fencers on the list who show up at this point. When we had cards for each missing fencer, we just tore up their cards if they showed up, and the computer operator only withdrew the fencers for whom there were cards. With this new printed list, we still need to decide on consistent notation that everyone knows, so nobody gets confused and withdraws the wrong people. For now, we’re just doing a lot of explaining and confirming to each other.

Once I’ve called the no-shows and officially closed the event, my computer operator (Angie again today) gets to work withdrawing them, and then prints out a revised seeding list and the format sheet, which shows the number of fencers and pools, the promotion percentage, and the number of fencers promoted to the DEs. I make copies to post and hand them off to the runners, who this morning at least, are managing to consolidate their runs, taking the new seeding lists from all the 8:00 events at the same time. It’s nice when the timing works out that way every once in a while.

We’ve discovered a new trick this year, too: “Check to make sure you’re on the list” is far more effective than “Check that your seeding information is correct” in getting fencers to actually look at the seeding lists.

Not much delay getting the pool assignments from Angie, so there must not have been many conflicts to resolve. Usually in saber, it’s the Div I or Jr events where conflicts get complicated, because so many of the protected fencers (top 32 or 24, respectively) are from the same clubs. Generally, if the software can’t resolve the conflicts, we’ll (mostly the computer operators) work at it for 20 minutes or so; if it takes longer than that, there’s not usually a solution. (Angie has occasionally been known to keep working on such puzzles after we send out the pools, just as a form of recreation, but as far as I know, she’s never found a solution that’s taken longer than the informal 20-minute limit we try to stick to.)

While Angie’s printing the pool assignments, I announce that the revised seeding has been posted and get my strip assignments from Tanya. Then I write them on the seeded pool list that goes to the referee assigner, so she can start assigning referees while I write the strips on the randomized pool lists, copy them, and send them out to be posted. Then I sit down and write the strip numbers on the individual pool sheets and wait for the referee assignments and for the runners to finish posting to announce that the pools are up. We don’t like to get them trampled by fencers before they can make their escape from the bulletin boards.

My 18 pools of Div 2 MS were planned to be partially flighted, with a first flight of 12 pools. But there are also several foil events going on today, and there’s a bit of horse-trading going on among the assigners for referees. We end up with even flights for my event, with the second flight being sent out as the first flight pools come in. Arianna, a believer in “blind” assigning, tells me to show any referee who returns a pool sheet the next one ready to go out and ask whether there are any conflicts; if not, sent them out together. As the second flight pools are assigned, I announce the pool and strip number, and add them to the sign on the bout committee table. By the time we have time to go add the second flight strip numbers to the bulletin boards, everyone’s already at their strips and fencing, so we don’t usually bother.

As the second flight pools come in, we tell the referees to go eat lunch. They’ll have about 20 minutes while we turn the event around. We may even hold the start of the DEs for a few minutes longer to give them a little more time. Arianna’s already selected the saber referees she wants to use for the Vet WS events to come, and they were told earlier they had a couple of free hours during which they should be sure to eat lunch.

We’re still short of referees for everything happening today, so my MS DEs will be on 4 strips instead of the 12 originally planned. Angie prints out the round results, I draw the line separating the ups and outs, copy them and send them out with the runners. We try to post the round results and the tableaux separately to give fencers time to check the round results for errors—we seriously want to correct any that may have occurred before we send everybody out to their strips. We rarely have errors at this stage any longer—occasionally fencers will come running, but usually they’ve misread the round results or misremembered their pool results.

Anyway, while the round results are being posted, I get the tableaux from Angie, give one to Arianna and copy and tape the other for posting (and send it out with the runners). Meanwhile, Angie has printed the DE bout slips and is coloring, slicing, and sorting them for me. The slicing and dicing used to be done by the table side, but we switched a few years ago to having the computer operators do it, which gets everything done a little sooner. (The computer operators are much better at remembering to color the slips, too, than I am, since they usually need those colors more.)

I sit down at the table and lay out the four pages of my tableau, putting another copy on top of the one I will keep. When Angie brings me the A bouts—the first round DE slips—I set them on top of the page they belong to. Then I put any complete B bouts at the bottom of each page’s stack of slips, and slide the incomplete Bs under the top tableau—those will be staying at the table with me for the time being. Once Arianna gives me the referee assignments, I call the referees, give each group the copy of their page of the tableau and their bout slips, and send them out.

Soon my phone rings. It’s Brad Baker, one of the referees I’ve just sent out. “Uh, we’re all here standing on strips 7–10 ready to go and it looks like all the fencers are over there on strips 1–4.”

I look at my sheets, the ones that I copied for posting. Sure enough, they say 1–4. Instead of copying the strip numbers, I’ve copied the page numbers. It’s the most public and least damaging mistake I’ve made this tournament. I grab the mike and explain the error; it’s kind of fun watching all the saber fencers with their gear parade across the room to the right place.

While the first few bouts get underway, I return to my tableau. I need to number all the bouts—As are 1–64, Bs are 1–32, Cs are 1–16. XSeed numbers the bout slips but not the tableau; numbering makes it easier to find the right place on the tableau when fencers start bringing bout slips back. XSeed also puts page numbers and quadrant numbers on the bout slips, but they only give you the general area you’re looking for; bout numbers in each bracket give you the exact spot, and make it easier to be sure that you’re writing fencers’ names on the right slips for their next bouts.

Redundancy is a huge benefit here. I’ll use page numbers, quadrant numbers, bout numbers, bracket numbers—whatever tools there are to make sure we’re sending fencers out to the right places to fence. It’s especially important with all the duplicate and similar surnames and siblings we have fencing in the same events to make sure we’re tracking the individual fencer numbers, too.

As the MS DEs start to come in, it’s time for the Vet WS events to get started. With the original plan, the men’s DEs should have been down to their final 8 by the time the women’s events started, but now I’ll be running five events all at once. Fortunately, the vet events are all small: two pools each in Vet 40 and Vet 50, a pool of 9 in the Vet 60, and one of 5 in the 70+. None will have more than a single page for their DE tableau, so it’ll be manageable. But even I, whose marker of choice is “none,” am remembering to color the sheets today. By the time the women’s pools are done and their DE bouts start to come in, color is the first thing I look for.

Gradually, the DE tables work down to their gold medal bouts, which are sent in turn to the finals strip, and I let Tanya know all my strips are free. I’m done with the fencing portion of the day. Even the last event of the day is done by 8:30, only an hour past the official projection. (This is within the range of what we consider “normal”—foil and epee usually run 30–60 minutes behind and saber 30-45 minutes ahead of the projections. We could adjust the bout durations to compensate, but we’re familiar enough with the variance that we haven’t yet bothered.)

But there’s still tonight’s board meeting, set to start after the conclusion of today’s fencing. I’ve been wavering all day on whether to go, but now I’m feeling pretty good. I help with posting the seeding for tomorrow’s events, get myself a remarkably salty pulled pork sandwich from the concession stand, and refill my water bottle—it’ll probably be a long meeting.

* * *

My main concern at the board meeting is repechage. I spent the weekend before SN at a meeting in Colorado Springs working on the NAC schedules for this season. If repechage is coming back for one or more of the point weapons, several of those schedules will need to be completely redone.

The executive committee voted on July 8 to return repechage from the round of 32 to all cadet, junior, and senior NAC events for the 2010-2011 season. Since actions taken by the EC between board meetings must be accepted by the board at its next meeting, there is a move afoot to separate this item out from the rest of the EC actions for separate discussion, in hopes that the board will not affirm the decision.

The separation is successful, and there is some lively discussion. Laurie Schiller, Matt Cox, and Aaron Clements, among others, make a valiant effort. I especially like Aaron’s remarks—that something which so drastically affects tournament operations and scheduling should be supported by more evidence than just “the national epee coaches believe it’s needed.” Matt reiterates that the Tournament Committee (he’s chair) does not have the resources to run both repechage and teams at NACs, and repechage alone would severely stretch and stress the resources.

As it is, without either teams or repechage, some of the schedules we’re looking at for this coming season already have SN-like numbers and hours. It will not be a simple task to put repechage back–in epee, the double-elimination from the round of 32 adds between two and three hours to the length of the event. For tournaments like the January NAC, where the event will be large and long already (remember, cadet events are being added to the Div I and Jr usually held in January), we will probably be pushing the midnight rule again, just like we were Tuesday and Wednesday nights here in Atlanta.

The argument in favor of restoring repechage for epee is essentially “we need to defer to the expertise of our national coaches,” and ultimately, that’s the way the board votes.

It looks like I shall be spending time over the next few weeks looking at the tentative schedules and trying to come up with ideas for making them work. And I’ll have to decide whether I want to make myself available for any of the NACs which are to include rep—I hate working tournaments that make me feel a sense of impending doom.

Various other officer and committee reports are accepted, and about an hour into the proceedings, the board votes to move one of the new business items up: we take a break for cake to celebrate Dan Berke’s and Mark Stasinos’ birthdays. I find this irritating; though I’m a fan of food at long meetings, it seems way too early to take a break when the meeting is expected to run so long. However, despite my annoyance, I eat cake.

Eventually the meeting resumes. The board elects its new members according to the new bylaws (many of the existing members, such as the section reps, lose their positions and this is their last meeting). [The elections may have taken place before the cake break—I no longer remember.]

Increasing the promotion rates in Vet events is voted down. George Masin’s complex team proposal is voted down. The modification of the rules of fencing to accord with the latest FIE changes is approved.

As the discussions continue, I wonder why I’m still sitting here. Mostly, I think, it’s inertia, plus a sort of hypnotized fascination: how long can they make the discussions of each motion last? But then I remember I’m running Div III WF in the morning; I can always doze while its pools are out.

There is a very long discussion of two motions regarding the SYC selection process for this year, but no good explanation for why they were needed. Apparently there were irregularities perceived by some, but those of us who know nothing of the selection process—including many board members—can’t tell what the issue is from the rationale (or lack of) presented. Eventually, both fail.

Dan Berke’s motion to add a $25 surcharge to tournament entry fees to help pay off the debt to officials fails for lack of a second.

And that—at nearly 1:30—is the end.

Then people begin to realize that the officials’ shuttle has long ceased its runs and there is a flurry of calls for taxis. Beth Bell and I decide walking back to the hotel will be faster than waiting for cabs to get there (not to mention that half the walk is just getting out of the building). Downtown is very quiet—there are only a few cars around, mostly taxis heading for the GWCC.

In bed by 2:00 am.

Stats:

  • Number of individual competitors: 640
  • Number of teams: 38
  • End time: 8:30 pm
  • Hours worked today: 13, plus another 4+ hours at the board meeting (just to confirm my lunacy)
  • BC hours cumulative total: 106

Alarm’s set for 6:00 am.

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BC Diary: Day 7

The Membership/Congress meetings are among the most ritualized events on the USFA calendar. Most years, the Membership meeting is pro forma, called to order and adjourned almost immediately into the Congress meeting, at which the main business is the selection of next year’s Hall of Fame inductees and the election of four at-large members of the board of directors. For BC staff who are Congress reps, the question is always whether we will be able to vote on the board members before we have to leave to start the day’s events, even with the later start to accommodate the meetings.

This year’s different—the Membership meeting is where the vote on the proposed new bylaws occurs. Kalle calls the meeting to order and starts off with a bang, announcing that Kurt Aichele’s contract as executive director has been terminated. There’s much surprise and even scattered applause. (I’m among the surprised, though only because I’d been assuming it wouldn’t happen until the September board meeting.)

We line up in the back of the room to have our eligibility to vote verified and get our ballots for the bylaws vote. I vote in favor of the new bylaws—they’re not perfect, but they should be a big improvement. I expect the smaller board will be a more informed board and hope therefore that it will be more functional.

While we’re milling around during the vote, a few people are handing out slips of paper with their proposed slates for the at-large board members. The slip I’m handed is . . .  entertaining. Those of us who are Congress reps go out to the registration area in the lobby to sign in and have our status verified. We get the usual ballot for the at-large vote—a blank scrap of colored paper, blue this year.

We move into the Congress meeting. Andy Shaw does his talk about the Hall of Fame nominees; he’s always got a collection of interesting people I’d like to learn more about, but I almost always forget which I’ve voted for in the earlier eras by the time the results are announced. He collects the Hall of Fame ballots and we move on to the board election.

As people are nominated, their names are written on a flip chart at the front of the room. Once that’s done, the nominees each make a very short speech saying who they are and why we should vote for them. One nominee withdraws his name.

Sometime during this process we are told that the election tellers have completed the counting of the bylaws ballots, and the new bylaws have been approved. It’s also been decided to delay the fencing by another half hour to allow for the completion of the board election.

Someone makes the usual motion that we use cumulative voting, which is—as usual—approved. We may each allot our four votes any way we want—one vote for each of four nominees, all four votes for a single nominee, or split. I write my choices on my blue paper scrap, turn them in, and head on downstairs to the tournament, happy that this year I was able to vote before I had to leave.

Today I’m assigned table-side for two events: Div II WS, with 94 entries (only 83 check in to fence today), and the Sr MS Team, with 28 teams. I won’t be able to finish both, since the WS will still be in its DEs when the teams will be checking in, but we’re lucky—we’ve got an extra body today in the form of a trainee who’s got a couple of free days because the people she drove to Atlanta with still have events to fence. Normally, we don’t have trainees at SN at all—it’s too dangerous when we’re so busy—but she’s apparently worked at NACs before and is experienced.

Once upon a time, we used to have trainees at SN. (That’s how I started, in Austin in 2000, after working JOs in Sacramento as a computer operator.) But as SN has grown and budgets have gotten tighter, we’ve not had the staff to be able to train new people properly. We discovered through hard experience that we need extra staff specifically assigned to trainees—someone who’s running an event just doesn’t have the time to provide the proper explanations and oversight when we have schedules like the one this year.

It’s getting to be a serious problem for bout committee. We desperately need to be recruiting and developing new BC staff, but with even some of the NACs (January, for instance) growing into SN-style numbers and stress, it’s often only at the March NAC (Div II/III/Vet) that we can handle trainees properly. Even so, we require trainees to have some local and regional experience such as sectional or ROC events and familiarity with tournament software before taking them on. Walk-ons are simply not an option.

We’ve been intending for several years to develop BC training materials and to establish some sort of BC development and rating system similar to what the FOC and the armorers have established for their functions, but haven’t yet made much progress, mostly because we can’t create what we need at tournaments—we need offsite planning and meetings, which mean time and money, too. It’s got to happen soon, though—we not only need new BC staff, we need to develop more of the experienced staff we have into BC chairs, too. Right now, there are perhaps six of us nationally who are experienced at chairing national events, and some will not work SN. That’s far too small a group to rely on.

In any case, this particular trainee is a good one—when I’m needed down at the team table to get that started, I’m not worried leaving the Div 2 WS to her to finish. It’s probably just as well, too—I’m cranky and testy enough today that I’m not sure I’d have done her much good as a trainer, anyway.

Running team events is fun, though it always takes me a little while to put myself into team mode. When I first started working BC, we did teams completely by hand, which is one of the reasons teams used to have to check in the day before. We had a card for each team with spaces to note the individual results for each team member; we’d have to look up the individual results from the previous couple of days in order to calculate the seeding for the teams and create the tableau, a process that usually took hours for each team event. (We’d usually finish up the process while we waited for those slow rounds of 8 to finish the night before, though occasionally it took more work back in hotel rooms before sleep.) Then in the morning, we’d call the captains and for each matched pair, we’d flip a coin to decide which team was 1-2-3 and which 4-5-6. Then they’d choose their team order; we’d write in all the fencer names by hand, and then repeat the process for every pair in the first round. Running teams was a constant frantic stream of shuffling paper and writing.

We’ve made a number of changes to simplify and speed up the process. Instead of using classifications and SN results to calculate the seeding, we use classifications and points as of the change deadline for SN, so we don’t have to spend hours looking up fencer results. (This also allows a little more flexibility in the SN schedule, because the team events no longer have to occur after their related individual events.) Once we have the tableau, we arbitrarily assign the higher-seeded team as 1-2-3, so we don’t need to wait for matched pairs of captains to flip coins. And we’re using FencingTime to run the event, so once we have the team orders, we can print the scoresheets with all the team member names in all the right places.

Running team is no longer a constant frantic stream of paper shuffling—it’s an intermittent frantic stream of paper shuffling. We call the captains, hand out the sheets they mark their teammate order on, collect them and pair them up, print out the scoresheets, and send them out with their referees to their strips—assuming, of course, that we have both referees and strips to put them on, which, this being SN, is not always the case.

While my teams are getting started, check-in opens up for the Jr ME Team, which is 44 teams scheduled to start at 2:30, about an hour and a half after my saber teams. I slide myself and all my paper over to make more room for Meredith and all her epee paper, but we keep having to shoo away extra people ignoring our continual “captains only” announcements. Even with captains only, 44 in epee and 28 in saber makes for quite a mob around the team table. Every so often we do “Step AWAY from the table” commands, just to give ourselves breathing room.

Eventually, we get our referees and strips and get our matches out. Then every 45 minutes or so, as each round comes in, we get the teammate orders for the next pairings and print out those scoresheets. For my saber event, we do six rounds; Meredith’s larger tableau has seven rounds (which, being epee, take longer, too). Fortunately, team shrinks quickly—half the teams are eliminated in each round—so the crowd hovering over us shrinks quickly, too.

While the round of 8 is out fencing, one team captain comes to see why their next match hasn’t been called. “It should be out,” I say. I check my sheets and realize that I’ve not called them yet—because I’d written the strip they were to be sent to on the tableau, I’d assumed they’d already been sent out. We call the other captain and that last match of the round of 8 starts quite a bit later than the other three.

Once that’s taken care of, I realize I’ve missed the afternoon cookie drop. (The afternoon cookies are astonishingly effective at perking up dragging referees and BC staff in the late afternoons.) Arianna, who’s assigning the saber referees today, recommends the praline pecans from the cart out by the escalator. The nuts are perfect—a little bit of protein and a ton of sugar are just what I need to survive for another couple of hours.

Christie stops by to say goodbye—her internship supervisors were kind enough to adjust her schedule so she could spend a week here fencing and refereeing, but she’s flying back to Philly tonight. I give her a hug and tell her not to fall asleep before her flight boards.

Once the saber team finishes, I hang around for a little while longer. Tanya and Sheryl are being coerced into making an appearance at the Hall of Fame reception upstairs, where they are to be given service awards. I can act as chair if something comes up while they’re gone, so they’re stuck with going. Nothing comes up while they’re gone, though, and once they return, I go back to the hotel and crash, not even really noticing what time it is.

Stats:

  • Number of individual competitors: 542
  • Number of teams: 72
  • End time: 11:35 pm (but my saber teams finished two or three hours earlier)
  • Hours worked today: around 12 (plus the Membership & Congress meetings before that)
  • BC hours cumulative total: 93

Alarm’s set for 6:00 am.

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BC Diary: Day 6

5:30 am: Terrific. I wake up just before my alarm would have gone off had I been working as chair today. I refill my water bottle (still working on the hydration—swollen ankles are better but not entirely shrunk back to normal yet) and get back in bed.

Eventually Christie gets up—she has an 8:00 report time this morning. I’m vaguely aware when she leaves, but am soon dead to the world again.

11:00: Awake again. This is much better—now I can wallow in not needing to be anywhere anywhen. I grab my iPad and spend the next hour paying bills and reading email. My plan is to do a little yoga, grab some lunch somewhere, and then work on my diary entries for the first five days—if I can catch up on those today, I should be able to post the rest at the end of each day, now that I am to be merely a minion.

While I’m in the shower (one of my major venues for figuring out the structure of whatever writing project I’m in the midst of), I realize that I can’t remember any details at all of the past five days. That’s going to make writing all about them a little tricky.

What to do? I seriously want to write about BC work—I’ve been intending to do it for at least five years, and it really needs doing. Not enough people understand the logistics of our tournaments, especially SN, and with the schedule and numbers this year finally making obvious what we’ve been warning about for years, this is definitely the time to finally make it happen.

I’ll walk over to the CNN building and grab some fast food different from what’s been available in the venue, and then find a corner somewhere in B5 to sit down and write. My theory is that with fencing sights and sounds around me, I’ll be able to reconstruct the past few days well enough to write my diary entries.

It’s muggy out, of course, but the walk probably does my ankles some good. I get a burrito bowl from a place called “Moe’s Southwest Grill”—definitely better than the venue food but not remotely Southwest or Mexican or Tex-Mex.  Oh, well.

In the venue, I look for a place to camp out near the BC stage, so I can double-check numbers and times (and which days were which), but out of their way. The referee corral is perfect—most of the referees are out working and there is plenty of room to put my feet up, too. All the BC folk and referees I say hi to say, “What are you doing here? I thought this was your day off.”

Sitting here isn’t helping my memory much. I’m not particularly worried that I’m not able to do an hour-by-hour reconstruction of the past few days. What I want is to describe what we do on the BC and why we do it, and give an impression of what it feels like doing it all, especially as the days get larger and our bodies and brains wear out. My goal is to be descriptive but not whiny.

Gradually, I settle into the work. Once I start writing, things start coming back, which is the way it always works. It goes much more slowly than I expect—far more slowly than I usually write—but as tired as I am, that’s not too surprising.

At one point, Christie comes and sits down next to me. “I’ve just learned more in the last 20 minutes than I have in the last three years reffing,” she says. It seems that at the end of the pool she’d been working, Matt Cox and Mike d’Asaro (both solid referees but working as coaches this week) took her to an empty strip and demonstrated aspects of the middle game that she’s been trying to learn to see better for the past few years. She’s known she needs to make her calls tighter but hasn’t quite been able to see the actions well enough to do so. Now Matt and Junior have shown her what to look for—she’s not sure she’ll be able to integrate all this new information into her calls immediately, but she’s excited to have the specifics she’s needed to make herself a better referee.

(When I chat with Matt later, he tells me they’ve been trying this with several referees this week. Some, like Christie, have been happy to listen and try to learn; others have blown them off completely, taking the view that coaches (even coaches who are also highly rated and respected referees) have nothing to teach them. Idiots.)

By early evening, I’ve only managed to complete entries for setup day and the first day of competition. I realize that the best I’ll be able to do here in Atlanta is make a few notes and gather the stats on entry numbers and finish times. When I try to upload the two posts to my blog, I realize I’ve got the same problem Tanya’s having with uploading the results: I’m barely able to manage to hit the few buttons required.

Tanya asks if I would represent the BC at the informational meeting this evening about the officials’ pay which is in arrears, since everyone else will still be working when it happens. I’m already planning to go, since I’m currently owed a four-figure sum, not including this SN, so that works.

When I get upstairs to the meeting, I’m surprised to see that I’m only the second person there, aside from Greg Dilworth and Brian Lawrence, the new finance director (he’s been on the job for seven weeks). The first person there is Brian, who’s representing the armorers, the rest of whom are still working this evening. Greg explains what they’ve already told Brian, that the amount currently owed to offiicals, up to but not including this SN, is around $267,000, and that they are committing to paying all of that to us by the end of the first quarter of the new fiscal year, by October 31. But there’s bad news to go along with this: because they don’t know yet what the needs for Olympic prep in this upcoming third year of the quad will be, they cannot commit to paying any of the officials for the 2010-2011 season before the same time next year, the August–October quarter.

That’s pretty stunning. Any official who works during the coming season cannot expect to see their money for up to a year, depending on which events they work.

I question the distinction that has been made between honoraria and out-of-pocket expenses (“out-of-pocket expenses” are currently being paid before honoraria). Those out-of-pocket expenses are things like ground transportation, baggage fees, and airfare reimbursement when officials book their own flights. (Most of us don’t do that anymore because reimbursement takes so long.) But much of what we get as honoraria we’ve already spent on dinners and other living expenses that the “out-of-pocket expense” reimbursements don’t cover, so it feels to us just as out-of-pocket as the rest.

The other concern I have is that we’ve not been able to rely on the information the office has been giving us. Most recently, we were told that the next checks, to cover out-of-pocket expenses and per diems for the San Jose NAC and honoraria for whatever the next event due was, would be mailed out in mid- to late May. What actually came was only the out-of-pocket for San Jose (for me, less than a third of what had been announced), and that not until June 30, three days before I left for Atlanta.

This sort of thing has happened repeatedly over the past two years, and since most of us try to use the payments from one tournament to fund our expenses for the next one we work, this makes it difficult to plan our availability without major disruptions to our own personal budgets. At first, we could live with floating the money over two events, instead of just one, but three? four? a whole season? That’s a lot harder to manage.

But—and it’s a big one—most of us are willing to live with that, as long as we can rely on what we’re being told. If we have to make a long-range cash-flow plan to figure out our availability for the next season, we can do that. But I’m willing to bet that not many of us will even try until we see whether that money promised by the end of October actually shows up. I’m glad I’m not the one who has to recruit staff for the October NAC.

Greg pledges repeatedly that the October money will be coming as promised, and says that the reason they’re saying next season’s money won’t be coming until the same time next year is exactly that they don’t want to keep making promises that won’t be kept.

I ask Greg if what I’ve heard is true, that the national office is over its budget this year by more than what is owed to officials. He sighs and says that no, it looks like it’s not that bad. He and Brian (the finance guy, not the armorer) are still gathering information and getting it figured out, but it looks more like the office may be over budget by only $110,000–115,000. That’s something, I guess—it probably would have been torches and pitchforks if the overage had turned out to be more than the officials’ arrears.

About the time Greg finishes his summary, a referee arrives to join us. Greg rehashes everything for him, and then one more referee shows up. Both express the same concerns about reliable information that Brian and I did—we are all (reluctantly) willing to make do with late payments if the information we are given can be relied upon.

That’s it. Nobody else shows up, to everyone’s surprise. We’d all been expecting a large outraged mob. Maybe everyone’s just too tired.

The conversation veers aways from the finances into other problems, like the tournament schedule, how brutal SN is to work, and how it’s not just the money that’s causing staff attrition. As happens eventually in every conversation among tournament officials, we start talking about ideas for improving tournaments. Brian, who works for a texting company, starts in on his idea for texting strip assignments and such to fencers who sign up for such a service. I tell him to talk to Joe (who created the check-in scanning we have now) and Sheryl at the BC—they’re already working on software and equipment requirements for what we’ll need to replace the timeworn XSeed and add functional improvements.

We talk about RailStation a bit. Apparently, they’ve done in two weeks what it’s taken HangAStar a year and a half to not do, so there’s cause for some cautious optimism there.

As always, we realize that we have to keep talking to each other about all the great ideas we have for making improvements. What we need, though, that we haven’t had for years, is for the board or the executive director to prioritize all the good ideas into some sort of viable plan and develop the resources to make them happen. Until then, it’s all just talk and speculation and what-ifs and we-coulds and we-shoulds.

I wander back downstairs and summarize the meeting for Tanya and a few others. We are, I decide, “skeptically optimistic.”

We talk about the Membership/Congress meeting in the morning, and those who are not Congress reps laugh at those of us who are, because we won’t get that extra hour’s sleep.

I take the shuttle back to the hotel around 9:00, I think. I dither for longer than I should about whether I want breakfast or an extra half hour asleep in the morning, but finally decide I’ll need the nutrients to survive the meeting and set my alarm accordingly.

No trouble at all falling asleep.

Stats:

  • Number of individual competitors: 703
  • Number of teams: 59
  • End time: 11:00 pm
  • Hours worked today: 0, but lunatic that I am, I was in the venue for most of the afternoon and well into the evening
  • BC hours cumulative total: 81

Alarm’s set for 6:00 am.

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BC Diary: Day 5

This is a strange and spooky day because everything is so much easier. It’s the first day I don’t have to hope that we’ll drop a pool at check-in in order to get all the morning fencing out. All of the 8:00 events will have their DEs on some–but fewer–of the strips their pools used. By 10:00, I’ve been able to assign all the strips for the rest of the day. No black cards, no noisy disputes–just fencing chugging quietly along. Maybe everyone else is just as tired as we are and nobody has the energy to get worked up.

I’ve written about what I think of as Tournament Time before, but today is an extreme example of how unhinged we tournament officials become from the normal passage of time. I still feel as though the day has barely started, but people are already coming back from lunch, and the afternoon events are getting underway.

I’m startled when Tanya shows up—how can she be here already? She’s supposed to be sleeping in, but it really is later than I think. She tells me that I should leave early this evening, since everything’s all assigned, if not actually already underway. I don’t even consider refusing, but consent to leave once the medal ceremony for the Div IA WS is done—Christie fenced in that one today and took 5th, so I want to wait and take a few pictures at the medal presentation.

Unusually for me, I even got to see a couple of Christie’s bouts today. That’s how I got into working bout committee in the first place—the way my stomach churned watching my daughters right at their strips was too much for me to take, and they found my presence (even though I stayed completely out of their way) distracting. BC work turned out to be the perfect solution—far enough away that I could be more detached, but still with access to all the information I wanted. (Not that I use that access much any more—these days when Christie’s fencing, I often forget to check her pool sheets when they come in to see how she’s done.)

Watching the medal ceremony (Christie gets a big hug from the presenter, Brad Baker, one of her coaches at Temple), I am thankful yet again for our official awards wrangler, Carol Buerdsell. Before Carol started coming to all our tournaments, it was the BC chair’s duty to recruit and organize all the medal presentations, and a remarkably time-consuming chore it was. If we had one of those days like yesterday, when the chair was (quite reasonably) more concerned with finding strips and getting events running, we could end up with half a dozen medal ceremonies stacked up for several hours before we found suitable personages to hang the medals around the athletes’ necks. Carol was an innovation I am still grateful for.

(I’m always amused by her collection of pink jackets, too. Pink is not a color Carol normally wears in real life—she picked it deliberately in order to be easily identifiable in our venues. Nobody else at fencing tournaments wears pink.)

Once Christie has her new medal and t-shirt, we gather up our stuff, say goodbye, and catch the shuttle back to the hotel. We plan to take each other out to dinner for our birthdays—hers was last month and mine is today—so we’re heading out to Ted’s for bison and beer. Once we get there, though, we realize we’re both so tired we’d fall asleep before we managed to finish our beers. (We are able to manage dessert after our entrees, though—chocolate is even more crucial to SN survival than beer.)

After dinner, we go back to our room for an evening of junk television: a Glee rerun followed by the So You Think You Can Dance results show—perfect, we think, for our current state of mind. We turn on the TV, but aside from a few random nanoseconds, we both sleep through both shows. Around 10:00, Christie gets herself organized for tomorrow, when she will again referee. When she sets her alarm for the morning, I ostentatiously check to make sure mine is not set and fall back asleep.

Day off, here I come!

Stats:

  • Number of individual competitors: 737
  • Number of teams: 14
  • End time: 9:20 pm (but I got that early release!)
  • Hours worked today: 10.5
  • BC hours cumulative total: 81

Alarm’s not set for tomorrow—it’s my day off!

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